Musings of an Accidental DBA

SQL Server Developer

When it comes to SQL, you are a N00b!

You are such a N00b!  My 14 year old son’s favorite saying.  Atleast I swear I hear it coming out of his mouth on a more than regular basis.  He has become quite the MW3 fanatic.  But it is interesting how that phrase has really rung true lately.  I had lunch with John Morehouse (@SQLrus) and John Barnes (@Riskworks) this week, and our topic of conversation was along those same lines.  SQL knowledge, not MW3.

How much do you really know about the technology you are in?  Back in August, I attended the first SQLSaturday event here in Omaha.  It was amazing.  And eye-opening.  If you had asked me, before that day, my level of expertise in SQL, I would have told you on a scale of one to ten I was an eight.  After that day, I consider myself more of a six.  Youdon’t know what you don’t know.  I remember this occuring before, and I’m hearing it more and more.  The more you put yourself in a position to learn, the more you realize how little you actually know.

John mentioned being at PASS summit and sitting in on a 500 level session, and having Kimberly Tripp and Paul Randal enter and proceed to plant themselves in front of John.  If you don’t know who Kimberly and Paul are, you are truly missing out.  Omaha (me included) had the opportunity to sit in on a learning session that the two of them put together, and it was priceless.  The slide deck alone has given me amazing resources to accomplish things at my company.  This couple (married, by the way) are two of the brightest and most helpful people I have come across in SQL.  And again, if you aren’t on their ‘SQLskills Insider’ mailing list, you are missing out.  And if they find it important enough to keep learning from others, then who am I to think I know much of anything.

Steve Jones from the voice of the DBA podcast posted the picture above awhile back of Brent Ozar sitting in a seminar.  Again, someone you can really learn from (check out Brent Ozar PLF) getting further education on his subject of expertise.  If these guys are taking the time to learn more, what makes you think you know even a small part of it.  John Morehouse was referring to some interviews he assisted with, and the applicants stating they were an eight out of ten.  If you think you are an eight, who do you think is a ten?  Do you really have 80 percent of their knowledge?  And does that make Itzik Ben-Gan a 12?

Now this doesn’t just apply to SQL, or technology, or fitness.  No matter what you are doing right now, there is always more to learn.  Always!  Take the time to learn.  There are so many resources available to us as SQL professionals, it is mind boggling.  One of my goals for this year is to read.  Well, read more.  I’m making it a priority to read from BOL (Microsoft hosted SQL Books OnLine) every day.  I also currently have two books loaded on Kindle on my phone.  SQL MVP Deep Dives II, as well as SQL Server 2008 Internals.  I am getting a better understanding of how to do things in SQL, but I’m also learning more of why I do things a certain way, as well as the inner workings of how SQL does it.  It really is quite amazing.  If you need a place to get started, try the links to the right.  Now get out there and figure out what you don’t know.

T-SQL Tuesday #026 – Its 2012 already?

All right. It is a new year, and our first TSQL Tuesday event. “DO OVERS!”  Nice topic. So why am I picking ‘New Years Resolutions’, (I mean ‘New Years Goal’s’) when I don’t really believe in them. I agree with several other bloggers that I follow as far as ‘If it’s something worth doing, why aren’t you already doing it?’. Well, after reading @Buckwoody ‘s post about Valentine’s Day and Your Career, how could you not comprise a list?

It’s just like Valentines Day, it’s a Holiday created by somebody somewhere that really doesn’t have any meaning to it. So? Go thru the ritual anyway. It’s not going to hurt you, and in the long run, it will be good for you. So here goes.

#1. Read a book a month. This is something I’m taking from Paul Randal and Tony Gentilecore. I am going to have two books to read every two months (one technical, and one not) and get them read over those two months. I think it will set a good example for my kids, who in their generation, aren’t reading near enough (paper or otherwise).

#2. RTFM365. I like Jen McCown’s idea of reading from the SQL Server Books Online Daily. I’m in. I started something like this back in August, but fell away from it, after learning many things that I didn’t know yet. I certainly have more to learn.

#3. I need to spend more time with my wife and kids, more specifically, getting them back into being fitness oriented. I have taken the last two years, and gotten myself back into shape. Even with my athletic background, this has been quite a task, if not an unfinished one. My kids are growing up, and they need their Dad. All three of them. I don’t want them to be like the rest of their generation that is growing out instead of up. At least once a week, we are going to do something that gets them off the couch and away from their video games/TVs.

#4. I’m going to write on my blog at least once a week. This should be interesting with all the things I am adding to my schedule. Good thing I’m not an avid TV watcher.

