PASS Summit 2012

I feel really bad about not getting a post up about this before now. Since it’s to the point where people are already on their way to SEA or already here for this year’s Summit, it’s not like I’m going to be able to talk anyone into spontaneously deciding to go. I mean, unless you’re totally made of money and this last-minute of a flight and full Summit price wouldn’t be that big of a deal to you. In fact, I’m writing this (posted later) from the starboard-side exit row of a Southwest 737-700 rocketing along at FL400, typing on my Surface’s Touch Cover, which I’m only about 2/3 happy with (some of it is due to the seating arrangement, some of it due to not 100% being used to the keyboard yet).

SWA 2410 Flight Tracker
Not really willing to trade flying ourselves for this kind of speed and altitude, but I do it anyway.

This is only our second time to go to Summit. Last year was the first, and was also the first time that we met a lot of the #SQLFamily that we felt like we already knew, mostly due to Twitter over the couple-three years before. ‘Course, now we actually do know a lot of people, and they’re some of our favorite people around.

Summit gets talked up a lot about being a near-sleepless, heavy learning, heavy partying networking event that’s second-to-none. For a bit, before we came last year, I didn’t think it could be AS GOOD as everyone says it is. And, well, I was wrong. Every good conference should have your brain melted by the time it’s all over. It’s two, three, four days of hours of learning, lots of time about stuff that’s at least partially over your head; that does wear on you.

I’ve been to conferences before, so that part of it wasn’t new to me. What was new is all the other stuff–all of the stuff that happens after the sessions are over for the day. Everyone always says it, but it bears repeating: If you eat dinner by yourself (or maybe with some coworkers that came in a group) and then go up to your hotel room by yourself for the rest of the night, yer doin’ it wrong. Summit is not the place to be That Guy. I know, because I used to be That Guy.

I will be the first to tell you that being That Guy does have some advantages. It allows you to review what you learned that day. If you have enough/the right equipment with you, you might even be able to tinker around with some demo code you picked up that day, or experiment with some new way of doing your nightly index maintenance.

Those are all good things. Possibly even good things to do while you’re at the event. But, when SQL Family is involved, there’s something even better to do–hang out. Talk to people. Go to SQL Karaoke. Go to dinner with the guy who presented on your favorite topic that day (OK, that one might be hard to pull off, but I can tell you from experience, it IS possible). I think it’s better to take good notes during the day (I can type faster than I can write and still be able to read it later, so I plan accordingly) so when you review them a few days later on the airplane ride home, you are still able to apply what you learned. Even better, recordings of all the main conference sessions are available for purchase before and during Summit, which makes it even easier to refresh your memory about what you learned long after you’re back home.

In Conclusion…

If you’re going to be there next week, come hang out with us. I’m not quite one of the cool kids, but they humor me, so it’s all good. See, that’s another good thing about networking at Summit–as I’ve said beforeabout this group of people, they’re all awesome, and they all understand–What you do, why you do it, what keeps you up at night… All of it. This is why SQL Family are some of my favorite people around.

See you guys at the Tap House.

Recap: SQL Saturday 160 (AZO) and Some Other Driving

This trip to Kalamazoo was, at first, supposed to be the front end of an epic road trip involving SQL Saturday 160 and SQL Saturday 149 in MSP. Those plans wound up scrapped when Tammy’s brother announced his wedding date on the same day as 149. Instead of spending the week between visiting friends & family in NW Indiana and doing stuff in Chicago, we only did some of those things; for the most part spending time in/around Indianapolis. It wasn’t all bad, as we were able to spend more time with some people than we otherwise would have; those people just weren’t #SQLFamily 😉 .

SQL Saturday 160 was the second SQL Saturday that Tammy submitted a session to. The first was Kansas City back at the beginning of August (159). The one that started it all was kind of a non-standard submission: Long story short, Andy Galbraith (blog | @DBA_ANDY) said on Twitter that they had five (or so) speaker slots still available and anyone interested should submit a session. I more-or-less threw Tammy under the bus publically on this, she did submit her “SSRS for Nubs” (not really its name) session, and it was accepted. Yay, speaker!

