T-SQL Tuesday #104: Just Can’t Cut That Cord

We all have our favorite scripts, tools or utilities. Those are the things that help make our jobs easier. Some of us may have an unhealthy relationship with some of those scripts (similar in nature to the relationship many have with their phone). Whether or not the need to cut that proverbial cord exists, today we are not discussing the health of that dependence. Suffice it to say, sometimes we simply need to upgrade our scripts. How else can we get better scripts or make our scripts better – by sharing them.

This is precisely the goal Bert Wagner (b | t) seems to have envisioned for the 104th installment of TSQL Tuesday.

If you are interested in reading the original invite, you can find that here.

For this month’s T-SQL Tuesday, I want you to write about code you’ve written that you would hate to live without.

Maybe you built a maintenance script to free up disk space, wrote a query to gather system stats for monitoring, or coded some PowerShell to clean up string data.  Your work doesn’t need to be completely original either – maybe you’ve improved the code in some open source project to better solve the problem for your particular situation.”

There is a high probability that through the sharing of your script, somebody out there can benefit from that script. In addition, it is very likely that somebody will make a suggestion to help make your script better. Worst case (emphasis on worst case here), you have the script stored somewhere with half decent instructions on what it does and making it easily accessible for you to use again and again. Just in case you forget you have it out there – you can google for it again and find it on your own blog ;).

Personally, I have been able to find and re-use some of my older scripts. Not only do I get to re-discover them, but I also get to re-imagine a new use or improvement for the script.

Brief Intermission

A shout out is absolutely necessary for Adam Machanic (twitter) for picking the right blog meme that has been able to survive so long in the SQLFamily. This party has helped many people figure out fresh topics as well as enabled them to continue to learn.

Easy Access

While pondering the topic for today, I had the thought occur about how frequently I post a script on my blog already anyway. An easy out for this topic would have been to re-share one of those old scripts. For instance, I could easily redo a recent article about server access that has a couple scripts demonstrated in it. Or I could go back a few years to my articles about foreign keys (here or here) and space use (here or here). Even more intriguing could be to re-envision some of my articles on Extended Events. But where would the fun in that be?

Rather than take the easy road and rehash something, I have something different. This one goes hand in hand with the numerous articles and scripts I have previously provided on auditing – yet it is different.

Not every shop can afford third party software or even Enterprise edition and so they have to come up with a different way to audit their database instances. One of the problems with a home grown solution is to ensure the data is not stored local to the server (lots of good reasons for that). Here is an example of what I did for one client that happened to have a developer that found a back door that was giving him SA access to the SQL Server Instance and was changing things and trying to cover his tracks – even after being warned.

First the query

This query will be run from a job on a different server that is restricted in access to just a select few people. I do rely on the use of the default trace in this query. I am also reliant upon a little bit of sneaky behavior. If I run this from a separate server, prying eyes are usually unlikely to find that it is running and thus makes it easier to catch them red-handed. In addition, if they discover via some sort of trace and by a lot of luck that it is running, then they have no access to the remote server to alter anything that was captured.

The query does go out to the default trace and pull back any changes to permissions or principals on the server in question. The captured data is then stored in a database that is also restricted to a select few people. Lastly, the captured data can be routinely queried, or automated reports can be created to send email notifications of changes encountered.

The second part of the trickery here is that I am using a linked server to perform the queries (a slight change and I could also do this via powershell which will be shown in a future article). The linked server query uses the openquery format and sends the default trace query to the remote server. Since I am running this from a job on an administrative server that pulls a limited data set, I am not overly concerned with the linked server setup here.

Storing It

Once I query the data, I need to put it somewhere on my administrative server. The table setup for that is very straight forward.

After creating this table, I am ready to store the data. All I need to do is throw the audit query into an agent job and schedule it to run on a regular schedule. For my purposes, I usually only run it once a day.

TSQL2sDay150x150The Wrap

This has been my diatribe about service and giving back to the community. When done properly, there is a natural born effect of enhancing one’s personal life equal in some way to the amount of effort given towards the community.

Oh, and if you are interested in some of my community contributions (which according to Jens Vestargaard is an awesome contribution), read this series I have published.

T-SQL Tuesday #102: Giving Back

Comments: 1 Comment
Published on: May 8, 2018

bleeding heartLast month we had the opportunity to discuss some of the most important tools for a data professional. I took that opportunity to discuss how it is important to blog. As it turns out, that article correlates fairly strongly to today’s article.

These are maybe some of the questions that Riley Major (b | t) would like for us to examine about our own deep dark secrets and psychological makeup:

  • Why do we give back?
  • How do we help give back?
  • What do we plan to do to give back?

in this, the 102nd, installment of TSQL Tuesday.

If you are interested in reading the original invite, you can find that here.

“Now I will give you an opportunity to give back. Everyone reading this has benefited from their fellow data professionals. And that benefit puts you in a position to share alike. You’ve learned something, so you can teach. You’ve been supported, so you can help. You’ve been led, so you can lead. But you don’t have to do it alone. We’re all going to do it together.

So here is my call. Pick some way you can help our community. “

Brief Intermission

A shout out is absolutely necessary for Adam Machanic (twitter) for picking the right blog meme that has been able to survive so long in the SQLFamily. This party has helped many people figure out fresh topics as well as enabled them to continue to learn.

Reality Check

Very much related to my blog post about blogging, I have to echo the sentiment about how “Blogging helps you become a better technical person.” A lot of what I do for my blog is there to help the community, but it has a self-serving purpose. It helps me become a better technical person. It also helps me to improve my communications and writing skills.

There are some side effects of blogging as well. Each of us has a finite number of keystrokes in our lifetime. That said, it makes sense to write certain technical things down in a blog post rather than retyping the same information over and over for various different email or forum responses. Make sense? If nothing else, it just seems more efficient to write a long technical explanation once rather than 12 times.

So there we have a couple of self-serving reasons to blog. Those same self-serving reasons also frequently apply to being involved in the community. For example, the more you exert yourself to help answer forum questions, the more you learn. You become a more experienced technical person. In addition, you learn how to communicate better and write better (hopefully). You are practicing your craft in a public forum where people can easily shred you (and they often do), when you are wrong – even minutely wrong. This potential for being blasted in the forums typically makes one work harder at getting everything just about perfect.

