Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Preparing for SQL Pass Summit–Part the Last

It’s the week before SQL Pass, and I hope everyone feels they’re ready to go. It’s time to pack your stuff, iron your kilts, and get your travel documents organized – we’ll be seeing you soon. This will be the final Pre-Summit blog post to wrap up the series for the "Summit First-Timers" program. This is the sixth posting in the series. Here are the links for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.

Last minute TO-DO list

Check your flights

If you’re flying into Seattle, this is a must – especially if your flight has a stop in or departs from any of the Airports that were in Hurricane Sandy’s path. The storm made a total mess of the eastern half of the US, some airports may still be under water or out of commission, and your flight plans may have to be changed. In addition, since about 20,000 flights into and out of the area were canceled earlier in the week, expect security lines to be extra long and airports to be especially crowded as stranded travelers seek seats on upcoming flights.

Check the Weather

People always ask me, “Will it rain during SQL Pass?”. Probably. According to Weather.com’s 10-day forecast for Seattle, expect rain showers on a couple of the days during the week, and clouds the other days. Temperatures will range from the low 40s at night, to the upper 50s during the day. Another weather site, Wunderground, predicts a slightly more sunny week. Bring a raincoat just in case the first one is right – you never know when it comes to weather.

Print relevant travel documents

Print out your hotel reservation information, flight itinerary, boarding passes, and your SQL PASS Summit receipt, Visit your favorite online mapping site – google maps, mapquest, or yahoo maps – and print out the appropriate maps showing the location of your hotel, the convention center, and other sites you’re planning to visit while in Seattle. I know some will say, “I’ve got a GPS application on my phone to handle all that”, but what if your phone’s battery runs out while you’re traveling, and you can’t use it? Paper doesn’t require batteries. 

Download Reading Material

If you are bringing a eBook reader (Kindle, Nook, Tablet with eBook reader application) for the flight or train trip to Seattle, be sure you have downloaded several books before leaving home – you can’t rely on being able to find free wifi to load you eBook while traveling, and there’s nothing like opening your Kindle application only to see 0 books available.

Pick Songs to Sing at SQLKaRAOKE

SQL Karaoke - singing best left in the showerJen McCown reminded me via twitter of this very important Pre-SQLPASS step:
If you are planning to participate in Karaoke on any of the evenings of SQL PASS (some attendees go every evening – just ask around), you should pick out a handful of songs that you’d like to sing so that when it’s your turn at the microphone you’ll be ready to rock. Practicing songs in the shower is strongly advised.

Pack your SQL Kilt and SQL-Saturday Shirts

Wednesday of SQL PASS Summit is “wear your SQL Saturday shirt” day so if you haveJean & Sean Showing off their SQLKilts one be sure that you remember to pack it.
Thursday is SQL Kilt day. Yes, both men and women don kilts on the day of the WIT Luncheon to help celebrate and support Women in Technology. SQLKilt day is a tradition that started several years ago when a bunch of SQL MVPs decided to show up at SQL PASS wearing kilts, and over the years more and more people have joined in on the fun.
If you don’t already have a kilt, don’t worry, Utilikilts is on 1st Avenue in Seattle, which is just a short walk from the Convention Center, and you should be able to pick one up there shortly after you arrive.

Watch the First-Timers Webcast Recording

If you weren’t able to view Denny Cherry’s live webcast for SQL PASS Summit First-Timers, he has uploaded it to the Live Meeting website for you to view. Simply go to the Live Meeting site which is setup for this recording and put in your name. It will also ask you for a recording key, just leave that blank as there is no key for this recording. On the next screen it'll ask you for your email address and company then you'll be able to view the recording. The entire video is posted online including all of the Q&A.

Make arrangements for Pets and Mail

nom nom nomIf you live alone, don’t forget to tell the post office to hold your mail so that the mailbox won’t be overflowing when you return.
If you have pets, be certain that you’ve arranged to have someone visit your home every day to provide food and water for them. And be sure to give your beasties a little extra loving before you leave. They’ll miss you.