#5. I’m going to train myself to be able to do a handstand. This has been a goal of mine. I’m commiting to it this year. This may seem weird to most of you, and I’m 6’5” and 280#. Why not? We should all be inverted more!

#6. I’m going to jump rope (at least 100 jumps) every day. I’m committing to losing 10#s before our trip to Disney World in March. I think this would be a good exercise that I can get into. Working on my doublejumps might be a good goal as well (6b?). An old friend and college teammate Tim Sinnett. He would jump rope to warm up before every game. He was the shortest on the team, but could jump out of his socks! I think it will do wonders for me. Might even get one of those mini-tramps (if I can find room in my house to use it!)

#7. I’m going to rebuild my computer network at home. This could be an interesting task. I haven’t done this since I was single (11 years ago?). I want to set up a server at home I can load SQL Server on, and get to know it better. I know this will help me in whatever direction I end up going (DBA or BI developer). I think it is important to understand what is going on inside.

#8. Make more friends. I’m really an outgoing person that isn’t shy. But I haven’t taken the time to make any new friends. Getting involved with SQL Saturday back in August was one of the greatest events of 2011 for me. I’m reminded that you are the sum of your five closest friends… and I need to make some more friends!

#9. I am going to get more involved in the SQL community. This kind of follows with the one above.  I hope John Morehouse reads this and takes a hint. I am volunteering!

That should be a good start, I think. This is almost a list of ‘what I should have done in 2011’, but that is for another blog post. I hope I have given you some good examples, so that your wheels are turning in setting up what you are going to do in 2012. Take some time right now, and figure out what you are going to do this year. Yes, right now. Leave your comments below.

Its going to be a great year!  Are you going to end up a year older, with nothing to show for it?  Or are you going to take action?

Are you up and running?

I was re-reading some old blog posts by Steve Jones (the voice of the DBA), and stumbled across a few that really struck a cord for some reason.  It is really interesting how you can read something at a point in your life, and you won’t get near as much out of it as the day you read it that you are ‘ready’ to read it.  (but thats a post for another time)

Steve states that the availability of our applications should be like a utility.  Our users should be able to expect our application to be on all the time, the same as being able to turn on a light switch or get water from the sink.  There may be down times, or little glitches in availability, but are your users noticing it?

When I took over as application administrator 5 years ago (has it been that long already?), we had five different business units using their own stand alone production control application.  Within two years, we brought them all up on a single multi-company application centralized out of our Dallas office.  It is a SQL based application developed by a 3rd-party vendor, which has its own quirks, but for the most part is a pretty stable product.

Which brings me back to my topic…  Are you up and running?  When I first got here, my boss had taken over the project of getting everybody running on the same platform.  Things were a mess.  No common standards across BUs, and very little commonality in general.  We took the time to painstakingly map out everything.  It seemed like such a pain at the time, but looking back it has really helped us run efficiently, as well as make it easier for us to manage.

We’ve had to overcome the fact that the company as a whole expects our software to run slow, as well as have glitches in it.  The vendor has done a wonderful job of minimizing the glitches, and due to our architecture (beyond my control?) we still have our moments as far as not being the fastest application on the desktop, but lets look at my competition.

The two most utilized apps are Microsoft Outlook and Excel/ Word.  I have to hand it to Microsoft in the fact that their apps are on (99% of the time).  You aren’t going to get a lot of complaints that your inbox is behaving badly, or Excel is running slow.  Again, even my SQL server, another MS product is available ‘All the Time’!  I can remember only a handful of times where we had to reboot the server.

But it is interesting, especially recently, that I’ve found a bunch of little tweaks to make things run better.  We don’t have a certified DBA on staff, so I’ve been expanding my knowledge base in leaps and bounds.  The availability of more memory for the SQL Server engine to utilize, as well as regular maintenance on the index statistics has made some significant improvements in speed in the system.  It may not be that noticable to the user, but I’ve got stats to prove it.  Over time, half a second can really add up.

Tim Ford mentioned on a blogpost recently that there is ‘no such thing as a good DBA’.  What he was saying is, if you are good at what you do, the users shouldn’t know you exist.  Are you making changes that are causing downtime?  Do they even know you are making changes that are affecting them?  Nine times out of ten, they won’t notice the improvements you make.  But I guarantee that if you screw up, they’ll let you know about it.

So I ask you again, are you up and running?

What I’ve read this week – Week 50

This is going to be a short week (leftover vacation saved up for emergencies!).  Have to use it or lose it.  So I’m off for the next 4 days (business days, that is).  I just wanted to drop a list of what I’ve read over the past week.  I’ve always considered myself sort of an interesting conglomeration (part athlete, part geek), so what I read usually has to do with fitness or technology (SQL).

