Archive | December, 2010

2010 liner notes and my theme for 2011

The MorningNews asked the following question recently:

Who you would recognize in your 2010 liner notes?

To all the people in your lives (maybe you know them, maybe you don’t) who deserve shout-outs, a la the album’s notes, the book’s acknowledgments, the piece’s title, the award’s dedication. Who would you include in your 2010 acceptance speech? Maybe your fifth grade teacher, the buddy who got you through a brutal summer, the musician who had you walking tall during a particular slog.

My grandparents

A lot changed in 2010

Sometimes life moves fast, whether you expect it or not. In 2010 I changed jobs, moved house, and I’m in a new relationship. My last grandparent passed away. I remembered that life is finite.

2010 – The liner notes

To My Mamaw:

You not only taught me how to draw, you taught me how to love it, and how to be patient and thoughtful when it doesn’t turn out exactly like I planned. When I create art, I’ll always think of you. You also showed me what it is to love someone more than anything else, and how to live gracefully with loss. I love that about you.

Me with Crys in West Palm Beach

To Crys Manson ( b / t ):

Thanks for convincing me to do things which I fear will make me:
a) exhausted, b) terrified, c) nauseous d) all of the above.
You’re a fantastic friend a the BEST DBA co-pilot ever. You make me a better person.
I’ll fly into West Palm Beach with  you anytime.

To Organizers of SQL Saturday Nashville, Iowa City, and Washington DC ( b ):

Thanks for your volunteer hours and putting on a great show, and for the speaking opportunities. I’ve loved the chance to travel to places I’ve never been and meet all sorts of smart people. Thanks for helping me learn and improve, and for having a great time doing it.

To Brent Ozar ( b / t ) and Tim Ford ( b / t ):

SQL Clown Car

Thanks for not just throwing an awesome party, but for really making friends. Thanks for being so helpful, not just to me, but to everyone you meet who needs it.
I still owe you guys a ride to Tacoma.

To Richard Kim:

Thanks for believing in me so much, and for understanding me better than I know myself, sometimes.

To Len Cozza and Richard Fried:

Thanks for the honest, thoughtful, sane conversations, in a crazy place and time.

To Dev Nambi ( bt ):

I love how passionate and good you are at what you do. I’m sure I’ll still think of calling you if I have crazy new performance issues to talk about. Except that’s probably not really appropriate now.

Carl, who wants nothing to do with ramps.

To Kevin Kline ( b / t ):

I’m not sure if you’re aware that I owe you an ice cream cone.

To Jeremiah Peschka ( b / t ):

Good choice asking me to be on your SQL PASS Quiz Bowl team!
Thanks for helping me remember the books I love to read, and for helping me think about things differently sometimes. For getting me to listen to new music, and teaching me to talk in dinosaur. And for creating your own datatype. Let’s go get some tacos and I’ll tell you the rest.

2011: Theme for next year

My theme for next year comes from a blog post by Penelope Trunk from 2007:

Here’s some practical advice: Do not what you love; do what you are. …

Relationships make your life great, not jobs.  But a job can ruin your life – make you feel out of control in terms of your time or your ability to accomplish goals –  but no job will make your life complete. It’s a myth mostly propagated by people who tell you to do what you love. Doing what you love will make you feel fulfilled. But you don’t need to get paid for it.

A conversation about cheesecake and President Clinton

In many ways, I’m lucky, because I love nerding out on SQL Server and talking about it. But I shouldn’t funnel all of my goals or too much of my personal fulfillment through my job. This next year I plan to be a great contributor at work (and my new job is interesting and exciting), but also to separate my hobbies out and make plenty of time for what I love.

I have two main goals:

Goal: Become a better speaker: because I love doing it. I want to develop more presentations and think through creating training materials around RDBMses, because I enjoy it.  I’ll probably learn plenty of things in doing this that make me better at  my job, and that’s icing.

Goal: Take time to have fun with people I love outside of work. Schedule it. Stick with it. Do it unless the world is on fire. And if the world’s truly on fire, take the time back within a week. I’m going to learn to be a better partner, to make plenty of time for zombie movies, and to sometimes think nothing at all about SQL.

