SQL Saturday Madison – Recap

A few notes from our trip to Madison for SQL Saturday.  We arrived two days early and acted like tourist for the first two days, here are few notes:


  • Monty’s Blue Plate Cafe – Small place, yet excellent meals, large portions worth the wait.
  • Great Dane – great atmosphere, neither of us enjoyed the food.
  • The Old Fashioned – brunch stops PROMPTLY at 10:59, 11am need not apply.
  • The Old Fashioned – lunch is amazing. counter service only, best cheese curds we’ve ever had.
  • Tipsy Cow – will live up to its name, you have been warned.
  • Benvenuto Italian Grill – super large portions, best part was talking to the other speakers.  Although I ended up sitting next to, and talking to my Confio friends for most of the dinner, it was still a good time.
  • Ale Asylum – Stopped in for a quick drink with a couple of speakers, nice little Brewery
  • Cracker Barrel – Its Cracker Barrel, but the company was top notch, thanks Brent.
  • Brass Ring – the after party, lots of Badgers fans, service was ok, dinner was good, the company was the best.

The Event

  • Venue:  American Family Insurance training center was very nice, large rooms, nice facilities.  Did get warm in the rooms throughout the day.
  • Keynote – I really liked how the first session was a walk through the day’s events, other events tend to hand info bags and assume everyone knows what to do, this set a good tone.
  • Rooms – each room had a volunteer room monitor or two, who would pass out and collect speaker evaluations, which as a fairly new speaker, was awesome.  Mine was the best, click here to show appreciation:  @DBAGooner for President #sqlSatMadison
  • Sponsors – There were several vendors I’ve seen and met before, Confio, PASS, and a few other local sponsors, but there was one segment who I thought was very much missing, recruiters.  There were literally NO recruiter as sponsors, which was ok, but a different make-up than I’m used to.
  • Speakers Room – was great, always had a few folks in there prepping for their sessions, reviewing each others slides, and generally poking fun as you would expect from members of the #sqlFamily
  •  Schedule – I didn’t review the speaker emails well enough and was caught off by the 75 minute sessions, but I ended up liking the longer sessions as I was able to get more into the underlying functions and theory rather than just the tools.
  • Lunch – was build your own taco, which was ok
  • Raffle – End of day raffle was great with lots of nice items going out, several folk were on a streak taking home two or three things


  • Weather – Wisconsin is cold in March, bring a jacket, or buy a new one as my wife did
  • Airport – is quaint and easy to navigate, TSA is a little more stringent at these smaller ones
  • Hotel – had a kid convention or something that required a bunch of 10-13 year olds to be roaming in packs, but they did let us check in early so we could take a nap.

Over all we had a nice little mini-vacation where the wife and I could spend sometime together and  I could practice my craft and learn more all at the same time.  Nat and I invited everyone we met down to Florida to show them how to enjoy winter in shorts rather than multiple levels of clothes.  Depending on our schedule, we will definitely try to make to back to Madison next year.

SQL Saturday Extractor

Having been inspired by Kendal Van Dyke’s (b|t)  SQL Saturday extract into Excel.  I figured we are database professionals, we should be using a database, not excel, so I went about making that happen.

Over on my very sparse Github profile you will find the source to download, modify the SQL Saturday Extractor, which queries the event XML data from SQLSaturday.com into a MSSQL database.   If you’re not in the mood to download and build, version 1.0 is compiled and ready to run here.

As of now,  the extractor can be run with SQL or Domain credentials, it will create necessary tables or update using the existing tables.  You can also provide specific events to retrieve or provide a range.

I plan to add a few standard queries to include,  as well as cleaning up some of the data after its been input.  Depending on the feedback, I might also setup an online version for querying which I would have updating daily.  Just a few ideas.

Please let me know of any problems, suggestions, tips, request for improvement or anything else you would like to see added.


Disaster Makes Us Better

Today I had the honor of presenting  ’5 T-SQL Commands I’ve Been Missing’  to a remote PASS chapter, and it was terrible.  I know the material, I know the examples yet somehow the presentation is getting worse every time I give it.

“We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.”
― John Dewey

Since reflecting on our mistakes provides us with insight on how to prevent those mistakes in the future, I’m going reflect on the time that was able to ruin a perfectly good Friday afternoon by giving a remote presentation.

One benefit of presenting in person is that you get instant feedback, you can interact with the crowd to see who had that confused look on their face, you can see the boredom of those who might should have skipped today’s 100 level presentation, and finally you can adjust your presentation based off of any of those factors if needed.   Today I had none of that.  I had the feedback of phone, which was eerily quite.