If you opt to speak in front of technical people, guess what? You are doing the same things I just wrote about in regards to forum responses as well as with blogging. The big difference is that you are now doing it in person, live, on stage, and verbally! You have really put yourself out there in a big way to go speaking in front of people. You will likely double down even more with regards to ensuring your material is very near perfect and bullet proof. In addition, you will probably practice a few (hundred) times to make sure you don’t fumble with your words. What does this mean? You are becoming a more solid technical person and honing your communication skills. Again, very self serving!

Or is it? The one final aspect of being a community visible person is the drive behind what you do. I like to share what I learn. I also like to share my time. I believe in serving others with a charitable demeanor. Giving of yourself will always enhance your life more than you can imagine – when you do it with the attitude of putting others first. There is no selfish intent to those that really want to help the community.

It doesn’t matter if you are helping the sqlfamily, your local Scouting organization, boys and girls clubs, sports teams, or volunteering at the local schools etc; if you are doing it with the intent to serve and do good – you will enhance your life in some way. If you are doing it for some accolade or truly self-serving reason, you may get the accolade but you will find yourself stunted in the growth potential.

People that give of themselves freely is such an awesome characteristic. There are many in the SQL community that truly give of themselves freely – like SQLSoldier. When it is a part of your identity, it comes naturally and there isn’t a lot that needs to be done to plan for it. Sometimes, maybe it would be nice to be able to have more time to be able to do more – sure. And that is the beauty of this characteristic. If you are giving of yourself freely, you often find that you want to give more. That is great! Do what you can, when you can. Sometimes, it will be more. Sometimes, it will be less. It is all good as long as the heart is in the right place.

TSQL2sDay150x150The Wrap

This has been my diatribe about service and giving back to the community. When done properly, there is a natural born effect of enhancing one’s personal life equal in some way to the amount of effort given towards the community.

Oh, and if you are interested in some of my community contributions (which according to Jens Vestargaard is an awesome contribution), read this series I have published.

T-SQL Tuesday #101: Essential Tools

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Published on: April 10, 2018

What are the tools you love to use? What are the tools that maybe need a little sharpening? What tools do you have that maybe you wish were the same caliber as somebody else’s tools? And lastly, which tools do you not possess that you wish you possessed?

This are maybe some of the questions that Jens Vestergaard (b | t) would like for us to examine as we take an introspective look into our tool belts this month for the 101st installment of TSQL Tuesday.

If you are interested in reading the original invite, you can find that here.

“Besides SQL Server Management Studio and Visual Studio Data Tools we all have our own set of tools that we use for everyday chores and tasks. But how do we get to know which tools are out there, if not for other professionals telling us about them? Does it have to a fully fledged with certification and all? Certainly not! If there’s some github project out there, that is helping you be double as productive, let us know about it. You can even boast about something you’ve built yourself – if you think others will benefit from using it.”

That is the invite. I am going to not adhere very closely to that invite. You see, I take a rather open ended definition to the meaning of “tools” this time around. You see, there are many general tools that just about everybody will use. But what about the tools that help to refine your abilities as a DBA?

Brief Intermission

A shout out is absolutely necessary for Adam Machanic (twitter)for picking the right blog meme that has been able to survive so long in the SQLFamily. This party has helped many people figure out fresh topics as well as enabled them to continue to learn.

Refinery

There are two tools I would like to throw out there as essential to the DBA tool belt. These are not your traditional tools by any means but they are easily some of the most essential tools you could employ in your trade craft. These tools are Google-FU and blogging.

Yes, I am taking a liberal definition to the term “tools” and I warned you of that already. These are seriously some of the most important tools anybody could acquire. These are the tools that allow you to sharpen your skills and become an overall better professional. Let’s start with google-fu.

Google-fu is the ability to employ internet searches to find answers to your current questions as well as your current problems. 15 years ago, this skill was much more difficult to acquire and frankly quite a bit more important. In the present world, algorithms are running in the background and profiling you to help you find the answer you are looking for a little more easily. You do more searches, Google learns you better and you get better more accurate results over time. This is a good thing. Every data professional should be able to employ a good Google search to find the appropriate answers to their current problems.

Blogging on the other hand also gets easier over time but for different reasons. Where Google has evolved to help you improve your google-fu, the only way for you to improve your blogging ability is through more and more practice.

Why is blogging so important? Blogging is not there just to help you become a better writer. That is a nice benefit because every data professional needs to be able to write to some extent depending on business needs, requirements, documentation etc. Blogging helps you become a better technical person.

What is often overlooked about blogging is that it requires the writer (if they truly care), to research, practice, and test what it is they happen to be writing about. Why do people do this when blogging? Well, the truth is simple. You are putting a piece of yourself out there for public consumption and people will nitpick it. You will want to be as accurate as possible with whatever you put out there for the world to see. This also becomes a bit of your resume and future employers may see it. You will want them to see your value and not something littered with mistakes.

Over time, your writing will also tend to serve as a personal knowledge base. How cool is that? You will forget the fixes for things over time. You will forget some of the cool solutions over time. That is natural. If you have it written somewhere, you will be able to find it and use it again and again.

 

TSQL2sDay150x150The Wrap

These are a couple of the tools that I highly recommend for all data professionals. Sure they are non-traditional tools, but that does not diminish their importance. I recommend you try to polish these particular tools as frequently as plausible.

Oh, and if you are interested in some other SQL Server specific tools, read this series I have published.

Summiting that Technical Challenge

Comments: 1 Comment
Published on: January 9, 2018

Conquering Challenges

I really like the topic of the TSQLTuesday party today. Today we have been instructed in no uncertain terms to share a technical challenge with the world with which we were confronted. Ideally we will have conquered that challenge. Sometimes, we may not have conquered the technical challenge. We seldom like to share those stories though. That said, whether or not we conquer the technical challenge, there is another equally important part of the challenge – the journey.

Before getting too far astray with stories and challenges, it is important to note that the host of the party this month is Arun Sirpal (blog | twitter). Arun has posted the invite for the party here. Go ahead and check it out in all of its original glory!

Now back to the challenge at hand – conquering that technical problem and getting that high associated with the metaphorical high of summiting a tough task.