Well, that about covers it. See you at SQL Pass Summit!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Tasting

Last Friday, October 19, 2012, my husband and I had the privilege of meeting DanielIMG-20121019-00013 Brunier, Winemaker for  Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape , at Liner and Elsen, a neighborhood wine shop in Portland, Oregon. We tasted 8 wines that M. Brunier produces. It was a LOVELY evening and a fantastic opportunity to enjoy our favorite wines along with a crowd of others who also greatly appreciated this kind of wine. The following are the tasting notes my husband recorded.

The prices shown are what Liner and Elsen listed on the tasting notes sheet that each attendee was given.

We score the wines from 0 to 10. NO WINE has ever received a score of 10 from us (we’re tough when it comes to rating). Anything above a 6 is excellent. Our cellar is full of mostly Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape so you know we LOVE this winemaker.

2011 Les Pallieres Gigondas rose, "au petit bonheur"

($21.99 bottle/225.61 case)
- Grenache , Syrah , Cinsault , Clairette
- Crisp, lighly sparkling, bone dry
- score: 9

2010  Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape blanc

(bottle 66.99/ case 687.31)
- Clairette (40%), Grenache Blanc (30%), Bourboulenc (15%) and Roussane (15%)
- Clear and clean
- light acidity
- Nothing special (but nothing really wrong)
- Score: 7

2010 Brunier Le Pigeoulet en Provence, Vin de Pays de Vaucluse rouge

(bottle 17.99/ case 184.57)
- Coppery finish almost cheaper pinot-like. Good pizza wine
- Grenache Noir (80%), Syrah (10%), Carignan (5%), Cinsault (5%)
- score: 8

2008 Pallieres Gigondas, Terrasse du Diable

(bottle 31.99/ case 328.21. 1.5l 74.99)
- Young with a shorter finish than Vieux Télégraphe
- Pepper, cherry, tobacco
- Grenache Noir (90%),Mourvèdre (5%), Clairette (5%)
- score: 8

2009 Telegramme Châteauneuf-du-Pape rouge

(bottle 45.99/ case 471.85)
- mostly Grenache
- Tight, alum chalky
- light black cherry
- Score: 8

IMG-20121019-000122009  Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape rouge

(bottle 66.99/case $687.31; 1.5l $161.99; 3l $368; 6l $698; 9l $1028)
- Grenache Noir (65%), Mourvèdre (15%), Syrah (15%); Cinsault, Clairette and sundry others (5%)
- Very green and tight
- tasty; classic CNdP
- Score: 8

2010  Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape rouge

(bottle $82.99/case 851.47; 1.5l $185; 3l $458)
- Grenache Noir (65%), Mourvèdre (15%), Syrah (15%); Cinsault, Clairette and sundry others (5%)
- Much more approchable than the 2009
-  tasty; classic CNdP
- Score: 9

Wine Spectator Interview with Daniel Brunier in 2007:

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Preparing for SQL PASS-Part 5

Since I've attended SQL Pass Summit a couple of times, this year I volunteered to help out with the "Summit First-Timers" program. This program is designed specifically to help people who are attending SQL Pass Summit for the first time to get the most out of their experience at Summit. I've decided to post a series of blog entries here to not only help out my flock of first-timers, but to also ensure that the information is shared with as many other first-time (and alumni) attendees as possible. This is the Fifth posting in the series. Here are the links for Part 1, Part 2 Part 3, and Part 4.

I hope most of you watched Denny Cherry's "SQL PASS First-Timers" webcast. I attended it and discovered that they have already moved the location of the breakfast & lunch room from its traditional location in cozy little 4B to the cavernous 4E-F. Check out the map to see the conference center layout. The 4th and 6th floor are where most of the activities will be held.

First-Timers Networking Sessions

On Tuesday afternoon, there are several 45-minute networking sessions led by Don Gabor. These are exclusively for First-timers and are invite only. All first-timers should have received an email with links to RSVP to the session of their choice. If you are a first-timer and have not received the email, please contact PASS, and let them know. Any sessions not filled before the end of this week will be opened to other attendees.