Driving

Packed car

I could say that we had a bunch of extra stuff for Tammy’s mom, which is true, but we still pack like a family of four going on a month-long trip to Europe

We steamed away from the house on Thursday morning. Left so early because we were going to stop for a bit in Indianapolis to visit Tammy’s Grandma, who is still in the hospital recovering from open-heart bypass surgery. We wouldn’t have otherwise been able to get to Kalamazoo in time for the Speaker’s dinner if we had waited to leave & do all of that on Friday.

After eight hours-and-change in the car, including my first-ever speeding ticket while driving through Louisville (because I wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing), we made it to Kalamazoo and checked into the water-logged hotel. Turns out something happened to a sprinkler head on the third floor, and drenched half the hotel (and by “something”, I mean, “some guest allegedly broke it”). This means that half of the people staying in the hotel that weekend were going to have to be moved somewhere else. Probably the only thing that got us a room for the weekend was the fact that we got there on Thursday instead of Friday. Everyone who had a reservation had a room in one of two other hotels (one of which wasn’t part of their chain), so that was good.

The Good Stuff

Friday was a nice, relaxing day, where we didn’t actually do much. We kind of needed that.

Had the Speaker’s Dinner Friday night at Tim Ford’s (blog | @SQLAgentMan) place. I love Tim, and after this weekend, pretty much his whole family, too. He had a head-start on that, being a fellow Pentax shooter and all. We had been to a SQL Saturday Speaker Dinner once before, ahead of Nashville’s first SQL Saturday two years ago (they had invited volunteers to it), but this is the first one where we were actually there as a speaker (well, Tammy’s the speaker; I’m just Demo Tech Support). I’m still not quite used to being one of the “cool kids” yet, so I spent some time simply weirded out by being where I was with who I was Friday night.

Saturday itself went really well from my perspective. We didn’t get to the venue as early as I would have liked (my fault), but it was a great venue and there was even some breakfast available! I went to a session in every time slot, as there was interesting stuff for me, and it’s not like I had to sit around and be nervous about speaking later.

My favorite session (criteria: general “interestingness” of the topic/session and how many detailed bits of info I learn and can take away) is probably a toss-up between David Giard’s (blog | @DavidGiard) Data Visualization and Allen White’s (blog | @SQLRunr) “Manage SQL Server 2012 on Server Core w/ PowerShell”.

David’s was nice, because it’s full of little ways to improve data visualization that might not seem so obvious until they’re pointed out…at least not for me. I maybe got more “don’t”s than “do”s out of it, but that’s still OK. Some of the “don’t”s are really good. I especially like David’s use of Charles Joseph Minard’s chart of Napoleon’s army during the French invasion of Russia in 1812. Full res of the chart is on Wikimedia here, and is inlined in the Wikipedia page on the invasion itself. The chart is sweet, because it shows so many different pieces of info all at the same time in a fairly easy-to-understand and interpret package. Lots can be learned about data visualization from that one single chart.

I got a lot out of Allen’s session, although possibly not what he exactly has in mind. I’ve recently begun building a new test environment at the house, self-contained on a Dell PowerEdge 2950 that I picked up a few weeks ago. My intent with this is to do everything all ultra-modern. The metal has Server 2012 Core installed on it, running Hyper-V. Everything will be virtualized in that environment. I’m doing this for a couple of main reasons, but I realize that talking about it too much here is fairly off-topic, so I’m going to skip it for now. Anyway, I was a fan of just watching Allen work within Server Core, because although I’ve got our server set up from that standpoint, there was a lot of Googling semi-randomly, running either legacy commands or PS snippets that I barely understood. I have everything written down that I ran, but now I understand a little more of it. Additionally, I know what I need to set up SQL 2012 on Core, which is a task that is coming up after everything going on in the next month or so calms down (that’s another blog post, too).