Comments { 5 }

Why I’m All For 24HOP Showcasing 24 Women Speakers

This is not the HOP you are looking for.

I’ve been thinking about the upcoming 24HOP event planned for March 15 and 16 which will showcase 24 women speakers. Karen Lopez (post | twitter), Jenn Stirrup (post | twitter), and Jen McCown (post | twitter) have all written posts about it. Kalen Delaney ( blog|twitter) has left some comments with her views, which I’ve also appreciated.

If you’re not sure what 24HOP is, prepare yourself for an acronym within an acronym: 24HOP = 24 Hours of PASS. PASS= the Professional Association for SQL Server. This is an online event featuring 24 one-hour sessions on all sorts of nerdy relational database topics.

This will be the fourth 24HOP event, I believe– there have been two general-topic English speaking events, and one Spanish and Portuguese language 24HOP event (LATAM HOP).

Some people think it’s a bad idea to have a woman-only 24HOP. And there are some thoughtful comments on why that might be the case.

However, I think it’s a very smart idea.

Think about this from the perspective of an editor who is putting together a collection of great fiction. You have a lot of choices when it comes to your book– you can choose items by theme, by time period, by genre, or by some factor of the author– their culture, their gender, their age.

A way to make a collection compelling is by a subtle thread. You want a variety of topics, and you want things in your collection to be different and interesting. There are many good types of way to build a collection, and one of those ways is by gender.

So if you’re a person who’s put on a few 24HOP events, do you want to put on something that’s very much like the one you did before? With maybe a little bit of new feature content?

Wouldn’t it be way more exciting, and a bit risky, to come up with a challenging idea that creates an interesting and different collection of speakers? It might spur your crowd of presenters to be creative and invested in the event more than a more general speaking engagement.

Well, I think so, at least. Regardless of the gender issue itself, I think this is a smart theme to build new content for the community.

High five, Tom LaRock.

Do I Want to Present?

I do!

I submitted a session. The title is “No More Bad Dates: Using Temporal Data Wisely”

(I am actually really excited about the topic. Yeah, dates and times— all sorts of weird fun to be had.)

Would I have Submitted a Session if it Wasn’t Women-Only?


Here’s why: SQL Rally is coming up, and I’ve submitted two sessions for that.  SQL Rally and 24HOP are going to both do selections by popular vote.

And popularity contests are, frankly, terrifying. I almost didn’t submit to Rally altogether because of the risks of being voted Least Likely to Present.  But I talked myself into submitting two sessions because I really love presenting, and I know the SQL community down in Florida is super passionate and interesting.

So if this was a general-topic 24HOP, but with sessions now being selected by public vote, I would not have submitted. I’m concerned that by being up for votes on two bills, I’ll hurt my chances on whichever is voted on second, even though I’ve submitted different abstracts. (People may feel like they voted for me before, so they want to give their vote for someone else on the other to be more fair.) Plus, it’s frankly twice the anxiety. Did I mention that popularity contests are terrifying?

But I do think this 24HOP idea is exciting and a little risky, and I would like to do what I can to try to make it great, if only by submitting. So I decided to submit a session, also.

24Hop: Hat Edition

Even if I’m not selected, I want to see how this 24HOP turns out. Maybe it’ll be remarkably like the ones that came before. Maybe there’ll be just something a little different that you can’t put your finger on. Maybe it’ll be really unique.

So, Should We Have 24 HOP Showcasing 24 Men Speakers?

Well, I actually thought that would be a good idea. Until I realized that we’ve already had 24HOP featuring 23 men speakers. I think that means the theme wouldn’t generate much but confusion. It would be all sorts of “So… what are we supposed to be doing?”

But there are other things to group by. New speakers. New presentations only. Mythbusters 24HOP. Present about your favorite feature. Maybe it’s the whole event, maybe each day has a different theme, but I like the idea of a focus. You could do a 24HOP like those playwriting events where a whole production is created in 24 hours.

