Friday, November 19, 2010

Un-SQL Friday 001: Branding - What's Your Brand?

In answer to MidnightDBA's  challenge for Un-SQL Friday 001, I humbly submit this simple post.

For some of us, Brand is all-important. In the case of corporations, Brand is vital becuase it implies a certain amount of trust and loyalty. Companies work very hard to protect their brands from genericization - how many of us call facial tissues "Kleenex" despite the fact that there are many other manufacturers of little folded rectangles that function as disposable hankies? We also see a vast amount of brand-loyalty - "I only wear <brand-x>* jeans because they are the only ones that fit right" (I happen to disagree - <brand-y>* fits MY figure better).

Certain individuals are also fighting to establish or maintain their "Brand". I'll point you to Brent Ozar, who frequently talks about how he is striving to make and maintain his "brand". I suppose part of that is why people like me keep coming back to his blog. Well, that and the various articles like "Plagarism Week: Finding the Slimy Slimeballs" where his discusses his latest experience with having his content plagarized (for additional fun, browse through his archive of plagarism articles. There will be a quiz later).

Other bloggers I frequently read - they're listed in the sidebar on the right - all have their own "brands" in that each is a blog I turn to for a specific reason be it entertainment, or excellent information on SQL server specifics.

So what is my "Brand"? I'm not sure. I know I'm working on building it. I feel a little like General Mills which has brands for various products. I have a brand for the me who is a costumer that attends various Science Fiction and Anime conventions; for the me who is a family memeber; and another for the me who works as a database professional. Each "me" has her own specialties and few are mixed together.

I first really noticed my "Brand" (for the Costumer) at a Anime & Gaming mini-convention just before Halloween. I'd neglected to bring a costume, having completely forgotten that there was going to be a costume competition. I did, however, bring a bag full of fabric because I was planning to spend the day cutting out some shirts and pants that I'd recently drafted the patterns for. While I was finishing up gluing together the patterns, I noticed they were having a costume competition, and about 10 contestants were left (they'd had about 40 and were moving through the line one at a time). I dumped out the rolls of fabric I brought, pondered a moment, then draped myself a quick Greek-style toga-ish costume. Arming myself with scissors, a spare piece of fabric and my tape measure, I hopped to the back of the line, which by that time had gotten down to 5 contestants (yup, 5 minute assembly there). When it came my turn, I presented myself as "Glitzlandia, Goddess of Costuming". I walked up to one of the judges and attempted to drape the fabric around her amidst laughter and giggling from the audience.

After all that silliness, I was awarded the "Best Use of Materials" prize.

As I picked up my prize, one of the judges commented that although the costume was very creative and looked very nice, it wasn't up to my "usual" standards. I laughed and informed him that not only did I spend merely 5 minutes assembling it, but I hadn't even looked at myself in the mirror and had no idea what it looked like.

So, my "Brand" at Science Fiction Conventions / Anime Conventions is "Costumer who makes really great costumes" (or something like that). Yey. I can live with that one.

I'm still working on building my "Brand" in the SQL server commmunity. I'm not really known yet as the one who knows <cool SQL thing that no one else is expert at>, but someday I will be know that way. Right now, I think the SQL Server Community thinks of me as that DBA who can sew. Maybe that's enough for now, but it certainly isn't helping my salary any.

In case you were wondering, my goats are not branded; yet everyone who lives near me know who they are and who they belong to. Of course, it helps that there aren't all that many goats in my neighborhood besides mine.
*brand names removed just becase this is an illustration and not an actual statement.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Reflections on SQL PASS Summit 2010