First-Timers' Orientation

Lady Runa's Flock
Tuesday evening, at 5:15 is the First-Timers' Orientation. This is where First-Timers will first meet their alumni Mentor. If I am your Alumni Mentor, you'll receive a sticker of the graphic to the left of this paragraph to put on your badge to make it easier for you to identify the other "official" members of my flock. If you aren't part of my flock, I hope that the person who is your mentor has his own set of stickers to brand his herd with. (I printed twice as many stickers as I need, so if you REALLY want to be a part of the flock, I can be bribed convinced to give you one). Further details about this event, and the schedule from there will be available later - generally speaking, shortly after the orientation, we'll be heading down to the Welcome Reception.

Don't forget to bring along business cards to hand out to people you meet!

Homework

Thought I'd let you off easy, eh? Well, since SQL PASS Summit is only 2 weeks away, I have homework for you to do:

  • Ensure you have a login for SQL PASS (free registration link here).
  • Log in to the Schedule Builder and select sessions you wish to attend*. If you're having difficulty choosing sessions to attend, you may consider following the advice from the Expert Picks provided by PASS Virtual Chapter leaders and community Experts.
  • If you will be present in Seattle on Monday and/or Tuesday, consider signing up for one of the pre-conference sessions. These are full day in-depth sessions that are well worth the additional $395 each to attend.
*PASS uses the data from the Schedule Builder to plan session room sizes - the most popular sessions are moved to larger rooms, and less popular sessions to smaller ones - ensuring that the sessions you want to attend will have enough room available for you to squeeze in.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Preparing For SQL Pass Summit–Part Four

Since I've attended SQL Pass Summit a couple of times, this year I volunteered to help out with the "Summit First-Timers" program. This program is designed specifically to help people who are attending SQL Pass Summit for the first time to get the most out of their experience at Summit. I've decided to post a series of blog entries here to not only help out my flock of first-timers, but to also ensure that the information is shared with as many other first-time (and alumni) attendees as possible. This is the fourth posting in the series – Part 1 can be found here, Part 2 is here, and Part 3 is here.

Answers to Questions from my Flock

asyobiI was happy to see that several of my First-Timers responded to my emails with some interesting questions. Since the answers to these questions could also help out others, I thought I’d include my answers here.

Q: What’s Twitter? Why do we want it?

Twitter (http://www.twitter.com) is a social media forum that functions like a micro-blogging site. It’s used for social messaging, news reporting, media marketing, and learning about SQL!
If you follow mostly SQL server people – yes, they occasionally post silly stuff – but frequently they tweet extremely useful things like twitter_bird_normal
  • Links to blog posts about SQL that are important
  • Information on SQL PASS activities
  • Links to free SQL training and books
In addition, you can even request help on something SQL-related – simply include #sqlhelp in your tweet. For example, one guy asked: ” Is it possible to remove a static IP from an availability group listener? If so, how? #sqlhelp” … and within a few minutes, Denny Cherry, Brent Ozar and Allan Hirt responded with helpful information that allowed the asker to go on with his work. I’ve posted a few #SQLHelp questions myself, whenever I’ve gotten stuck on something. Usually someone answers within minutes. It’s like having a mentor available at your beck and call. Of course, not all answers are perfect or correct, but they are helpful.
Brent Ozar has published an eBook called “the Simple Twitter Book” that explains twitter and how it can help you in your career. Here’s another article you may want to examine. 
 

  Q: Is Pre-Registration required for Sessions?

Only for the pre-conference sessions, and this is because you have to pay an additional $395 to attend them. The cost for the regular sessions is included in your Summit registration. As long as you are wearing your badge, you can attend any of the sessions you choose. For a session that you believe is particularly interesting, you may wish to line up early to ensure you can grab a good seat.
 

Q:How many people are attending SQL PASS Summit?

