Seattle for Summit 5×5: No. 4

For the penultimate installment of this little series, I’m going to share locations that are excellent places to meet other SQL nerds/DBAs/what-have-you for this week in Seattle. The list contains a mix of locations at the conference in addition to “outside” venues where SQL Server nerds tend to congregate after hours.

Speaker Idol
For a few years now, there has been Speaker Idol at the PASS Summit. Speaker Idol is a contest for–wait for it–speakers, competing to win the first speaking slot of the next year’s PASS summit. Comprising 12 contestants delivering 5-minute lightning talks, the contest goes down in three preliminary rounds plus a final, culminating in the winner being crowned by the panel of judges, awarded a guaranteed speaking slot in next year’s Summit, able to speak on whatever topic they choose.

Tap House

1506 Sixth Ave
On Sixth Ave, half a block north of the Sheraton, just south of the convention center, is the Tap House Grill. Likely due to its convenient location, and SURELY not due to the 160 beers on tap, this is a favorite hangout of anyone at PASS Summit anytime during operating hours. It’s downstairs, it tends to be unfortunately hot, the food tends to be decent-to-good, and someone is always there; can’t go wrong.

Community Zone

On the bridge over 6th Ave
Most importantly, PASS Summit is a community event. There’s no better place to connect with that community than the Community Zone. This is an open area on the walkway that spans between the Washington State Convention Center and The Convention Center to the north, where you can find community leaders, peers, and bean bag chairs. It’s a good place to meet and chat with fellow community members during the day, along with a decent place to just sit down and relax for a bit.

CAT lab

I assume still across from the main Vendor Hall entrance, but I haven’t been paying attention.
The Customer Advisory Team are some of the most talented support employees working for Microsoft. If you are at Summit and have any problems at all with SQL Server, these are the folks to ask. Open/Available most of the days, stop by and talk to someone in a light green shirt (OK, their shirts may be a different color this year); they’ll for-sure be able to help you. Also, towards the end of the day, you can even pick up a beer or a glass of wine at CAT Happy Hour!

SQL Karaoke/DCAC/SIOS/SentryOne

Tuesday Night
Also for a few years now, on Tuesday evening, there has been a party thrown by us and SIOS. This year, SentryOne joins the party, as it were. This is primarily a karaoke party with a live band, to boot! I don’t really sing, so don’t count on that, but this is a great place to hang out with SQL folks for entirely too far into Wednesday morning. The open bar tickets are sold out, but you can still come by! Hit the Eventbrite link there to pick up a free ticket, and come by and say hi!

Seattle for Summit 5×5: No. 2

This was on the waiter’s station at Bush Garden in 2011

For installment #2 of this brief series on visiting Seattle for PASS Summit, we have a semi-touristy-flavored list of things to do/places to go. These are items that can (or should) be worked into your “normal” conference schedule, without needing to have extra time in town, a car, or such. This list doesn’t include the Pike Place Market, because that’s kind of a gimme, and you’re probably going to do that, anyway. These are other items that are either unofficial parts of the Summit experience itself, or other places that we like to visit for various reasons.

Things to Do: Semi-Touristy

Bush Garden
614 Maynard Ave S
You’ve heard of “SQL Karaoke”, right? Up to, and including the party that we (DCAC) have thrown on Tuesday evening for a few years now. But before there was that, there was Bush Garden.

Bush Garden, you see, is this little place that’s cheap Asian food place by day, karaoke bar by night. I’m not sure who found it first, but it has been a near-nightly place to go during Summit for good number of years now. There’s been Jägermeister incidents, bad singing, good singing, my wife doing dishes one time, and then there’s the green couch.

This will be the second year that “the building has been closed, so Bush Garden could go away at any moment” rumors have been present, so as long as they’re still open now–which I believe they are–you gotta go at least one night this year, because this may be it.

World Spice Merchants
1509 Western Ave
Tucked behind the Pike Place Market towards the sound, this is a favorite place of us to visit. World Spice Merchants is exactly what it sounds like–a place to buy spices. Also having teas, the walls of this place are lined with little glass jars with raw/bulk spices in them that you peruse, taking notes on what you want and how much of it on waiter pads. At the end, you hand your list over to the staff, and they pack everything up for you. Take it with you, or they will ship it home for you. They’ve got lots of stuff that may be otherwise hard to find (especially for us), so if you’re into cooking, don’t skip making a trip down here.

Wines of Washington Tasting Room
1924 Post Alley
If you’re into wine, you know how good PacNW cabs can be, and this is an excellent place to experience them. Set up almost like your friends’ living/dining/family room, with small tables and board games on shelves on the wall, this can be a fun place for either hardcore wine tasting (we ran them out of glassware one afternoon) or a cool place to just chill with friends in the evening. You can of course buy bottles here to take [home] with you, and they also have a club.

13 Coins (at 3 AM)
125 Boren Ave
So, you see… There aren’t many places open really late in Seattle. Except for 13 Coins. They’re open 24 hours, so no matter what you’re doing (or when), you can count on being able to stop by here for some good eats. Up super-early because your body’s still on Eastern time and it’s 7:00 AM where you “are”? You closed down Bush Garden and now you’re hungry? Here ya go. They have big booths, good food, and can be quite accommodating when a dozen people show up together in the middle of the night for, uh “breakfast.”

Clay’s Market (“The bodega at the convention center”)

815 Pike St
Outside the convention center (but in the building), up the street a little bit from the Crepe place and the Subway, kinda hidden underneath is Clay’s Market. This is a handy (although admittedly a little seedy) very handily-located place to buy the kinds of things you would buy at, well, a bodega. Due to its proximity to the convention center, expect prices to be higher than you may otherwise like.

There’s also another, larger place a few blocks further up Pike that has more items and more reasonable prices. If you don’t mind the walk there or need to buy ten little bottles of orange juice, that may be a better stop.

City Target

1401 2nd Ave
Bonus item!
My wife and I are from rural Indiana, and we still live a little bit out in the country, doing our shopping/such in the classic suburban situation, where there’s more parking lot than there is store. Therefore, when we first went walking around downtown Seattle, we were enamored with the “City Target”, a small-in-area-but-three-levels-high Target store right in the middle of the city. Individual bananas for 25 cents, shopping cart escalators, and a smaller selection of everything you’d expect from a Target. Usually full of locals doing their normal shopping, this can also be an excellent place to pick up some food if you’re tired of eating out at restaurants all the time and have a way to cook it, if you don’t mind the walk down towards the waterfront.

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.


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… 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.