Tammy participated in the Women in Technology lunch panel discussion, which I think is the first one of those I’ve gone to (not sure how/why). This particular one didn’t have a specific topic to discuss, which led to a lot of varied conversations. There were a couple of audience members who got specific answers to questions that they had, which was really cool to see.

Tammy’s presentation was in the last slot of the day, which led to a slightly tough crowd. It went well though, with one minor hiccup. I like her presentation in general, and so far she’s been getting good feedback on it. Although this is only the second SQL Saturday it’s been done at, she’s given basically the same training to a couple hundred people internally at her company, so the content is fairly refined. It’s done in SSRS 2008 R2 at the moment, and we’ve talked about upgrading the demo to 2012. For right now, it’s going to stay where it’s at, because we don’t get the feeling that 2012 has reached enough of a critical mass, especially considering the intended audience of this session. In fact, one of the attendees in the session asked a question related to running reports against 2005 instances, because they’re currently stuck there and can’t upgrade.

Beer

The after-event was held at the Kalamazoo Beer Exchange. I know very little about this place, other than they have a lot of beers on tap, whose prices are all driven by demand within 15-minute chunks. I hoped this would be good for us, because of our propensity to drink Porters & Stouts. Due to the number of taps they had (and that we’re in Michigan), I also hoped for a good selection of said beers! I wasn’t really disappointed on either point.

Tammy and I both had Dark Horse (Marshall, MI) Thirsty Trout Porters to start out with. I was a big fan based on its name alone, just because it’s a big giant mouthful. I thought it was good. Didn’t write any notes or anything, but I classify it as “definitely a porter”, which all but guarantees I’ll like it. One of the things the KBE has is one cask beer available. When we were there, it was Arcadia Brewing’s (Battle Creek, MI) Baltic Porter. This stuff out of the cask was ri-dic-ulous. Have no idea what it tastes like out of a bottle, and I don’t know if I’d ever even want to after having it like this. It was really that good.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see how their food is, because there was a slight fiasco with getting seating. Apparently the place doesn’t take reservations (which I can understand), and have limited space for even medium-sized (not to mention large) groups (which I can also understand). Long story short on that is we didn’t get to eat there, as some of us basically decided to bail and head back to Tim’s house. Good times were had by all, on all accounts. #SQLCAH

This is one of the best SQL Saturdays we’ve been to but we honestly haven’t been to all that many, so I feel like I’m not saying much.

Back to the Driving

Mostly at the last minute on Sunday, we decided to go to Chicago for the afternoon. I love Chicago. I also love driving to/in Chicago.

It was refreshing to blast up the Dan Ryan at 80 behind a BMW 6 and not have to work too hard to do it, even though traffic wasn’t exactly light. See, Tennessee drivers don’t exactly “get” the whole “keep right except to pass” thing (or, in the form of Kerry’s Driving Rule Number Two, as applied to Multi-Lane Interstates: Only be as far left as your speed and traffic dictate). In fact, when traffic is light-to-light/moderate, the lane where it’s easiest to go fast is usually the far right (#1) lane. Once to a certain point, no clear winner emerges—either you have to just take the speed you can get, or expend a lot of effort—and greatly increase your risk—to weave around in traffic. Bonus points for the guy going 10 under the limit in Lane 1 during rush hour. So, driving on a five lane wide slab of concrete where things work like they’re supposed to is pretty high on my list of favorite things to do.

Did I mention I got a speeding ticket in Louisville on our way up on Thursday? The first one I’ve ever gotten? Because I was spending more time looking at airplanes than paying attention to how fast I was going and the Edge goes fast kinda easy? Yeah. That. Everything makes sense now, doesn’t it? 😉

Steaks at Michael Jordan's

This happened…

Anyway, walked around some there, got our Sunday night steak at Michael Jordan’s restaurant (convenient more than anything), took some pictures, and took the Skyway back to Indiana.

Then more driving, we stopped at my parents’ place, spent some time in Lafayette to see some friends and some other family (and get a DenPop), then time in Kokomo and Indianapolis, Tammy’s brother’s wedding, etc, etc, back to the Osburn Hideaway just in time for Sunday steaks again.

