Come see me present SQL Saturday Atlanta

Have you seen the schedule for SQL Saturday #285 – Atlanta?   Holy cow they have jam packed too many hard decisions into that schedule.    I’ll be presenting Maintenance and Backups: Intro to Ola Hallengren bright and early at 8:15 in the Admin Room, aka Room 3.   Luckily for everyone that plans to attend my talk I have beefed up my session with even more information, so I will have to talk even faster than ever before, so much to share about Backup and Maintenance.      In reality, the more I give this talk, the more I love it.  At this point I believe the talk has been curated into the most informative details with FAQs from past sessions integrated into it for a maximum punch of content.  I’ve been working on my timing so, we should have plenty of time for questions and answers as well as a few short simple demos throughout.

If you don’t know about Ola Hallengren and his awesome Maintenance Solution, I do hope you can join me for my session.  If you haven’t registered, there is till time, click here

For travel, I believe my lovely wife Natalie and I will be dropping the kids off at school early Friday and driving up during the day.  Google tells me I’m looking at about 6.5 hours, which seems about right from the last time I made the drive years ago.  Unfortunately its just an up and back trip for us, no time to visit family in Conyers or take in any of the sights, but there will be time for that another time.

Mr. Carter, Where Did You Go?

It has been nearly a month since your last blog post Mr. Carter, and frankly your last post was nothing more than a list of things you did in Madison.  What gives?  Where are you?  What is so important that you must leave with such reckless abandon as to not even say good-bye?   Honestly there is nothing specific I’ve been doing, but yet I’ve stayed busy with that nothingness to the point that I have not been compelled to write, but I have been reading.

Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that. – Stephen King

I recently won an iPad Mini and have come to enjoy its size and utility. One of the first things I put on this Mini was the free Amazon Kindle app along with a few books I’ve had on my to-do list. I’ve about half-way through my first full book, and have read a couple short PDF type ebooks as well.  I’ve slowed down on my obsessive blog reading (I currently have 136 unread blog notifications in my inbox, ohh the horror) as I was being a little ridiculously focused on ‘keeping up.’  Some of the literature I’ve read has told me to stop cold-turkey,  stop reading the news, Twitter, Facebook, and all media inputs and see how it affects my life.  Amazingly, the world has continued to function without me being slightly more informed to its happenings.  I know there is a happy medium somewhere, and I’ll get there, but for now, I’m slowing down my reactionary and piece-meal consumption to a bare minimum.

As well as putting eyes on paper to increase the level of comprehensive consumption, I’ve recently discovered audio-books.   I’ve tried audio books in the past, but in my first attempt, the speaker had a ridiculous accent that I could not bear to hear for any length of time, thus souring my first audio book experience.  On this go around, I’ve learned that the speaker makes all the difference in audio books.  Since my truck has a USB input, which can read MP3s as an audio source, I’ve simply plugged in an MP3 audiobook, and it just plays the book beautifully.  It has no trouble detecting the proper order of the chapters, and it picks up where it left off when I exit the truck, or change the station.   Natalie listens with me when we are in the truck, and we’ve had some great conversations about the book we’re currently listening too, so it is a double-bonus.

While I am on a media diet, there are a couple of blogs that trickle to the top of my must-read list, and it was one of those post that I felt was speaking directly to me.  You can find it here, give it a read and let me know in the comments if feels directed towards gypsy bloggers like myself.

I’ll try to get back to you on a more regular basis my dear readers, I will try.

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:
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Food

  • 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

Other

  • 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.