I don’t know for sure, but I’ve heard numbers from 4000 – 6000.
 

Q:What do you do with four pet goats?

VladMiklosYears ago, we would go hiking with them and they would get to carry all of our stuff. This meant that we could hike for greater distances because we wouldn’t get tired from hauling all the food and water that we needed to bring along. The goats would get tired, but not us.
Now, they’re just pets. They eat the grass, weeds, blackberries, rose bushes and leftovers from dinner. They are especially fond of eating the leftover potato chips and Doritos following parties. Sometimes they provide entertainment by running around chasing each other and butting heads.
Besides, you’ve got to admit they are rather cute.
 

Random Reminders

  • Be sure to vote (if you’re registered to vote in the United States) before coming to SQL PASS Summit, which happens during the week of Election Day (Nov 6). Most states allow voters to sign up for absentee voting (usually this means you vote by mail a few weeks prior to Election Day – check your state’s government page for details on how to vote absentee) and some states like Oregon and Washington simply have vote by mail, which allows voters to cast their votes any time within a month prior to election day.
  • Purchase the SQL PASS Summit Session Recordings. Why? Because it’s impossible for one person to attend all of the sessions offered. In fact, this year the schedule lists15 sessions in each of 4 time slots per day (5 time slots on Friday).The recordings are less expensive if you order them when you register, but if you haven’t ordered them ahead of time, you can order them while at SQL PASS Summit. If you attend a pre-con seminar, be sure to order the recordings from the pre-con sessions – there is a separate charge for this set of recordings.
  • If this is your first time attending SQL PASS Summit, try to attend as many of the First-Timer Events as you can.
  • If you are attending SQL Pass Summit with coworkers
    • Plan on attending different sets of sessions to maximize the variety of training that everyone in your work group receives.
    • Sit at separate tables during meals to expand networking opportunities.
    • Compare sets of vendor information that each coworker picked up since you may be able to eliminate taking home duplicate pamphlets.
  • Bring business cards listing your name and contact information to facilitate networking.
  • After Summit, be sure to connect to the people you met via Linked In and Twitter.
  • If you didn’t join PASS when registering for Summit, please do so now.
  • Bring “Emergen-C” drink mix to add to your water bottle. Each packet provides 1000 mg Vitamin C, plus a mix of electrolytes, antioxidants, and vitamins to help keep you alert. It also tastes better than plain water.
  • Get your flu shot a few weeks prior to attending. Getting sick is no fun. Take care of yourself.

Important SUMMIT links for you

  • Official Schedule (just released on 9/26/2012)
  • Seattle 101 (thanks Kendra!) – an excellent guide to what’s in Seattle and how to get around town. Definitely something to read if you will be in Seattle for more days than the days SQL PASS Summit is running.
  • The list of people attending SQL PASS Summit includes attendee names as well as their twitter handles. You may want to follow several of them on twitter.
  • Workstations loaded with Microsoft Hands-on Labs will be at SQL PASS Summit for you to try (and Microsoft people will provide assistance to you if you need it during the labs)
  • Several Community Bloggers have posted additional articles that should be helpful for SQL PASS First-Timers.











Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Preparing for SQL PASS Summit - Part 3

Since I've attended SQL Pass Summit a couple of times, this year I volunteered to help out with the "Summit First-Timers" program. This program is designed specifically to help people who are attending SQL Pass Summit for the first time to get the most out of their experience at Summit. I've decided to post a series of blog entries here to not only help out my flock of first-timers, but to also ensure that the information is shared with as many other first-time (and alumni) attendees as possible. This is the third posting in the series – Part 1 covered planning the trip, getting there and garments to pack. Part 2 provides advice on safe(r) travelling and choosing the right luggage to haul your stuff in.


Yes, Virginia, There Is A Free Lunch (and Breakfast)


One thing I rejoiced about the first time I attended SQL PASS Summit was the fact that most of my meals were included with the Summit registration, which meant I didn't have to eat at expensive restaurants or subsist on fast food and convenience store munchies. Yes, there are great restaurants in Seattle, and yes, people sing the praises of Top Pot doughnuts for breakfast, but since the conference registration includes the cost for these meals, there's no sense in paying twice for the same meal.