Summits

My technical challenge is not so much of a SQL Server challenge, and is minutely related to a database issue. Let’s start with the broad brushstrokes.

My blog was being hosted on an aging platform. The platform was old enough that it was several versions behind on php. Certain plugins were at a point that I could no longer use the full functionality. In addition, I just needed to ensure that it was updated. Because of this, I was informed that I had to migrate to a different platform provided by the same hosting provider. This is where the fun began.

The migration to the new platform was a simple button click. Unfortunately, despite the promise of a complete site migration – it was not. 99% of everything migrated. Little things like security and my domain name did not migrate. Ok – easy enough, I can update the site to use the domain name for my blog but I had to release it from the old platform first. Upon releasing the domain name from the old platform the “pageok” page error showed for a while until the change was fully propagated. This was a bit of a nuisance and somewhat bothersome for visitors. Believe me – it was a nuisance for me too!

After getting the site to start rendering pages properly, I soon found that there was no longer the appropriate security in place for various things. As I started to go through and try to fix the security, I found I no longer had the ability to manage any of the permissions on my site. In addition, the hosting company could not make the appropriate permissions changes either. What was the recommendation at this point? Another migration to another platform. Commence steam shooting from ears at this point. As I saw it, I had two choices go back to the old dying platform or go to this third platform. I opted for the new trendy flashy shiny platform.

Ruh Roh

At this point, I think it is a good idea to mention that all of this happened just as the new year turned. In addition, I was trying to get last minute edits made for a blog series I had running. This was all on January 2-3, 2018. What a way to kick off the New Year from a blogging point of view. Yeehaw!

I was assured I would have greater control over the new platform. In addition, I was assured it would not take very long. The process was straightforward as long as I had my backups. Believe me, I had my backups. They were even on two sites at this point.

What I did not know was that the hosting company had decided to come in behind me on my original site and decided to make changes. These were changes that complicated the whole process substantially. I only discovered they had made changes after I tried to go back to the original site and access my backups. Guess what? I could no longer access it due to the changes the hosting company had made. Steam is getting hotter now.

In the meantime, I had already started the transition of my domain name to the new platform. Given the new circumstances, this was a mistake. I should have waited to do this until the very end to ensure the site was at least accessible in the meantime.

Once the domain migration finally completed and all of my site files were transferred, users were at least greeted with something new.

Ok, this is in part due to a missing database. That took a while to finally get access back to the original site so I could grab my current backup (which was taken right before the migration). Once finally restored, I started getting this next one.

Lucky for me, this only took a bunch of google-fu to find exactly what I could do to fix it. It seems there was an issue in a config file and I was able to correct the database connection string. Yay – small victory, right? Well, sort of. The blog was fine as long as no links were clicked. You see, there was another change made that caused all of my permalinks to update to one of my alternate domains (again done by the hosting company). Any time I clicked a link I was stumped by why the link was trying to forward to the alternate domain. So because of this link issue, I was back to getting the constant 404 error from a few paragraphs back. (Pretty much straight flames shooting from the ears now.)

Again, more google-fu and I was able to find another fix. This one was part database related and part admin console. Having made the updates in all the requisite places, I was able to now click on most links and the site was at 90% functionality.

This was a full day of working on trying to fix this problem. At this point with the site up, I was able to confirm that I could enact the security policies I wanted/needed. I was also able to confirm most links were working. I did not that some plugins were working intermittently. That was an issue to save for the next day.

On the following day, I went back to work trying to fix various plugin issues that I or visitors had reported. In the end, I had to make some changes to tools I was using because they would no longer work. In addition, there was one specific plugin that was many other plugins to fail (depending on page load order). Once I removed that plugin, it was safe to say that the site was back up and running as expected.

 

The Wrap

TSQL2sDay150x150I did not enjoy this journey much at all. Much of the experience was due to outside forces. I can’t do much to control them, but I can do something to fix the net effect of what they caused. While the journey was rather unpleasant, I did finally achieve that Nirvana moment that comes from having conquered the problem.

I didn’t go into extreme technical details because there were many fixes along the path and my focus was on getting it working though I should have been documenting it all along the way. Despite the heat, steam and fire of the experience, I did rather enjoy being able to use some new mysql skills to alter data and fix various problems in the site.

 

T-SQL Tuesday #097: Learning Plans

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Published on: December 18, 2017

Stylishly Late

I am fabulously late and therefor breaking the guiding rules that make up TSQLTuesday. Where’s the ruler to slap my fingers as I blatantly type this post so late?

Well, I did ask for a special pardon from the host this month. My friend Mala Mahadevan (blog | twitter) is hosting this month and she has proposed a pretty sharp topic. Mala has asked that we essentially write about our learning objectives for the 2018 year. Not just the objectives, but also the plan to get there.

I pondered the topic for a while and had my plan formulated for the content. This is an important topic no matter when the blog post is written or even what stage of your career you happen to be in.

I have heard more than a handful of people say things like “I am a senior level, I don’t need to learn anymore!” or “I have a doctorate!” as they turn their nose to the pitiful idea that they could learn something. This is what that post is going to touch on – learning when you have nothing to learn.

A shout out is absolutely necessary for Adam Machanic (twitter)for picking the right blog meme that has been able to survive so long in the SQLFamily. This party has helped many people figure out fresh topics as well as enabled them to continue to learn.

My apologies up front for what is a really late TSQL2sday article

Life Long Journeys

Let’s lay it out on the line up front. I was one of the few that was able to achieve the MCM certification before it became a relic. That achievement by no way means that I know very much about SQL Server. I see myself as a noob very frequently within the realms of SQL Server. I have barely scratched the surface and the surface continues to get thicker and richer as Microsoft continues to roll out new features and some pretty fabulous enhancements with SQL Server.

With the technical aspects of SQL Server, despite my frequent feeling of being a noob, I do find that my learning plan has not evolved very much. I do continue to strive to perpetually learn about SQL Server and features. My plan there is pretty straight-forward, be humble and accepting and try to learn.

I learn from sooooo many avenues about SQL Server. One of the best avenues that I need to devote more time to in the next year will be in the forum support area. It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is to learn more about SQL Server when trying to help somebody else. So that is the second aspect of my plan – help others and therefore increase my learning opportunities.