SQL Blogs

Perk Up Your Career with the SQL Server Troubleshooting Checklist

Kendra Little (Web FB TWIT Blog) gives some great advice about having a checklist to follow when there are issues (read ‘Emergency!’).  Also sharing it with your boss allows it to be available when you aren’t there, as well as show your boss that you aren’t just shooting from the hip (atleast, not all the time…).  Check it out.  Kudos to Kendra for putting this list together.  It also gives you a nice template to start with, which will get you part way there, depending on your environment.  With my third party vendor environment, this works quite nicely.

sp_Blitz Updated to v5

Brent Ozar (Web FB TWIT BLOG) took the time to send us out an update on his fabulous sp_blitz procedure.  Wow!  Some nice tweeks to an already fabulous must-have.  This is a piece of code I will take with me wherever I go.  (this sp and sp_whoisactive are two tools you need to have in your arsenal, as either a DBA or Developer). 

On the Fourth Day of Christmas…2011

Tim Ford (Blog TWIT), my vote for Redgate’s DBA in Space, is writing a ’12 Days of Christmas’ segment for IT.  The more I read this guy, the more I’m dissapointed that he didn’t win.  This is just his fourth installment, and it has some deep and meaningful thoughts in it (whether your in IT or not).  Definitely worth the read.

12 Things You Should Stop Doing in 2012

Tom LaRock (Blog TWIT) brings to light some interesting habits that we should all look at.  I really look up to Tom, and he has some wonderful insight, again not necessarily about SQL or IT, but I’m sure it will hit home just the same.


4 Lessons From Tim Tebow

Jason Ferruggia (Blog TWIT FB) may be a bit brash, but he certainly hits home.  A lot.  I especially like #2 (Skill isn’t the most important thing).  Take a read and let me know if you agree.  Warning, this is a Fitness Training site, and as I pointed out earlier, may be a bit harsh to the average joe.  Its like the cafeteria method that you hear about, take what you like and leave the rest.

Productivity. Get Some (Part I)

Tony Gentilecore (FB TWIT Blog) may also be a bit harsh, but I have always loved his writing style, as well as his ability to keep the male reader entertained (ha, Tony, take that.)  Tony brings up some great points on how to succeed, and reminds again about surrounding ourselves with like minded, productive people.  Looks like I need some new friends!  Just kidding.  (no, not really).

Well, I hope you get something out of today.  Maybe I have passed along some well rounded knowledge your way.  If I have, please let me know.  Thanks.

T-SQL Tuesday #025 – Tips and Tricks

As I sit down to write this months T-SQL Tuesday post, I’m finding it hard to figure out what exactly qualifies as a ‘trick’ that I use.  When you think about it, something that you use on a regular basis or almost habitually doesn’t just pop into your mind that quickly.

For instance, using ‘select top 10 * from Person.Contact’ gives you a quick list of all the fields, as well as a quick example of what you can find in those fields.  But is it really a trick?  Hopefully someone reading this will think so.  If you haven’t installed SSMS Tool pack, you may want to take a look.  Some wonderful shortcuts, practically built into SSMS.  For example ‘SST’, which will insert a ‘select top 10’ generic code right into your window, without you having to type it out, as well as a whole gambit of other nice ‘toys’.

What about using ‘activity monitor’ in SSMS?  Whenever my accounting department complains about timeouts or it being slow, its the first place I run to.  Filter out system processes, and set blocking types to not be all, and viola, instant info about who and what is causing issues for you?  In my case it is usually two users that happen to be using similar processes at the same time (vendor database, I can only do so much!).  From there I can contact a user, and see if they are hung up and then decide from there how to fix it.  Double click on a line, and it will show you what the sql statement run was.  Read more about it here.

Or what about something like sp_select as a shortcut in SSMS (compliments of Olga Klimova on SQL Server Central).  Is this a trick that I use?  Daily.  Almost second nature.  Olga explains all about it here so I won’t go too deep.  Just highlight a table name, and hit the quick key you have set up in SSMS, and boom, top 10!  She sets it up w/ top 50, but for the size of my databases, I just do a 10.  Great stuff!


I hope I have shown you something that you can use.  If you have stumbled across me, please take the time to see what ‘Tsql Tuesday’ is all about by clicking on the TSQL Tuesday logo at the top.  Thanks.



‘If your goals don’t scare you, they aren’t worth it…’   – Unknown

Well, Its about time…

I keep getting prodded by everybody… ‘When is that new blog going to be up?’  I’ve been putting it off, and putting it off.  I just can’t seem to find the time.  Well, you have to make the time.