Breakfast

Start your Summit out right by waking up bright and early and heading over to the Conference Center around 6:45 AM each morning for a continental breakfast. You'll find the dining area near the vendor's hall (in fact, they're separated only by some ropes marking the border) on the same level as Registration. The room is "4B" if you're looking for it on the Conference Center map.

Grab yourself a hearty breakfast then plunk down in a seat next to a future friend. That's right - the included meals are excellent networking opportunities, as well as convenient ways to ensure you've consumed enough coffee to stay alert through the morning. Always strive to sit near someone different, and be sure to pass out business cards (you did print some up, right?) to everyone you meet. Ask them what sessions they're planning to attend (and why!) - you may discover that a session you dismissed as "not interesting" is actually something you really must attend.

In addition to the Summit-included breakfast, be on the look out for Vendor-sponsored breakfast sessions that will be offered on some mornings. The food will be similar, except you'll be listening to a presentation while eating your breakfast. I like these smaller breakfasts because the Vendors frequently give out awesome door prizes (I recall that at one Vendor breakfast, the grand prize was a new laptop. No, I didn't win...). Check the "After Hours" web page and your conference materials for details on when and where these breakfasts are to be offered. Also, after the session, be sure to stop by that Vendor's booth in the Exhibitor hall and thank them for sponsoring the breakfast (especially if you win something).

Break Time

To ensure you don't get too dehydrated or coffee deprived, there are breaks between some of the sessions. See schedule for exact times since they vary depending upon the day. The breaks area is in the East Lobby of the 6th floor, and usually includes coffee, soda, and water. Make sure you refill your water bottle so you'll have some water during the sessions. They also provide twenty or so computers with free internet access that you can use to quickly check your email or send out a few tweets about how much you're learning (don't want to get your coworkers who stayed home too jealous, right?).

Lunch

After several hours of intense training, you'll be ready for a hearty lunch. Again, your Summit registration includes lunch, so you don't have to get soaked in Seattle's famous rain searching for a bite to eat. Lunch will be offered in the same room as breakfast ("4B") around 11:30. The food is served buffet-style, so you can fill your plate with what you like. They usually have a vegetarian option in addition to something with meat. If you have any special dietary restrictions that makes it difficult for you to eat from a typical American buffet, you may with to contact PASS Headquarters and inquire about the menu to be sure you can eat at least something that's offered.

You may also want to consider attending one of the luncheons instead of the regular Summit lunch. The Women In Technology luncheon will be held on Thursday, and will have several panelists discussing the topic, "Women in Technology: Where Have We Been and Where Are We Going?". The PASS Chapter luncheon (Wednesday) and Birds of a Feather luncheon (Friday) are actually held in the same location as the regular lunches - check the cards displayed on the tables to see who's who. I believe they usually provide a map of the tables in the materials you receive at registration, so you should be able to pick your target table in advance.

Dinner

Since you'll be done for the day (as far as training goes), you may choose to hit a restaurant for dinner, however you really don't have to thanks to our amazing sponsors. There are events each evening which provide some food (and drinks!!).

Tuesday night be sure to not miss the Welcome Reception and Quizbowl (sponsored by SQL Sentry). Not only is the Quizbowl amusing and entertaining, but you'll also have the opportunity to sample various finger-foods. If you over-stuffed yourself earlier at lunch, the amount of food you snag at the Welcome Reception will tide you over until breakfast.

After your final session on Wednesday night, dash on over to the Exhibitor Hall for the Exhibitor Reception. They always provide an amazing variety of foods, so wander around the hall and discover what they're offering both for food / drink as well as products that can make your job easier.