Attending Orycon immediately following SQL PASS Summit was not exactly the best thing for me to do especially since I managed to lose my voice part way though SQL PASS and still haven’t managed to fully recover from the damage despite taking both Monday and today as vacation days from work.
SQL PASS Summit was very educational, and I wish I had the time to personally document all that I learned. However, thanks to my bout with illness, I do not have the time to write all that I should. Fortunately for the rest of us, many SQL PASS Summit attendees already blogged about the highlights and they write much more coherently than I do.
Here is a brief list of the live blogging of SQL PASS Summit events, classes, keynotes and suchlike (in the order I stumbled upon them, rather than in any order of priority or importance)
Various neat things were announced at SQL PASS Summit, including
  • New path to obtaining the Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) certification for SQL Server 2008.
    • Brent Ozar wrote a summary of the changes for those who want a quick bulleted list of the changes rather than the full program description.
    •  Paul Randal and Glen Berry also blogged on the MCM announcement.
    • Many posted the all-important link to the MCM readiness videos, which is required viewing for all MCM candidates.
  • SQL Server Denali Community Technology Preview was released, and all attendees received a CD containing SQL Server Denali CTP1. Brent Ozar was one of the first to post a blog about Denali and its high availability features.
  • SQL Server Tools code named “Juneau” – SSMS BI functionality now available in BIDs.
  • SQL Server 2008 R2 Parallel Data Warehouse
  • Microsoft “Atlanta” (online service providing proactive alerts for SQL server 2008+). Official site here. Brent Ozar expresses his concerns about Atlanta in a blog he posted within minutes of Atlanta being announced (fast blogger!).
  • Project Crescent – web-based reporting tool
Random photos from SQL PASS Summit 2010. Generally speaking, the photos were taken outside the hours of the classes at social events because we ALL were actually paying attention to the speakers rather than snapping photos. The following are photo albums posted by various attendees.
Wednesday was SQLKilt day. Many of the male attendees showed up wearing kilts in support of the PASS WIT (Women In Technology):
Stuff from other evening happenings
SQL Karaoke:
I got to sit next to Brent Ozar in a panel at SQL Pass. He snapped my picture as I was trying to peek into his birthday gift bag:
LadyRuna(hyperlink to original of photo)  He tagged it “Celebrity  Sighting at #sqlpass and tweeted my photo to everyone. I guess I’m a Celebrity now. Wowza.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Girls Need Good Mentors

Although frequently in elementary schools, girls are ahead of the boys in math, Why is it that by the time they go to junior high school or high school so many girls shy away from or even declare they hate math? I suspect that to some degree what pushes them away from mathematics is what I'd call "bad role models". That is, they meet various older women who are anxious about math and they copy the behavior of those women.

Who are these role models? Females in their family and teachers. Most elementary school teachers are female - in fact, in the elementary school I attended, the only male teacher there was the gym teacher (this may have changed over the years.). Just for fun, I googled something similar to "Gender profile of teachers" and got back a number of interesting articles. One from Florida was a 2003 report showing approx 90% female elementary and approx 60% female secondary teachers. talked about Massachusetts schools becoming desperate to recruit male teachers to provide role models for boys since so few men teach these days.

I also found a report that backed up my theory about female teachers passing math anxieties on to their female students. The report also stated that for some reason the boys were not influenced by the math-phobic teachers)

How did my interest in math and science survive the bad influence of the math-phobic teachers / role models? I was fortunate that both my parents were math / science teachers and they continuously reinforced not only the value of knowing math and science but also the fun (can you say "home chemistry experiments"?) of it all.

What can we do for those who don't have good math/science female role models in their lives? What else can we do to help influence the young girls to encourage them to pursue technical professions? Where are the highly technical females hiding?

One good place to not only find strong female role models but also something that appeals to youngsters is in Japanese Anime. Unlike American cartoons - where the smart and competent characters are portrayed using negative stereotypes -- thick glasses, ugly, terrible in sports -- Anime heroines are beautiful and amazingly competent in everything from sports to music to academics. Best of all, they are astoundingly competent with computers.

Here's a brief list of anime with strong female leads (character name when I can think of it in parens) :
  • Serial Experimanets Lain (Lain)
  • Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuustu (Nagato Yuki)
  • Rideback
  • Mission E (*not* the 1st series, 'Code E,' but the second series called "Mission E")
  • Black Lagoon (Revy)
  • Ghost in the Shell (Kusanagi Motoko)
  • Pumpkin Scissors (Alice)
(I’ll add more as I think of them. )
I’d also recommend David Weber’s Honor Harrington series as something for young ladies to read in their spare time.

Power BI: M Query Basics (Part 2)

This is the second part of my series on Power BI M Query Basics. In Part 1 , I defined M Query and talked about the structure of how an M Qu...