What about with other technologies? Over the past year, I have been spending more time trying to learn about two other technologies – Teradata and MySQL. This brings me to the third aspect of my plan. Find something challenging and interesting. Raise yourself to the challenge and meet it. Both of these technologies are significantly different from SQL Server and require a serious overhaul of what has been learned to try and re-apply it.

All of this is pretty cool from a technical perspective. I do believe that these basic pillars or attributes (humility, help, challenge, be interested) apply to anything one is trying to learn. And today, I am setting forth a goal to help me learn better communication skills. These attributes I have discussed will help me with that. That said, I also believe that communication skills are very important for technologists and most technologists need to improve that skill-set.

The Goal

I can see all of the eyeballs out there start to roll to the back of the head (where they are likely checking for cracks or holes, right?). Every data professional out there is undoubtedly perfect in their communication skills, right? I know that I am far from perfect at this. A direct example is that I am a bullet point type of person when it comes to email. Some people take offense at it thinking who knows what. So, to address an issue like that, I need to find a way to make the emails appear softer and that can be achieved through lengthier emails.

One way to practice writing more flowery and softer emails is through writing blog posts. This provides me with practice in writing lengthier explanations in lieu of a quick blurb. Sometimes the lengthy explanation is necessary. Sometimes finding a way to illustrate the topic with a lengthy parable is better than getting all technical. The end result is to become better at communicating via the written word and blogging helps me to achieve that.

The next item for the learning plan for 2018 is also related to communication. This is in an effort to try and be more understanding of the what and why in a situation. This is hard to describe but boils down pretty closely to empathy but is not entirely that. It is more about connecting to the actual person and situation rather than giving the old nod and yeah. The only thing that I can envision to help with this is to practice practice practice.

TSQL2sDay150x150The Wrap

This was an exceptionally late contribution to tsql2sday and by all rules, is not technically a part of that party. Regardless of that, it is important enough to me to still give at least some effort to finish the write-up that I started well before TSQL2sday started and ended.

No matter our status or learnedness in life – there is always something more that each of us can learn. It is important to devote some time daily, weekly, monthly, yearly to continue to learn. If you are not progressing, you are regressing. In the same vein, if you are not learning, you are regressing.

T-SQL Tuesday #096: Inspiration Abounds

Comments: 2 Comments
Published on: November 14, 2017

Who Inspires You?

Today is a bit of a divergence from the usual geekery that may abound on my blog. As prompted by Ewald Cress (blog | twitter), it is time to take a step back and put forth a bit of reflection. Ewald has requested we do this as a part of the TSQLTuesday monthly event. If interested, here is the invitation to participate along with all the nitty gritty details and those things we love to ignore (rules).

While looking at the invitation, it dawned on me how long this monthly event has been running. This is the 96th installment which also means it is the 8th birthday of this event. Birthdays are a good time to do a bit of self reflection. And right now with Thanksgiving around the corner, the invite to reflect upon those people that may have served up some sort of inspiration to us is a really cool idea.

For me, this is about much more than just a story or two about people that have impacted me in my career choices. This topic is also about much more than just a handful of years of inspiration. Inspiration comes in many different flavors and should help to build you into who you are over time.

With that, I give you my 96 for 96.There is no way that just one or two people could have inspired me to this point in my life. So, I set to see if I could think of 96 people that have had some impact in shaping and inspiring me. One person for each edition of TSQLTuesday on this the 8th Anniversary of a really cool thing started by Adam Machanic (twitter).

96 for 96

My apologies up front for what may be a really long article

Personal

  • My Wife (1) – How can I have a list of those who have inspired me in my life and not include the rock and stability of my life for most of my adult life? She has been there to push me along since the beginning and working me into something more refined.
  • Hursts (5) – My adopted family that taught me a lot about compassion and hard work. They have been very instrumental in helping me to learn more about giving to others.
  • Grandparents (2) – I wrote about my grandfather when he passed. My grandmother is tough and inspiring for somebody so petite. The two of them helped to inspire me to have a good time but also how to be resolute.
  • Children (4) – Wow, my kids are crazy balls of energy all the time. The learn and grow and absorb and try and fail and try again. They have so many talents that I would have never imagined. They embrace the challenges (mostly) and inspire me to develop new talents and continue to learn.
  • Ella (1) – My wife’s grandmother was stern and rigid. She was very precise in how things needed to be done. Oh and boy was she strong willed. She influenced me with how to be stern and accepting and how to balance that nicely.
  • Football team (22) – A football team? Why would that be? This is the team that I coached most recently. These guys had it tough. Due to various things outside of my control or their control they had a mid-season coaching change. I became a part of the new coaching staff. We pushed them hard and saw them grow. They did not quit and would be a huge inspiration to many on how to persevere.
  • Pierre & Veronique (2) – Good friends from France. Pierre died many years ago but he was able to instill in me a “fire in the belly” type of mantra. Hunger for more and hunger to be better. Veronique is another very strong woman and very quiet. Between them they have helped to inspire me in how to be strong yet quiet.
  • language teachers (2) – This one is for my foreign language teachers from elementary school through high school. Between French and German, they were able to inspire a desire to learn language and culture.
  • Conway (1) – My High school Calculus teacher. He was the toughest teacher I ever had. There were no shortcuts with him. I learned how to think logically from him. I may not have liked it back then when I could just see the solutions (without having to do every stinking step) but had to do it his way. Turns out it was worth it because it helps to avoid the shortcuts and I can think through problems to hopefully reach a better solution now.
  • Mimi (1) – Mimi was my collegiate counselor. She helped me to understand the need to speak up but how to do it politically when the time warranted it.
  • Mandy Harvey (1) – What more can be said about this girl? If you haven’t seen it, you need to watch it now.
  • Kelvin Spendlove (1) – Kelvin was a family friend from Vegas. He came down with cancer and passed away earlier this year. Kelvin was an example of fighting and persevering. Despite all of his pain, he kept a pleasant demeanor and showed as much charity to others as he could. No matter how bad you have it, you can take a moment to uplift somebody else.
  • Jon Huntsman Sr (1) – Mr. Huntsman is more of somebody that is well known that does and says many things that are inspirational to me. His philanthropy is of great interest. Huntsman teaches that the more you give with the right intent, the more you will receive and thus be able to continue the cycle

Hey Sport!