Thursday night, Microsoft has plotted a fantastic evening for everyone - a "Community Appreciation Party" at Seattle’s Experience Music Project (a shuttle to the venue will be available). You should receive some sort of armband in your registration packet that you'll use as an entrance ticket for this party. There will be plenty of food and drinks available for everyone.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Preparing for SQL PASS Summit–Part 2

Since I've attended SQL Pass Summit a couple of times, this year I volunteered to help out with the "Summit First-Timers" program. This program is designed specifically to help people who are attending SQL Pass Summit for the first time to get the most out of their experience at Summit. I've decided to post a series of blog entries here to not only help out my flock of first-timers, but to also ensure that the information is shared with as many other first-time (and alumni) attendees as possible. This is the second posting in the series – Part 1 can be found here

Safe(r) Travelling

I’ve heard that as far as cities go, that Seattle (at least the area near the convention center) is safer than many major cities, however as someone who lives out in the country where the most dangerous evening encounters usually involve surprising a skunk or twisting an ankle in a mole’s burrow, any city can be considered a scary place.
  • Don’t leave valuables in the hotel room. There’s always the chance that something may “disappear” when the maid cleans the room, or perhaps you may accidentally forget it in the hotel room when heading home and not notice its absence until after it’s too late (those multi-colored bedspreads do an amazing job of making small earrings invisible). It’s better to simply leave those things at home rather than chance loss or theft.
  • Don’t tempt the bad guys. In the evenings, you’ll be walking the dark city streets on your way back to your hotel room. You may or may not be able to find a group of others to walk with (my first year, I stayed in a hotel about 10 blocks away and walked back alone each night), so you want to be sure you are not a tempting target for thieves. Expensive, shiny watches or rings are fairly easy for thieves to remove without you noticing. I wear cheap ($10) watch and leave my diamond engagement ring at home.
  • Don’t carry a purse. I know many ladies love carrying large purses so they can carry everything that they might possibly need at any time during the day. Leave it at home – if you don’t have a purse, no one can steal it. I carry everything I need in my pockets. Most other items that I carry in my purse are either left at home or are tucked in my backpack along with my notebooks and water bottle.
  • Minimize your wallet. Take only what you will actually need – cash, credit card, ID and hotel key. You can leave your store rewards cards, library cards, social security cards, coupons, etc. at home. You won’t need them and they could be lost or stolen, so why bother carrying the extra weight? Besides, without all of those extra items, you probably won’t need to take a wallet.
  • Get a money belt. The best piece of “underwear” you’ll ever purchase. It’s basically a wallet you can wear discreetly under your clothing. It is the ideal place to carry your ID, credit card, airline tickets, passport and money. There are several styles available, so research them and pick the one that works best for you. I use one of these instead of my wallet, and it’s thin enough that it is not visible underneath my dresses.
  • Pay attention and be alert. Bad guys depend upon surprise for being able to get away with taking your possessions, so when walking the streets, if you are constantly aware of your surroundings and act like you know where you are going and what you are doing, you will more likely notice any potentially threatening people or situations before you get close to them and will easily be able to circumnavigate them. 

 

Luggage

Unless you’re local to the area (in which case you’ll be sleeping at home), you will have to pack some luggage to take all that you will need for the week that SQL PASS Summit will be held.
  • Take only carry-on size luggage. The convention is less than one week long, so a small bag should suffice to hold all the clothing you will need for the days you’re away. Besides, if you are flying, you will avoid paying checked baggage fees since most airlines charge for checked baggage. Having lighter luggage will also make it easier for you to walk from the train station to the hotel (saving you Taxi cab fare money), and the lesser burden will prevent you from becoming exhausted lugging your stuff around.
  • Leave your laptop at home. It’s unlikely that you will actually need your laptop computer while at SQL PASS Summit. In the break area of the convention center PASS provides some free internet workstations where you can check your email between sessions. Also, most of the hotels have computers you can use for a small fee. If you believe you really would need to have some sort of computer, consider bringing a tablet since it’s smaller and lighter than a typical laptop. For taking notes, I strongly recommend having a college rule lined notebook and a set of pens in various colors.
  • Ensure your jacket / raincoat has plenty of pockets. I love pockets – and the more the merrier. It’s amazing how much one can carry in a jacket, especially one full of pockets. I certainly wouldn’t go as far as Eric Le Fou with over stuffing my jacket pockets, but I hope you can understand the potential there. There are many excellent sites that offer travel gear that is designed for holding more than the typical jackets and coats available.
  • Bring a small backpack or tote bag. The bag will be handy for holding your notebook, pens, extra water and other items you will need during the day. Also, since you’ll likely collect a bunch of documentation and items from vendors, you will want a place to put them. Please note that in some previous years, PASS provided participants with a backpack or other bag (covered in sponsor logos) at registration. I do not know for certain whether or not they will provide one this year, so be sure to have an extra bag with you.
For additional tips for packing light, visit OneBag.com.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Preparing for SQL Pass Summit