However this goes, I hope we continue to have experimentation with 24HOP. I’d really like for it to continue on in an exciting direction where it doesn’t quite do what you expect– otherwise I think it’ll get to be SQL PASS Express Edition, with Auto Close enabled.

Comments { 11 }

Filling in Data Potholes with Recursive CTEs

Data: it can break your foot.

Imagine that you are writing a script that looks at data grouped by the minute. You notice that there are no rows for some minutes, and you’d like to display a value when that is the case, probably showing a count of zero.

In thinking about this problem this week, I spent some time getting to know CTEs (Common Table Expressions) again. And I came to the conclusion that I should spend much more time with them. Maybe I won’t end up using them all the time, but I should be looking at them regularly as options when I’m writing queries.

Here’s the story of a handy way I found to work with this.

Let’s create some data

Our story starts with some data. It’s been lovingly scripted out, but it has a few holes.

CREATE TABLE dbo.MyImperfectData (
ItemDate DATETIME2(0) ,
ItemCount SMALLINT )

INSERT  dbo.MyImperfectData ( ItemDate, ItemCount )
VALUES  ( '2010-12-01 00:00:00', 12 ),
( '2010-12-01 00:01:00', 3 ),
( '2010-12-01 00:02:00', 6 ),
( '2010-12-01 00:03:00', 12 ),
( '2010-12-01 00:04:00', 24 ),
( '2010-12-01 00:05:00', 1 ),
-- Gap where 6 would be
( '2010-12-01 00:07:00', 122 ),
( '2010-12-01 00:08:00', 1 ),
( '2010-12-01 00:09:00', 1244 ),
( '2010-12-01 00:10:00', 23 ),
( '2010-12-01 00:11:00', 12 ),
( '2010-12-01 00:12:00', 24 ),
( '2010-12-01 00:13:00', 27 ),
( '2010-12-01 00:14:00', 28 ),
--Gap where 15, 16, 17 would be
( '2010-12-01 00:18:00', 34 ),
( '2010-12-01 00:19:00', 93 ),
( '2010-12-01 00:20:00', 33 ),
( '2010-12-01 00:21:00', 65 ),
( '2010-12-01 00:22:00', 7 ),
( '2010-12-01 00:23:00', 5 ),
--Gap where 24 would be
( '2010-12-01 00:25:00', 4 ),
( '2010-12-01 00:26:00', 6 ),
( '2010-12-01 00:27:00', 7 ),
( '2010-12-01 00:28:00', 77 ),
( '2010-12-01 00:29:00', 94 )


The data is at the minute level. We’re missing data for five minutes in this period– one three minute chunk, and two other minutes.

What’s the quickest way to show the missing rows?

At first I thought about querying the data itself to find what’s missing. This made my head hurt a bit, and seemed pretty expensive.

I thought about the fact that many data warehouse databases have calendar tables, where all sorts of information about months, days, years, hours, and minutes are normalized out into tables.

However, I didn’t have those types of tables around. For the scope of my problem I was dealing with short date ranges (and by short, I mean 3 hours) , and ideally I would not need to create a bunch of ancillary objects to fill in the gaps.

After some thinking, I realized that we can create a date time table at the minute level on the fly by using a recursive CTE.

Here’s a sample that counts out a few minutes:

AS ( SELECT   CAST('2010-12-01 00:00:00' AS DATETIME2(0)) AS [I can count!]
SELECT   DATEADD(mi, 1, [I can count!])
WHERE    [I can count!] < DATEADD(mi, -1,
CAST('2010-12-01 00:10:00' AS DATETIME2(0))) )
SELECT  [I can count!]

Our results:

Putting it all together

Taking the format of this CTE, we can change it to create a table with every minute in our time range.

We can then select from it and use a LEFT OUTER JOIN to our table with data, and use the CTE dates to fill in the gaps.