After proofing @DBA_Andy’s slides for SQL Saturday #101 in Kansas City this weekend, it was just the prodding I needed, I guess.  I mean, what a fantastic community we have available to us as SQL Users.  ‘Even the masters want to learn.’  A lesson to be learned right there.  The knowledge you seek is out there, and the Internet makes it so available to us.  Use it. 

I’m not looking to be the next Steve Jones, Brent Ozar or Kevin Kline.  But with a little luck and persaverance on my part, maybe I can be a good mixture of some of my mentors.  Look out SQL Rockstar, SQLGuru and SQLRus.  I’m on your coat tails now.  Hopefully tagging along for the ride.

You don’t know squat!

WOW!  Didn’t have a lot of time today.  Just screwed around with my back squat.  Got up to 345#, and was able to push out a triple.  Walking out that amount of a weight is very humbling!  Don’t ever forget to respect the weight!  Am curious what my 1RM is now. 

Hard to believe that my previous 1RM was 345# (my current is 395#, done almost a year ago.  Probably should do that again here soon.)

Better than Yesterday

What a great day!!!  I don’t know what it is, but I am in better than normal spirits today.  The only thing I can tie it to is going to the gym early this morning to do my SWOD.  I haven’t done a morning workout in awhile, I’ve been doing them over lunch. But today’s WOD is 100yd sprints, so I went to the gym to do the weights this morning, so I can go to the track over lunch. WOW!!!  I might have to go back to mornings for the SWOD.
Tuesday’s combo about killed me.  SWOD – 5RM Deadlifts followed by a regular WOD of cleans and pullups.  Ouch!  My forearms are still acheing!  Well, like he said in the movie the Fifth Element ‘What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger…’  Still one of my favorite lines of all time.
Yesterday was supposed to be a rest day.  I went into the gym over lunch and stretched, did some planks, frogstands, and a few headstands against the wall.  Then last night took the kids to the pool for 1 1/2 hrs, then came home and mowed both the front and back yards.   So much for a rest day.  Reminds of a post from ‘Again Faster’  called better than yesterday.
But today is great.  I’m probably going to be running in 90 degree temperatures over lunch, and I have to referee volleyball late tonight, but as of right now, I’m golden.
Today’s Quote –
Victory is reserved for those willing to pay the price – Sun Tzu


Ok, who signed off on the ‘one last snow fall’ clause? It was 67 degrees Wednesday, and then Friday it was 31 and snowing! WTF! Made it to the gym again, but didn’t have time to do the whole workout. Got the main three in (squats, bench press, and inverted rows) and then did the pushups @ home, when I put my wife through hers. She did fantastic. Still pushing herself hard. I might even be getting her away from that slimfast crap. Ugh!

My weight is still sitting at a high 270. Kind of gave up on worrying about my weight. Kind of. I make decent food choices, I just have to work on the portion size. I keep thinking I’m a big guy, I need more. But I really need to concentrate if I want to lose weight. Maybe it is time for another food log.

Gonna pick up on the cardio on my off days too, I think. This wrist sprain makes just about everything a pain tho.

I think I might have found a new blogger to follow. Tony Gentilecore is hilarious (my kind of humor anyway). Found him via Nia Shanks, who had an article on Elitefts. Good stuff as well. Like both of them. Hopefully I can get my wife to follow her some.

Well, I better go. Don’t know if I have left any gems on here or not, but I’m working on it. Let me know what you think.

Ain’t technology grand!

Ok, so I haven’t posted in months, but I just figured out today that I can wordpress from my droid! The functionality didn’t work on my blackberry before. (Some glitch with the BB software that we couldn’t get straightened out). So now hopefully I can get on here more often.

It has been an interesting two months. Stronglifts 5×5 program (my wife, my 13 yr old and myself on this program). Trying to play in an overnight volleyball tourney, and just wearing myself out in all directions. Wow, it has been crazy.

Well, I have really seen nice gains from the stronglifts program. My back squat has gone from 225 to 290 (5×5), my bench from 135 to 195 (5×5), and the auxillary work of inverted rows and pullups has seen some nice increases in work output as well.

My wife and son had me stay up late last (10:30pm) to put them thru the workout. That really impressed me. That and the 130# they both deadlifted! Kewl stuff! I get to my workout every other day (until I sprained my right wrist in the overnite tourney) and they don’t make is as often, so it was nice to see them both not struggle with weights that they wanted to push themselves with. Nice!

If you want to check out the program, you can go here (stronglifts). The more muscle you pack on, the more calories/fat you burn. And women, guys have enough trouble packing on muscles. Don’t worry about bulking up. Do the work, if you see results you don’t want, then adjust… but you have to try this.

Gotta go. See ya soon.

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