Since I've attended SQL Pass Summit a couple of times, this year I volunteered to help out with the "Summit First-Timers" program. This program is designed specifically to help people who are attending SQL Pass Summit for the first time to get the most out of their experience at Summit. I've decided to post a series of blog entries here to not only help out my flock of first-timers, but to also ensure that the information is shared with as many other first-time (and alumni) attendees as possible.

Planning the trip

  • Register! I know, this sounds like a no-brainer, but there are still some who will register at the last minute. Obviously, the earlier one registers, the lower the total cost for the conference. If you haven't registered yet, please send in your registration now.
  • Reserve your hotel room. Because of its proximity to the Washington State Convention Center, the Sheraton Seattle Hotel & Towers is the most popular choice, followed quickly by the Westin Seattle. The Official Seattle.gov site has this PDF listing downtown Seattle hotels. There are a lot of hotels within walking distance, so choose your favorite.

Getting there

OK, you've got your Registration in, and your hotel room is reserved. Now what?
Figure out how you want to get here:
  • Drive - If you live within 200 miles of Seattle, you may consider driving. Things to keep in mind:
    • Cost of Parking - All hotels charge for parking, and so does the Convention Center. Last I heard, the cost was about $22 / day. Don't count on finding on-street parking - and even if you do find a spot, the meters are the least economical way to pay to park.  
    • Seattle Traffic - Take the "excitement" of Boston driving, stir in the hills of San Francisco, add the insanity of Mario Kart racing, and sprinkle in the density of LA Traffic and you've got Seattle driving. Personally, when it comes to driving in Seattle, I avoid it at all costs.
  • Amtrak - If you live within 500 miles of Seattle, you may consider taking Amtrak
    • Very relaxing way to travel.
    • The trains offer food, but you may wish to bring your own because the line for the dining car is often very long, and they may or may not have foods you like. The dining car has some wines / beers available for purchase as well.
    • The King Street train station in Seattle is a good brisk walk from the Convention Center. It's all uphill from train station to hotels / Convention Center, so be prepared for some steep climbing. Thankfully, this means the walk back is far easier. I believe it takes about 30-45 minutes to cover the distance depending upon your walking speed and whether or not you get lost or stumble upon a really cool shop that distracts you for a while.
    • For those who don't feel like walking all the way to the Convention Center, there are buses and taxis. To find the bus from the King Street train station, take the overpass over the train tracks, and walk a few blocks to the east to the International District Chinatown Stration, and catch a downtown bus up the hill.
  • Other Trains - Those who are moderately local to Seattle can take metro transit, Seattle Monorail, a bus or light rail. I'm sure you can figure it out if you're a local.
  • Fly - If you live far enough away this is likely your best option.
    • Fly to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
    • Take Light Link Rail from the airport into downtown Seattle.
    • If you rent a car, refer to the section on driving.

Packing

The most import part of packing for any trip is to ensure you're prepared for the local weather. You should check the 10-day forecast online a few days before you leave to have an idea of what to expect. This is Seattle in November, so plan to dress in layers - you'll be inside the Convention Center most of the day, but some rooms will be too warm and others quite cold - and you will also walk outside a little to get to your hotel, have dinner or go out for karaoke. Expect temperatures to range between 40F and 70F, and expect rain - lots of it. Seattle's rain varies from all-out downpour to a light mist that curls your hair and makes everything feel damp. You'll see both. Or maybe sunshine. It depends.