All in all, a really good trip. I’m pretty happy for the time off, even if we were really busy most of the time. It’s always so nice to sleep in our own bed after a trip like this. I don’t know how some of our #SQLFamily do as much traveling as they do. You guys are crazy. And awesome. But possibly mostly crazy.

Pictures

SQL Saturday 160

Chicago/Indiana/Assorted Flatness; Also, giant turbines

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.

SQL PASS Summit Day…Uhhh, All the Rest

Since I couldn’t keep up with writing every day (or nearly so) weeks ago at the Summit, recap post(s) weren’t going to go up until after the fact. Since my life has been pretty crazy since getting home (combined with some semi-minor problems with the web host), this isn’t getting finished until way late. I honestly don’t know where everyone found the time to write in the middle of all of this, because I flat-out need more sleep than that. I’m only grabbing the highest of the highlights here, and I’m doing this the weeks after! Normally I would say that I’ll try to do better next year, but I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen.

Wednesday

Washington State Convention Center

Yep, those are overhead electrical lines for pantograph-equipped busses

Wednesday started out with a Keynote address, as most conferences do. This one had a few announcements, such as SQL Server v.Next getting a real name replacing its Codename. Instead of “Denali”, we now have “SQL Server 2012.” Nobody should be overly surprised by this, unless you were really hoping for 2011. The technical content of the keynote was very heavily focused on end-user flavors of BI technologies. Some of the stuff we’d seen before, but there were some new bits here and there. Generally, the “managed self-serve BI” space looks pretty similar to what it did before, being based around PowerPivot and other similar tools in Excel, like tabular data stores (VertiPaq). I thought it was an awful froofy* presentation, but most Keynote-type presos are. What was shown on screen was fine and all, and was neat to look at, but as I’ve said before, the hard part about “managed self-serve BI” is the “managed” part. There’s a lot of work that still needs to happen on the back end by people who know what they’re doing with respect to both the Business and the Data in order to get to the point where a C-level manager is poking around in Excel and making good, data-backed decisions. On that note, though, how many business users have the technical know-how to do the work that needs to be done in Excel to get there? And how many of those are C-level managers? OK, that’s a different post for a different day.

The main sessions on Wednesday for me were pretty heavy SSAS & related topics (like Data Mining). I had a big lightbulb kick on in Craig Utley’s SSAS Aggregations session confirming something that I had been suspecting, so the whole thing got off to a really good start for me. I can’t work on our aggregations situation right this second, but it’s something that will be making it onto my list for the mid-term after some current project work gets finished up.

Some of the days at PASS Summit have special wardrobe…themes. For the last couple years, there has been #sqlkilt day. This particular theme occurs on the same day as the Women in Technology lunch/panel discussion. Its purpose is to “support women in technology” by the guys wearing skirt-like apparatus. It’s cool, but a kilt guy I am not. Anyway, Wednesday this year was SQL Saturday day, where one was to wear their favorite SQL Saturday shirt. Since I’m not a speaker (yet?), all I have is my t-shirt from Nashvegas’s SQL Saturday last year. (It bothered me to wear a t-shirt on a conference day at first, but I got over it by lunch or so.) Coming out of the keynote I looked for what shirts everyone had on. Honestly, a non-zero part of this was me looking for who else just had t-shirts on, but I also wanted to see what everyone else was wearing. Turns out: There weren’t many! I wish I knew why this was. I suppose it could be due to not hearing about it…But I’m a little afraid that it’s because not that many have SQL Saturday shirts! People!! Free training by high-quality speakers (ie, not me). I’m sure there’s one near you. Website right here. Check it out.

The Couch

For my Purdue peeps, think Mathews Hall's ground-floor Men's room

Wednesday night was the vendor reception & some extra-curricular activities afterwards. We had planned to go to two things, but at one point, we were standing on the expo floor when we realized the first thing had started about a half hour ago. We started back to the hotel (which, due to when we started to schedule this trip, wasn’t close), when we realized we weren’t going to be able to get everywhere we wanted to when we wanted to. So, scrapped the first event, and got some food before heading to SQLKaraoke. I don’t know how much of that really needs to be discussed, as it’s fairly self-explanatory. Suffice to say that I fulfilled what had become a lifetime goal in recent years, tried to make friends/be nice to the cranky local guy sitting at the end of the bar, and we got home at 0300 again.