  • Coaches (3) – Different coaches for different sports that I had growing up inspired many things. One of those things is the ability to work through the fatigue and to be able to be comfortable in that painful/difficult moment of any given competition. Are you able to pick up the pace in that last mile?
  • Thao Tran (1) – Thao was a great friend that got me back into endurance sports. I had found myself out of the routine and out of time. With Thao, I was able to find that time and get back to running for very long amounts of time.
  • Dan & Dave (2) – Remember these guys? The decathletes that were in all the ads all the time? These guys made Track and Field super sexy. Seeing these guys and how cool it was to do Track helped encourage me to try other events.
  • Khalid Khannouchi (1) – Elite level marathoner. Khalid and Bernard are both elite level and record holding marathoners. This was something that I aspired to accomplish. That dream may be changed now but the ability they showed to push harder and harder through the fatigue is something that I have found very helpful in my career.
  • Bernard Lagat (1) – same as Khalid.
  • Steve Prefontaine (1) – Runners everywhere know about “Pre”, right? His running and style were inspirational and he was one of the runners I looked to when I was running through High School.
  • Greg Lemond (1) – Despite the animosity between Greg and Lance I am grouping them together. Lemond was a legend in my youth. He was winning the Tour de France and looking good doing it. Lance contracted and beat cancer and then went on to smash the Tour de France several times. No matter the allegations – the feats of these two were beyond comparison and well beyond awesome. I am a better runner than biker, but the two are similar in that they encourage you to go beyond and dig deeper in order to be successful.
  • Lance Armstrong (1) – same as Greg
  • Jerry Sloan (1) – Talk about a tough nosed get it done and gritty kind of professional. We could all learn a little about this type of workmanship.
  • Stockton (1) – Part of the trinity in Utah Jazz history. The humility and workman-like attitude he brought to the sport he loved is admirable. His attitude inspires me how I can work hard, be humble and be extremely talented and capable in my profession.
  • Malone (1) – Nobody outworked the Mailman. It is a tough act to follow but something to strive to accomplish.
  • Steve Young (1) – I had the opportunity of meeting Steve Young at the Olympics where I served as a translator one year. I met Dale Murphy there as well. I was amazed out how approachable these men were. I grew up watching both of them play (football and baseball respectively) and becoming a fan of the style in which they played and the success they were able to achieve in life and on the field. This helps me to try and become more approachable with clients or at various SQLFamily community events. It is not easy! 😉
  • Dale Murphy (1) – same as Steve Young
  • Ozzie Smith (1) – Ozzie was a wizard at shortstop. I remember watching some of the things he did defensively and being floored. Doing the job, doing it well, and doing it with a little flare. Sometimes a little flare is needed in the job – just as long as the job is getting done well!
  • Walter Payton, Jim McMahon, Mike Singleterry, William Perry, Mike Ditka (5) – Da Bears. These are the guys that got me to be a Bears fan for life – bad or good or well … Teamwork and doing whatever other thing was necessary to help the team succeed is what stuck with me from these guys. Need a lineman to play halfback a few plays? Call on the Fridge. In the workspace, sometimes we will just need to do something else in favor of the success of the group as a whole.

The Geeky!

