SQL PASS Summit Recap Part 2 & Lessons Learned

I really don’t know where November and December went. Or January. Oh crap, it’s the end of February already. Sigh. I’m doing good to not go to the office on a Saturday or start cleaning the house on a Tuesday morning. So, now, I’m finally going to finish what was a little series (err.. OK, two posts don’t a series make) about PASS Summit with this post, which will cover some boring personal stuff, along with some lessons learned back in October.

The Weekend

We were in Seattle until the Monday after the conference, so we had the weekend to do some sightseeing. We planned that since we had never been to Seattle before and we also have a habit of tacking on some vacation around conferences like this for higher quantities of bang-for-buck. We would have rather done this scheduling a little differently, but more on that in a bit.

Alaska King Salmon

Mmmmm

We reserved a rental car on Friday morning, so we could get around outside of downtown. We of course went to the Pike Place Market, which was great. Saw some fish flying through the air, as expected. Went by the original Starbucks, bought some cheese, even some flowers. We actually came back here on Monday morning on our way to the airport to pick up a couple of fish to take home with us. There’s now an Alaskan King Salmon in the freezer in the basement, which I think is pretty awesome. I suppose it’s one’s duty to go to the Space Needle their first time in Seattle, so we did that, too.

 

With the touristy stuff out of the way, Tammy and I met up with Denny (blog | @MrDenny) & wife Kris and set out to see our favorite off-the-beaten-trail thing: dams! Although more lock system than dam, we went to the Hiram M. Chittenden (aka “Ballard”) Locks. Denny & Kris made fun of us a little bit for being “oooo, boats!”, but hey, we’re from Indiana and live in Tennessee now—we don’t exactly get to see water all that often. The complex has a fish ladder where adult salmon can make it upstream past the dam complex to spawn in the freshwater Lake Washington. There’s a viewing area down along the ladder where you can see into the water through windows. October isn’t exactly heavy salmon migratory season, but there was one lone fish in there bumming around. This would be pretty sweet to see when it’s busy.

Negative, Ghostrider, the pattern is full

Negative, Ghostrider, the pattern is full

Somewhat ironically, immediately after this, we went and ate sushi. I can’t drive chopsticks, but that’s a different story.

The rest of the weekend involved closing down the Tap House another time or two, shopping, me piecing out and almost hitting my face on some asphalt in a park, annnnnd sleep. We got back on a 737 for the return trip to KBNA on Monday, and that was that.

Our pics from the trip are on Flickr here. Well, Tammy’s are. Mine haven’t been sorted through & uploaded.

Summit Recap

This conference is crazy. If it had eyes, you wouldn’t talk to it in a bar; you would walk swiftly the other way.

Now, of course, if you’re that guy, it probably isn’t as bad. You come to Seattle, you get your learnin’ on, maybe spend some time with the crew at an Expert Pod to talk through a nasty intermittent deadlocking problem you’ve got, grab some supper, and then head back to your room to catch up on some work or otherwise. I used to be that guy at conferences, so I understand. However, this is the SQL community, which means if you want to take your chances with the crazy, there’s plenty of opportunity.

Obviously, there’s the conference itself. With the schedule full of world-class speakers, small-group interactions with leading experts, and the Birds of a Feather lunch, it is truly amazing the amount of knowledge and experience available for attendees. If you have a question about SQL Server, there is someone here who can answer it (and if there isn’t, then the question is probably unanswerable 🙂 ). I really do enjoy this “learning” part of events. I also love being able to take advantage of the expertise available when I have big nagging problems that I haven’t been able to work out. Fortunately or unfortunately, I didn’t have any such things going on last fall that I was able to pick brains about. For a number of reasons, I hope that is different this year.

Along these lines, something did happen at the conference last year which I haven’t really had happen before: during a few different sessions, I had the realization that I actually knew what was going on. It wasn’t exactly that I felt I was learning for the fist time, it was more the feeling about “getting” such a big chunk of this “working with data” thing that I do. Obviously I don’t really get everything there is to get, as there’s way more to “working with data” than I have my brain wrapped around at this point, but the speakers and the content are just that good—they make you feel smarter than you actually are! I never got this feeling back when I was a sysadmin, doing sysadmin-y things, and I don’t know if it’s because my heart is so much more in what I’m doing now or something else. 

Oh hai!

There are plenty of networking opportunities during the conference day, up to and including ones that I didn’t even know were coming. Case in point: When I would think about it, I would Tweet what session I was sitting down in; or, RT someone else who beat me to it. In one session, I saw a tweet of someone sitting in the same session I was. Into the session, I happened to notice the guy next to me would flip over to TweetDeck on his laptop every so often. I checked out the avatar of the guy who said he was in the same session and I then realized that I was sitting right next to him. It was @DataOnWheels. We talked for a bit & exchanged cards at the end of the session. It was a pretty cool happening.