Thursday

Thursday… yeah, that keynote didn’t happen. Haven’t had a chance to go back and watch it yet, either.

More BI-related sessions for me, as that’s what I do now. I did go to one Engine session the whole time, and it was Aaron Bertrand’s (blog | @AaronBertrand) “T-SQL: Bad Habits to Kick” on Thursday. I was looking to see what kinds of things I do that are bad, because, honestly, T-SQL is not my strongest suit. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything major that I didn’t already know, but I did get some background as to the “why”s on a few things. Plus, the only reason “what happens when you don’t declare a length on a varchar() variable” wasn’t news is because we ran into that in an old store

d proc at the end of September. I did learn about TRY_CONVERT() in SQL 2012, though. Although at first blush, it sounds pretty good, it also looks like it could be a big crutch. OH, and also I’m glad that I’m not the only one who finds non-ANSI 92-style joins hard to read at this point. Alright, so obviously I got more out of that session than I initially thought.

Thursday night had an interesting occurrence or two. I mean, there was this thing (someday maybe we’ll tell my parents, haha). I’m pretty happy about that. Yeah, it was an over-the-top nerdy thing to do, and more than a little weird, but that fits us pretty well, so I’m OK with it. Some people did make the chilly trek out to Puget Sound with us, and I/we are very, very grateful to everyone that did. We <3 our SQL Family.

We went to the official second-to-last night Gameworks party for a little bit, but were pretty worn out. We tried to hang on, but once again turned in early. Tammy was passed out on the couch within about three minutes of walking in the door, and I didn’t last a whole lot longer. I think I did try to write something that night, but realized quickly that if I wanted to keep drool off my work laptop, sleep was in order. Plus, I knew we had to get up early on Friday, because it’s Friday, and…

Friday…Dewitt Keynote!

See, for at least the last couple years (that’s as far back as I know, because I didn’t pay close attention to the conference in 2009, as I was bitter about not going), the last day of the conference’s Keynote has been a presentation by Dr. David DeWitt. This has yet to disappoint. This year, the topic was Big Data, including discussions about Relational DBs vs NoSQL DBs. I learned a lot from this, and think I understand why Microsoft is going in the direction that they are when it comes to NoSQL & related technologies. It will be fun to see where this goes. Dr. DeWitt’s keynote is available on-demand here (along with the others), but they do require minor registration. His slide deck is available here.

I would be remiss if I didn’t bring your attention to this little thing that happened at the beginning of the Friday Keynote. The song was hilarious, but I’m still pretty sure that Buck Woody with a 12-string is > *

More BI sessions on Friday, of course, along with a Professional Development one. The PD session was a panel discussion entitled, “Are you a Linchpin? Career management lessons to help you become indispensible.” The discussion was led by Andy Leonard (blog | @AndyLeonard). Panel members were: Andy Warren (blog | @SQLAndy), Stacia Misner (blog | @StaciaMisner), Louis Davidson (blog | @drsql), Brent Ozar (blog | @BrentO), Thomas LaRock (blog | @SQLRockstar), Kevin Kline (blog | @kekline), and Jeremiah Peschka (blog | @peschkaj). While writing this post, I listed everyone out, then almost deleted this whole paragraph to start over, because I felt like this was the biggest name drop bomb in the history of blogging. I then decided to leave it, because I can use that blob of names to make a point: Every single one of them has a blog and Twitter account. One could argue about an incorrect causation/correlation conclusion, but I think it’s telling that some of the most successful people in SQL Server Land use these communication methods heavily. I sometimes goof around on Twitter more than I use it constructively, and only like four people read my blog regularly, but if you’re a SQL Server DBA/Dev/etc and enjoy helping people and rubbing elbows with others that do, there’s no time like the present to start using these mediums if you don’t already. There are plenty of people here already who will support you and help you grow and learn.