Normally, I am able to start with a few questions to the attendees in order to gauge their experience level, today I was not able to see how many hands were raised, so I simply skipped that question.

As we got started, I connected via WebEx and everything seemed to be going well, until I realized I was not able to select which screen to share and was forced to use my primary monitor.  Unfortunately, I had prepped everything to goto my external secondary monitor.  Once I went into PowerPoint it decided to share my presenter notes, rather than the presentation, forcing me to put the screens in mirroring mode.  Now mirrored, this setting blew out my resolution to full size making SSMS unreadable to the attendees watching on a projector at their meeting location.  While we were able to increase the font size of the Query Editor window, the results were completely unreadable.   All due to resolution change.

Covering the material was not the worst part of the experience, but since I didn’t have my presenter’s view with my notes, I felt unprepared, and it came through to my audience.  I found my self nearly reading the slides as if the audience couldn’t manage the simple task on their own, the hallmark of a terrible presentation.

As I reflect on today’s events, I have a new-found respect for anyone that does remote presentations well.  These folks are very comfortable with their presentation software, which I am not. These folks likely know the material backwards and forward and don’t need notes to not sound like a bumbling idiot, which I did.  Rather than educating folks to invest in the awesome features of T-SQL available to us all, I educated them to the fact I do not provide a good remote presentation experience.

Moving forward I’m going to keep my presentations in person for the time being as I am not an amazing speaker, I am not even considered a great speaker, but I will be. It is experiences like today that will fuel me to do better, to become great at this craft.  With this feeling of defeat, the only direction left to go is up.


Menu and Recipes to your Inbox – Emeals.com



Anyone who knows our family knows that both Natalie and I work full-time, fairly time-consuming jobs.  As her time commitment ramps up, I have found my self in the kitchen more and more.  While I am not completely useless in the kitchen (I took Home Economics 1 and 2 in high school), I am rather limited in my knowledge of food science.  I can make one hell of a classic breakfast mix and a few things on the grill, but the majority of my limited repertoire is not appropriate for the kids.

Our biggest problem is not the ability to cook, or shopping for the food, it is taking time to come up with a menu that is healthy for us, non-repetitive, and easily put together.  I’ve spent time in the past picking through the vast recipe collection over at AllRecipes.com  which is great for when you know exactly what you want, and that worked for a while, until we started repeating.

Earlier this year we found EMeals.com (referral link).  EMeals has a simple sign-up process where you indicate how big your family is, what type of menu you want, and if applicable, your favorite supermarket.  Once they have all that, and you give them a few bucks (search for a coupon, they tend to have some out often), you are all done.

Many different menu options, which you can change at any time.

Many different menu options, which you can change at any time.

What do you get for your $5 a month?  Every Wednesday I get a PDF mailed to me that has seven Clean Eating recipes.   Each recipe has a main meal and a side item.   On the last page of the PDF you have a simple 1 page shopping list, organized for your supermarket by section.  Normally Nat and I will go through the list of recipes and remove items we don’t like and comprise a list of 4-5 meals for the week.  I will warn that the clean eating plan will have you buying a lot of fresh veggies, meats and other items that will drive up the cost of your grocery trip, but so far has all been worth it.

Store options are presented depending on the type of Menu you choose

Store options are presented depending on the type of Menu you choose

We selected the family plan, which they indicate will feed 3-6 adults.  Since both of our kids are young, they don’t eat a full portion and I often have a full meal to take for lunch the next day.   Left overs are actually what prompted this post today, as I had left over slow cooker ribs, which were possibly better today than they were last night.

If you are a family on the go, or someone who struggles with the monotony of the same menu over and over, I highly recommend checking out EMeals.   **Disclaimer – All the links to Emails.com in this post are referrals to Emeals, so hopefully some of you buy so I can get a discount on next year.


Presenting Orlando Code Camp

I’ve been attending Orlando Code Camp for years now, and they always put on a great event.  It was at their event a few years ago after helping a young first time presenter field some questions on Mono that it was recommended that I speak at these events.  I held off as I started seeing other Mono presentations popping up, and eventually made my first presentation at the same event venue, but at SQL Saturday Orlando.

This year I will be starting the SQL track off with my 5 T-SQL Commands presentation, and will be followed by an all-star cast of SQL talent to include Andy Warren ( b | t ), Kendal Van Dyke ( b | t ), Max Trinidad ( b | t ), Richie Rump ( b | t ) and Robert Biddle ( b | t )

It should be a great day of learning, check out the details of the event here – Orlando Code Camp – March 22, 2014