Some people will say to not feel obligated to go to a session in every slot—that’s what ordering the DVDs of all of the sessions are for. Instead, use the time at the conference to do things that you can’t get for later. Things like hanging out and talking to other people who do the same things that you do that you met at lunch (of which there are plenty of…even I found some!). I can at least partially agree with this advice. However, I’ve been to a fair handful of conferences over the years where, due to one reason or another, the sessions (the learning) were the main reason I was there. As a result, it is going to take me a little while to get over the “sessions are Priority 1” thing. Also, watching the DVDs afterwards just isn’t quite the same as being in the session in all cases. I know as I start to get to know more people (or maybe as more people get to know me), I will be more inclined/have more opportunity to spend part of an afternoon talking about where Microsoft is going with Vertipaq or whatever. This time, I went to a session in every slot except one or two at most, and I’m glad I did that.

One place where we did jump into the social/networking aspect is after-hours. Other than a couple nights where we went back to our hotel and pretty much passed out, we were out quite late. In fact, on the day we flew out to Seattle, I realized later that we had been awake and moving for 23 hours or so. There was SQLKaraoke for one, but for the most part, it was just hanging around at the Tap House talking shop until they kicked us out. Those were some good times. There was the second dinner lots of nights part, which was a little over-the-top. I didn’t really gain much weight that week, and I don’t know how I pulled that off.

Random Bits & Things We Learned for Next Time

Stuff We Should Have Brought More Of. Clothes. The 16 or so hour days that we were running really put an unexpected hurt on our clothes. Tammy noticed about halfway through our trip that one of my pairs of jeans was getting a little… rough (relatively speaking). We got to thinking about it and realized that we were wearing clothes for about twice as long as we usually do in a day, because of how long our days were on this trip. By the time we were heading home, nothing was standing in the corner on its own, but we do know for next time to plan on wearing some things (mostly pants) fewer times than we would normally expect to.

Stuff We Could Have Gone Without. Power Strip. I packed one. It didn’t get used once. I don’t know how it didn’t, and as a result, even though it didn’t get used this time, one will probably come along again next time. This is one of those things that doesn’t take up all that much room, but if it turns out that we actually need it, it’s gold. If we’re tight on room or weight though, this will be one of the first things to go.

Down Time. We found that down time is an important part of the week’s schedule. We cashed out pretty early two nights and it was probably the only way we made it through the week. Basically… we’re not in college anymore. And, likely…you aren’t either. I mean, if you are, that’s cool—we’ll see you a night or two this year at 0300. If you’re like us, though, there will be a few late nights and a couple/few not-so-late nights; and that’s perfectly OK.

Food. Something funny happened in the first part of our week in Seattle last year—we were sick! Long story short, it turns out that we apparently eat better than we thought we did. I mean, yeah, we hardly ever eat fast food, only eat at restaurants a few times a week, and grow a fair amount of the plant-derived food we eat, but I wasn’t expecting to be thrown for a loop by eating nothing but institutional food. This isn’t about any food in particular we had towards the beginning of our trip, it’s just that it turned out to be so different than what we usually eat, it was a shock to our systems. Everything was OK after a few days, but this might be something to keep in mind if you’re a heavy eat-in-type person. At the risk of sounding snooty, we will probably be hitting the Whole Foods that’s in downtown Seattle for some meals at least early in the week to help ease the transition.

Jet Lag. A number of years ago, someone told us of a good way to deal with Westbound jet-lag. See, the problem with going back in time is that you tend to go to bed and get up way early until you get acclimated. The fix is the day you get to your destination, stay up as late as you absolutely possibly can, and only then go to bed. This will make you “sleep in” the next morning as far as your body is concerned, which will hopefully more-or-less land you at the correct time to get up in the new timezone. We’ve done this for a while, and it works really well for us.

The problem is when flying Eastbound. This leads to one staying up and sleeping in way late compared to the prevailing time, which is more of a problem to deal with. This is really bad, because there’s not a good, easy way to deal with it like there is the other way. You just have to go to bed, set your alarm, and hope for the best (and probably be dead for a day or two). On this trip, our first day back in TN, we went to bed at about or normal time, 10:00p Central (8:00p as far as our bodies were concerned). This was only possible because of the craziness from the week before. Turns out this snapped us right back to Central Time in one day! It was by far the easiest jet lag recovery we’ve ever had.

 

That’s it for PASS Summit 2011. I feel bad that it has taken me so long to finish getting this post together. I mean, it’s almost SQL Rally time. I guess one could say the silver lining here is since so much time has gone by, this is a good way to keep the excitement for Summit 2012 alive! We’ve already registered for this year, and we pretty much can’t wait to see our #SQLFamily again.

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