Conference centers always start the tear-down ASAP at the end of the last day. I understand this—there’s a hard number of hours between when one event ends and the next one begins. It always makes me sad, though. Nothing says an event is over like the registration desk getting torn down in front of you. The good news for us on Friday afternoon while this was happening is that we had spent a lot of time with the awesome community that we’re a part of, and there were still good times ahead, both Friday night and at future events. More on that later, though.

To be continued…

I will cover some of the weekend happenings in another post soon, but more importantly, I have a few lessons learned and/or overall comments to make about the PASS Summit. I’m not going to get that written right now and this post is already too long and has taken me too many days to finally get together, so I’m going to split that up and get to it very soon. Thanks for reading so far…

* As usual, I reserve the right to make up my own words, as this is my blog.

SQL PASS Summit Logical Days 1 & 2

Logical Days? Well, the Conference doesn’t /technically/ start until Wednesday (tomorrow, as I’m writing this), but, 1) we’re here, and 2) I really do think of Pre-Cons and other organized functions as part of the conference itself, so these days counted for me.

Monday

Our conference trip started at 1:30 PM Central Daylight on Monday. With pushback scheduled for 4:45, this was wayyy out of whack for my usual scheduling. Because of how long it had been since we had flown, I didn’t know what security would look like at BNA or how long the process itself would take these days. Turns out, there have been little changes in the duration of things, so we wound up downstream of Checkpoint Charlie almost 2 hours before preboarding would start. Damn.

Anyway, ~5 hours later, we were in the back of a black Tahoe being driven by a Russian dude. I didn’t arrange the ground transportation; I was merely a pawn in a greater game passenger.

One of THE places to hang out & see people at, other than the Sheraton Lobby, of course, is the Tap House (it plays music, I’m sorry). We went there for supper, along with a couple of Tammy’s coworkers that are here. They have 160 beers on tap, and I had a few different Porters throughout the night. I was able to meet a good chunk of SQL Celebrities for the first time, and it’s always kind of fun to meet people like this. Twitter’s really good at making this happen—you feel like you’ve known these people for half your life, yet you’ve never actually met face to face. This happens a lot. In fact, because of my whole picture situation (I’ve got the Ray Bans on in all of the close-ups), Jorge Segarra (blog | @SQLChicken) was beginning to think that I was just a well-written bot. I thought that was pretty funny. For all you may know, he’s right.

Then there was the Mladen (blog | @MladenPrajdic) stuff, but I think that’s under NDA.

Long story short, we finally got back to the hotel at 0300 Tuesday morning. We’re off to a good start.

Tuesday

DowntownTransitTunnel
Seattle Transit Tunnel

Tuesday was mostly uneventful. We had an errand to run in the morning, which involved the usual public transportation crash course that happens in a new city. Turns out Seattle has this cool underground tunnel system for busses in the central downtown area. It’s just like the subway, except the bus routes run through there when they’re in the area. It’s a bit weird & pretty cool.

Tonight there were a few official events. The first was a First-Timers orientation & mixer session. We decided late to not go to that, instead going straight to the Welcome Reception/Quiz Bowl. The Quiz Bowl is where pairs (or three) SQL Server “Experts” compete in a Jeopardy!™-style competition where they basically are subject to the whims of Tim Ford (blog | @SQLAgentMan). Many LOLs ensue. After that was the SQL Server Central/Red Gate Exceptional DBA Presentation/Party. Got to meet Steve Jones (blog | @Way0utWest) finally, along with lots of other community members.

Of course, there is more SQL Karaoke going on tonight, but we decided that after the night we had last night, and the nights that we will have for the rest of the week, we should take it easy once.  Just about to pass out for the night, to be rested for tomorrow and all of the crazy learning (and just crazy) that will be going on for the next few days.

I’m here now, and I still can’t wait for whatever is going to happen next #sqlpass