  • Bill Gates / Steve Jobs (2) – from Garage to tech Giant these guys inspire with the dreams of success.
  • Steve Jones (1) – Steve was instrumental in getting me to write. He was helpful while also being honest. I have been able to develop into a better writer thanks to his help.
  • Gail Shaw (1) – Gail is a good friend. Another strong woman I have had the pleasure of getting to know. She is a great person to have a low key conversation with about SQL or about life. Gail knows her stuff and we can all learn something from her.
  • Paul Randal (1) – I have had the opportunity to chat with Paul on a few occasions. The most memorable comment from him was that we can all learn from each other. He learns from us and we can learn from him. Paul knows a lot about SQL Server and is still able to learn more. We can all continue to learn about SQL Server.
  • Kimberly Tripp (1) – Kimberly is a genius with stats and indexes. I have learned plenty from her from her presentations and articles.
  • Kalen Delaney (1) – One of my favorite things about Kalen is her ability to tease and know when it would be effective. Kalen is a person with whom I have enjoyed some great conversations. Are you looking for somebody that know a boatload about SQL Server – Kalen should be at the top of that list.
  • Kevin Kline (1) – Kevin has unwittingly bestowed some great lessons on me. He has some great internals information on SQL Server. He also has some awesome personal development stuff that people could learn from him.
  • Brent Ozar (1) – Brent is very smart with SQL Server. Probably the greater inspiration to me is his energy. He is great with marketing and branding. He does a great job at appearing to be outgoing. That is a difficult thing for many in the IT field that would self-classify as an introvert.
  • Joe Sack (1) – Joe and Jonathan are going to be grouped together. I had the opportunity to work with both of them when working on my first book. I learned a lot about the writing process and some tips for just plane old making it better. I hope I can retain what I learned.
  • Jonathan Gennick (1) – same as Joe
  • Bob Ward (1) – between Bob, Paul and Ewald I learn so much about the internals of SQL Server. These guys are smart and love to play with the debugger. It makes me a bit jealous. I would love to have adequate time to just dive in with the debugger on a regular basis – maybe daily. There is a lot that can be learned from these three. Find their stuff and start learning. They push me to keep pushing harder to learn more about the internals.
  • Paul White (1) – only addition here is that I appreciated the late night conversations with Paul. He had the added advantage over Ewald and Bob in having a more direct impact in inspiring some of my internals dives.
  • Ewald Cress (1) – same as Bob.
  • Pat Wright (1) – Pat is a monster in the community. Pat runs user groups, organizes events and works to bring so many people together or greater learning opportunities. He does not limit his efforts to just the SQL Server community. Rather he is looking at all data related communities.
  • Ben Miller (1) – I met Ben many years ago. He introduced me to a few little tidbits for SQL Server and it sparked a greater interest in me to diver deeper and just get better at what I do.
  • Wayne Sheffield (1) – well this big teddy bear helped Steve Jones with getting me down the path to writing. Wayne did it in a little bit of a different way but was somebody that helped inspire me that writing technical papers is something that I could do.
  • Kendra Little (1) – the technical insight and ability of Kendra is top shelf. What I like about Kendra’s community presence and work is the character she brings to it. Learning can be fun and witty and personal. It doesn’t have to be technical and dry all the time like so much of the content out there.
  • Jes Borland (1) – Talk about an amazing ball of energy! Oh and Jes is an awesome talent in the SQL community too. If you want to learn, take a minute or three with Jes.
  • Jennifer Moser (1) – Jennifer is simply amazing if you ask me. She can herd cats err data professionals like it is nothing. She does so much for the community and I would dare say that much of what she does goes completely unnoticed. If you come across her, tell her thanks. We can all learn a bit about working tirelessly for the betterment of a community from Jennifer.
  • Dwaine Camps (1) – Dwaine was a SQL Super Stud in my opinion. He was a great help in solving many technical puzzles and he loved to apply himself to those types of problems. For him, those puzzles were like deep dives for me. I learned a lot from Dwaine. Rest in Peace.
  • Jeff Moden (1) – Jeff is rbar none a top shelf MVP in my opinion. He is the juggernaut of high performing tsql solutions.
  • Andy Leonard (1) – Friend, mentor, wize man with a goatee. Nuf said! Andy is an easy going person that taught me an important lesson about community. Sometimes taking a step back is a far better contribution to the community than to hold on to everything with white knuckles.
  • Andy Warren (1) – Andy has been very influential for me. Reading his articles and talking to him, I have had the opportunity to understand a little better the managerial presence. I don’t really know how to explain that very well, but there is a calming presence and an understanding of staying even keel with whatever issue pops up. He has a way of looking at various issues, thinking about them, presenting them in a seemingly un-biased fashion and just being factual. Sometimes we can benefit from the approach of studying it out and not acting too rashly.
  • Robert Davis (1) – Robert is another one of those internals studs. Robert has been influential to me with some of his articles about how different features work. Again, this is an inspiration to dive into SQL Server to better understand how things are working.
  • Aaron Bertrand (1) – When I first met Aaron, I have to admit I was surprised that he knew who I was. This impressed me quite a bit. It tells me that this well known community giant takes the time to get to know the little guy and that everybody in SQLFamily is important. Maybe I can learn from that and work that much harder at remembering who people are (I am very weak at remembering people and faces).
  • Thomas LaRock (1) – Thomas is an interesting character on my list. This is not a bad thing at all. He is an interesting person. The most influential thing I have picked up from Thomas is his ability to weave a story while presenting. He is an amazing presenter in my opinion. He has an ability to teach through story telling that is difficult for me. It is certainly something I am striving to become better at doing.
  • Midnight DBAs (2) – Jen and Sean are the Midnight DBAs. I would call them friends as well. When I think about their influence, “Don’t sweat the small stuff” comes to mind. That doesn’t mean we need not take care of the small stuff, but rather sometimes we can have zero impact on certain things. All we can do is try to make our case and hope that people will accept our input as the SME.
  • Grant Fritchey (1) – To be honest, I don’t know why I put Grant on this list. Just kidding. I enjoy chatting with Grant. The nice thing here is that we can chat about things that are not always about SQL Server. If you have a recommendation, Grant is all over listening to you and determining if he can test it out. I don’t think I have ever seen him be dismissive to anybody except that one time to me. Yes, he will probably think about that one for a bit. It is a story that could be told some day.

TSQL2sDay150x150The Wrap

Wow, what a list? That is a list of 96 influencers in my life. True some names have been partly or entirely obscured, but the people are real. You will probably notice that I did not include any links to twitter profiles or blog sites. I am leaving it to you to google the person.

I have just shared roughly 96 points of data with you about my development into a data professional. I still have a long way to go as well. Oh and because it is 96 points of data, it meets the requirement to be at least loosely tied to the requirement of being about data.

Don’t see your name on this list? I really had far too many names for the 96 and I do realize that some people that have been really influential in my life did not make it to this list. I am sure all of us could find far more than just one or two people that have influenced us in life. If you are reading this post, I challenge you to come up with your list of at least 20 people that have influenced you. I bet you will be pleased with the self reflection.

T-SQL Tuesday #089: The Cloud and Job Security

Comments: No Comments
Published on: April 11, 2017

The Cloud

Today I am doing a quick entry for my participation points in the monthly blog party called TSQL Tuesday. I have missed the past few opportunities for various reasons. Today when I saw the topic, I wanted to post a few quick thoughts. If you are interested, the host this month is Koen Verbeek (blog | twitter) and the invite can be found here.

Koen invites us to explore the cloud, whether it be a stormy cloud or a silver lined cloud. Either way, explore it and how it relates to you. Here are some of the examples Koen posted:

  • What impact has this had on your job?
  • Do you feel endangered?
  • Do you have more exciting features/toys to work with?
  • Do you embrace the change and learn new skills?
  • Or do you hide in your cubicle and fear the robot uprising?

I guess the answer for me is “it depends” – buahaha. Just kidding.

The Future Is Bright

I think the cloud is a good thing for the data professional, when done right. I do not believe there is anything to fear with it, so I definitely don’t feel endangered. That said, I do proceed cautiously to the silver lined puffs of water in the air. It’s not from fear, but more of a caution to ensure it is the correct move for the business need in question. I don’t believe the cloud is the right answer for all business needs but it is an appropriate solution for many business requirements.

I like to ensure my clients are well informed of what the choices are and the implications may be when deciding to move to the cloud. I like to make sure they understand that a move to the cloud is not a knee jerk decision – it takes planning and considerable effort in many situations. I also like to remind them that the cloud is really just another data center hosting their data. Granted, some offerings from vendors like Amazon and Microsoft do permit considerable flexibility and the opportunity to move quickly to new demands or interests.

Playground

For me, one of the biggest benefits of the cloud is the constantly evolving sandbox that I get to use to learn and grow (obviously that means I get to play a lot). I don’t have the resources at my disposal (and most clients don’t either) to be able to stand up a brand new environment from scratch for a POC quickly and efficiently. If I want to play around with Machine Learning (ML) then I can spin up an environment to help learn and evaluate my options. Should I decided I want to learn how to setup a multi-site multi-node windows cluster, I could spin up that environment very quickly and start learning with minimal hardware requirement on my part.