DECLARE @startDate DATETIME2(0) ,
@endDate DATETIME2(0) ;

SELECT  @startdate = MIN(ItemDate), @endDate = MAX(ItemDate)
FROM    dbo.MyImperfectData ;

AS ( SELECT   @startDate AS MyCTEDate
WHERE    MyCTEDate < DATEADD(mi, -1, @endDate) )
SELECT  MyCTEDate, CASE WHEN Itemcount IS NULL THEN '[Missing Row]'
END AS ColumnDescription,
COALESCE(ItemCount, 0) AS ItemCount
LEFT OUTER JOIN dbo.MyImperfectData ld
ON MyCTE.MyCTEDate = ld.ItemDate

And there we have it! No gaps:

No gaps allowed.

Use Cases

Check out the comments! In my initial posting, I didn’t say enough about where this is best applied, and how this scales.

I think this is mostly a party trick, but it’s also a nice simple example of recursion that got me thinking about CTEs.  And while there are some situations where it can come in useful, it doesn’t scale up to large date ranges. (Check out Brad Schulz’ post on recursive CTEs here.)

So in other words, this may be helpful in some ad-hoc situations.

However, looking at the “pseudo-recursive” parts of Brad’s post, I really feel a follow-up post or two coming on.

Comments { 6 }

The 9th Day of SQL: Things Aren't as Simple as They Seem

The 12 days of SQL

Brent Ozar (blogtwitter) had an idea: a group of people should blog about writing which they’ve loved this year by people in the SQL community. For each “day of SQL,” someone picks a blog which they thought was great and writes about it.

Yesterday was Day 8, when Karen Lopez talked about a post by Louis Davidson and asked “What is your over/under?”  Karen is a great speaker, an inspiring writer, and just an incredibly interesting person. Check out her post!

On the 9th Day of SQL the engine gave to me: Something a little different than I expected.

Day 9: The Day of Paul White

This day of SQL is not about nine ladies dancing. (Sorry Karen!) Instead, it’s devoted to one New Zealander writing: his name is Paul White (blogtwitter).

First off, let me say that Paul White’s blog, “Page Free Space,” is just plain awesome. When I see Paul’s written a new post I know to allocate some time for it and read it through slowly, and that I should expect to have to think about what I’m reading to understand it.

I swear I can sometimes feel things moving around in my head when I read Paul’s posts. Apply the warning about overhead bins during flight: be careful, contents may shift while you’re reading Paul White’s blog.

So What’s My Favorite Post of the Year?

I picked Paul’s post, The Case of the Missing Shared Locks.

There’s a lot to love about this post. It is a great demonstration that things aren’t as simple as they seem.

Paul starts the post with the question:

If I hold an exclusive lock on a row, can another transaction running at the default read committed isolation level read it?

The answer to that would seem fairly straightforward. But in fact, things are pretty complicated. However, if you go through it slowly and really look at the examples, it can help you understand a lot about locking.

This is good.

Why is it Good that Things Are So Complicated? It’s CONFUSING.

Have you ever said something along these lines? “I’d like to give a presentation sometime, but I don’t have anything to talk about.”

Or, “I’m not sure that I have anything that interesting to fill a whole hour.”

Well, take a look at Paul’s post. He took something small, and he looked very closely at it. He played with it a couple of different ways, and he worked on it to see how it behaved. He stepped through it in a series of short, straightforward steps.

You can do the same thing with many things you’re familiar with. You can take a topic, or a feature, or a method of doing something and distill it into an interesting question. You can then look closely at the question and work with it carefully. Use it as a chance to explore something. You’re probably familiar with it, but by taking the time to write about it or present it, you’ll have the opportunity to get to know it better than you ever thought you could.

Who’s Next?

I’m handing the dreidl off to Crys Manson (blogtwitter) for Day 10.

Crys is a seriously great DBA, a fantastic friend, and she sometimes makes me snort liquid through my nose laughing.

Tag, Crys, you’re it!

How’d We Get Here?

If you want to check out where we’ve been so far, we’ve had:

A Little Present

You don’t need to be Jewish for this to be your favorite holiday song this year. Rock  on with the Maccabeats, y’all. (You will need to click the “watch on YouTube” link.)

Comments { 13 }