The cloud offers great learning potential for those interested. That said, it is obviously not free. There is cost for the cloud services and of course one must still invest personal time into the “sandbox” in order to learn the technology properly.

TSQL2sDay150x150The Wrap

Personally, I see no threat from the cloud movement. Some may worry about the cloud automating them out of a job. The truth is, data professionals are always trying to automate things. Automation is not really entirely new and it seems there is always more to be automated.

The cloud offers new avenues to grow ones career. The technology is getting more and more interesting. Is the cloud blowing past you and your career or are you riding the Jet Stream through the clouds and into your future?

T-SQL Tuesday #081: Recap

Comments: 4 Comments
Published on: August 18, 2016

Sharpen Something

sqlskillsharpener_pigIn case you missed it (many did), TSQL Tuesday was a challenging event this month. I invited people to do a put a little more into writing a post than what they may usually do. There were some very good reasons for this. If you are interested, take a look back at the invite and see if you maybe want to give it a go outside the bounds of TSQL Tuesday. You can check out the original post here.

Before I get into the nitty gritty I have a confession. This topic was a reminder for myself as much as it was a challenge to others to help me continue to drive and improve in various areas as I see fit.

There are other dirty little secrets too. Some may become apparent as you read through the recap.

Recap of the Event

One of the tricks to becoming and staying a top tier data talent or professional is a perpetual cycle to learn, adapt, change, and evolve. We must be in a continual cycle of self evaluation and self modification. Let’s call this by something else – we must be agile. There I said the five letter word. Think about it in broad strokes with your career – it is a development process with perpetual evaluation, review and tweaks.

Now think about the invite and see how that fits with what I just said or with the, cough cough, agile flow. You start (albeit very basically) with a need for enhancement, then you plan which pieces of the enhancement you can accomplish, you then do the work (whether successful or not), then after you deliver the work you conclude with a retrospective (what went well and what needs to change). Yes! I do feel rather dirty for sneaking this on everybody like this. That said, when you think about the model and apply it in broad strokes to your career path – it has merit.

Another way of viewing this is to think in terms of the following flowchart to help improve your personal mindset or maybe improve your personal mental power. The process is repetitive and follows a natural course. Once you have acted on some plan, you must review the performance and results and then gauge where your mindset needs to go from there to improve.

mindset_improvement_560

Jason Brimhall Rob Farley Steve Jones Robert Davis Kenneth Fisher Kennie Nybo Pontoppidan Mala Mahadevan Wayne Sheffield Jason Brimhall

In other Words

Did you just look at the picture or did you explore the picture? If you hover the picture, you will find there are links to this months participants. There were only eight so not a ton of exploration is necessary.

Here are my thoughts on each of the posts submitted this month:

Wayne Sheffield (blog | twitter) – You can find his link in the big arrow that restarts the cycle. I put his link here because he ran into a ton of blockers during his experiment and he is at a spot of practically restarting – again. This is not the first time he has restarted in his quest to learn more about Availability Groups. Wayne fully admits he is deficient in AG and states near the end of the post that he had to humble himself going through this exercise. That is awesome! We could all use a little humility on a more regular basis.

Mala Mahadevan (blog | twitter) – You can find her link in the “Results” circle. The reason for this choice is that Mala discusses her midlife crisis – erm career change. MTSQL2sDay150x150ala held out for quite a while looking for just the right opportunity. When it came, she snatched it up. Along with that career change, she has implemented a plan to become more active in blogging and to learn more and more through various avenues. The increase in blogging and the ability to stick to her guns resulted in a new job/career she seems to be happy with at the moment.

Robert Davis (blog | twitter) – Robert found himself placed in the performance circle thanks to his article involving a third party backup utility that should be heavy on the performance side. Robert needed something interesting to push him to reacquaint himself with this tool. Once he found that project that required just a touch of ingenuity, performance and a way to avoid the GUI, Robert found himself right at home with a great solution for his environment.

Kennie Nybo Pontoppidan (blog | twitter) – Kennie landed in the Actions node mostly because he decided to take the challenge and act on his long time desire to get better at the new temporal features. To do that, he decided to read a book by Snodgrass which seriously sounded like something from Harry Potter to me. Kennie outlines a bunch of information that he learned from the book such as tracking time based data from either a transaction or valid-time perspective.

personal_growth_brain

Kenneth Fisher (blog | twitter) – I placed this one into the behavior node. Maybe it is a bit of a stretch, but it seems to make sense since he discussed some behavioral differences between Azure DB and SQL Server. Things just do not work exactly the same between the two. You will need to understand these differences if you find yourself in a spot where you must work with both.

Steve Jones (blog | twitter) – When looking through the image, you will find that Steve landed solidly in the mindset node. When I read his contribution, I got the full impression that his mind was 100% in the right place. He set out to learn something and try to get better at it. Additionally, he blogged about a topic that is near and dear to me – Extended Events. Have I mentioned before that I have a lot of content about XE? You can read a bunch of it here. Like Wayne, Steve was humble near the end of his article. He notes that he was clumsy as he started working with XE but that he is glad he did it as well. Read his article. He gave me a great idea of another use for XE and I am sure it may sound good to you too!

Rob Farley (blog | twitter) – I planted Rob firmly on the attitude node. It seems clear to me that Rob had loads of attitude throughout his article about Operational Analytics. The attitude I perceived was that of humility and yearning. Rob feels like he has a lot to learn and his attitude is in the right place it seems to keep him going while he tries to learn more in the field of Operational Analytics.

My Contribution link can be found by clicking on any spot in the image that is not already described. I wrote about my experiences with trying to pick up a little on JSON.

That is a wrap of all eight contributions. If you did not contribute this month, I recommend that you still try to do something with the challenge issued with this months TSQL Tuesday.

Edit: Added links to the articles with each persons name in the event this page is being viewed with Firefox. There seems to be an issue with the links in the image map within Firefox.

T-SQL Tuesday #081: Getting Sharper

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Published on: August 16, 2016

Sharpen Something

sqlskillsharpener_pigThis month I am the host of the TSQL Tuesday blog party. In the invite, which can be read here, I asked people to decide on something to work on, plan out and then report the success/failure.

Not only am I the host, but I am a member this month. In my invite (and the reminder) I provided a few examples of what I was really looking for from participants this month. It became apparent that the topic may have been over thought. So, for my contribution, I decided to do something extremely simple.

There is so much about SQL Server that it would not be feasible nor should it be expected that one single person should know everything about the product. That said, within SQL Server alone, all of us have something to learn and improve upon within our skill-set. If we extend out to the professional development realm, we have even more we can explore as a skill sharpening experiment for this month.

I am going to keep it strictly within the SQL Server realm this month. I have chosen to develop my skills a little more with the topic of JSON. I should be an expert in JSON, but since it is spelled incorrectly – maybe I have something to learn. That said, I really do love being in the database now – haha.

JSON

katanaLet’s just get this out there right now – I suck at JSON. I suck at XML. The idea of querying a non-normalized document to get the data is not very endearing to me. It is for that reason that I have written utilities or scripts to help generate my XML shredding scripts – as
can be seen here.

Knowing that I have this allergy to features similar to XML, I need to build up some resistance to the allergy through a little learning and a little practice. Based on that, my plan is pretty simple:

  1. Read up on JSON
  2. Find some tutorials on JSON
  3. Practice using the feature
  4. Potentially do something destructive with JSON

With that plan set before me, it is time to sharpen some skills and then slice, dice, and maybe shred some JSON.

Sharpening

Nothing in this entire process was actually too terribly difficult. That is an important notion to understand. My plan was very lacking in detail and really just had broad strokes. This helps me to be adaptable to changing demands and time constraints. I dare say the combination of broad strokes and a very limited scope also allowed me an opportunity for easier success.

Researching JSON was pretty straight forward. This really meant a few google searches. There was a little bit of time spent reading material from other blogs, a little bit from BOL and a little bit from msdn. Nothing extravagant here. I did also have the opportunity to review some slides from a Microsoft presentation on the topic. Again, not terribly difficult or demanding in effort or time requirement. This research covers both steps one and two in the plan.

Now comes the more difficult task. It was time to put some of what had been seen and read to practice. A little experimentation was necessary. I have two easy enough looking examples that I was able to construct to start experimenting with in my learning endeavors.

Here is the first example. This is a bit more basic in construct. (Updated to use an image since the json was messing with the rss feed and causing malformed xml.)

json_xmpl

And some basic results:

basic_json

Pretty slick. Better yet is that this is many times easier than XML.

How about something a little different like the following:

Admittedly, this one is a bit more of a hack. In my defense, I am still learning how to work with this type of stuff. At any rate, I had an array of values for one  of the attributes. The kludge I used reads up to 3 values from that array and returns those values into individual attributes. I am still learning in this area so I can live with this for now.

array_json

The last part of the plan involved doing something destructive. Why? Well just for the fun of it. I was unable to get to this stage but it is still in the plans.

TSQL2sDay150x150Report on The Successes and Failures

 

I have written about some of the successes and failures along the way thus far. Overall, I would rate this a successful endeavor. The big reason for it being a success is because I do feel I learned more about json within SQL Server than I had prior to the experiment.

Taking a bite sized chunk of learning and acting on it sure makes it a lot easier to learn a new concept or to learn more about such a vast topic such as SQL Server.

*Note: This is a late publish because the post didn’t auto post. This is a tad late but I discovered it as I was prepping the roundup.

T-SQL Tuesday #081: Sharpen Something – Reminder

Comments: No Comments
Published on: August 2, 2016

Sharpen Something

sqlskillsharpener_pigLast week I sent out the invite for the August TSQL Tuesday blog party. In that invite I promised to send out a reminder seven days prior to the event. Well – it is that time.

You are cordially invited to read the invite for TSQL Tuesday 81 and plan your entry for the party.

In the invite, I shared the details for the event including examples of what I am looking for as an entry for the event.

I hope we will be seeing you next Tuesday, August 9th in attendance at this month’s party. I am sure it will prove to be an interesting experience one way or another.

Bonus Example

In the original invite I provided a list of examples of what one could do for this TSQL Tuesday. Today, I am providing one more example in a slightly different format. Recall that the invite requested that participants set out to accomplish something, make a plan and report on that “goal”, the plan, and the outcome.

So, let’s say I have discovered that I write too much in the passive voice. Based on that information, I would like to overcome the passivity in my writing voice, therefore my goal would be to learn how to write more assertively (less passively). In order to accomplish that goal, I may need to read up on the topic and learn exactly what it means to write passively. Then I would need to examine articles that I have written. And then I would need to practice writing more assertively. After all of that is done, I may have somebody (or something) analyze a brand new article or two to determine if I have achieved my desire.

After having executed on that plan, I will write about the experience including what the initial goal and plan were and also on what worked or didn’t work while trying to reach that goal. To summarize, here is an outline of that example:

What I will Accomplish

I will learn how to write more assertively (or just Write more assertively)

How Will I do that

Research what it means to write passively

Research what it means to write assertively

Evaluate “assertively” written articles

Take Notes on how to write assertively

Evaluate my articles

Practice writing assertively

Write a new article and have it reviewed to judge the voice whether it seems too passive or not

Report on The Successes and Failures

Write whether or not each step succeeded or failed.

Write if a step was unnecessary

Write about the experience and your thoughts about the experience.

Did you achieve or fail overall?

What is T-SQL Tuesday?

TSQL2sDay150x150T-SQL Tuesday is a monthly blog party hosted by a different blogger each month. This blog party was started by Adam Machanic (blog|twitter). You can take part by posting your own participating post that fits the topic of the month and follows the requirements below. Additionally, if you are interested in hosting a future T-SQL Tuesday, contact Adam Machanic on his blog.

How to Participate

  • Your post must be published between 00:00 GMT Tuesday, Août 9e, 2016, and 00:00 GMT Wednesday Août 10e, 2016.
  • Your post must contain the T-SQL Tuesday logo from above and the image should link back to this blog post.
  • Trackbacks should work. But, please do add a link to your post in the comments section below so everyone can see your work.
  • Tweet about your post using the hash tag #TSQL2sDay.
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