Here are a few key packing tips:
  • Footwear - wear shoes that make your feet happy. If you can't walk 5 miles in them without getting blisters, you will be miserable. The Convention Center is huge, and you may have to walk a very long distance to go from one session to the next. I always pack at least two pairs of shoes and alternate between them to ensure that my feet do not have pressure in the same spots every day. Also, thanks to the Seattle rain, you may slog through a puddle that thoroughly soaks your shoes and you will be greatful that you have another pair to change into.
  • Outerwear -  I bring a hooded raincoat (Saf-T-Pockets "Portlandia") made from 2.5 layer waterproof breathable fabric. It's light and thin enough to tuck into my backpack when I don't need it, has reflective trim so cars can see me walking at night, and is long enough to keep me dry in the famous Seattle rain. I prefer the hooded raincoat over an umbrella because Seattle weather frequently features high winds which will instantly mangle even the stoutest umbrella. Also, the raincoat doubles as a windbreaker / layer of warmth for when it's not raining.
  • Warm layer - Since the raincoat doesn't provide a lot of insulation against real cold, I've found that wearing a hooded sweatshirt as a middle layer provides sufficient warmth for me to handle whatever Seattle throws at me. A suit coat, cardigan, or other light sweater would serve the same purpose if hoodies aren't your thing.
  • Regular clothes - This varies depending upon what kinds of fashions you prefer. Pack enough to cover you each day. I've seen
    • Jeans and t-shirt (these range from silly messages to corporate logos)
    • Khaki pants and polo shirt (often with corporate logo, but not necessarily)
    • Business suit
    • Shirt & tie with nice pants
    • Dresses
    • Blouse and skirt
    • T-shirt and skirt
    • Hawaiian Shirt and shorts
One other item to consider packing : a kilt. Thursday, the day that the Women and Technology (WIT) luncheon is held, many attendees - both male and female - wear kilts. Some of them wear traditional tartans, while others have Sport Kilts or Utili Kilts. Watch for the #SQLKilt hashtag on twitter for additional information and commentary about kilt-wearing at SQL Pass Summit.

Friday, September 14, 2012

SQL Editor “Presentation View”

I’ve often been frustrated by the lack of real estate in the standard SQL query window. Once the query has been run, the results eat up half of the screen, and if you have multiple grid view results from multiple queries in a batch, it can be difficult to examine all of the data without fighting with the UI to let you move the dividing line up.
Here’s what you often see:
image
I noticed during an online training session with Paul Randal (blog | twitter) that he was using a set up for his SQL query window that to me was more practical – it had the editor in one tab and the messages / other tabs next to the editor rather than below it.
Like this:
image
It took me a bit of searching and testing, but I finally located the setting and decided to document it here so I wouldn’t forget where it was again.
From the main menu, click on Tools then select Options…. Once the Options dialog pops up, expand Query Results > SQL Server > Results To Grid. In the list of settings, check both “Display results in a separate tab” and “Switch to results tab after the query executes”. Then click [OK].
image
SQL will save your settings and next query window you open will use the new view.
In addition, in the Options dialog, you may wish to change the font size. That setting is under Environment – Fonts and Colors. I’d only have it large for presentations where I have enough long queries that I need to display a large section of the window. For ones with smaller queries, I’d use “Zoom-it” because I can zoom in on the text I’m talking about and then zoom back out when finished. Zoom-it also lets you annotate the zoomed in window with drawn lines or additional text in various colors. The annotations disappear when you zoom back out, but they’re handy for pointing out key information.
Happy presenting!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

One-Minute Headbands

Recently, I realized that I’d broken or lost most of my headbands, so it was time to find a few more. I found001 some nice ones in a store, but was shocked by the price – $3 each – as soon as I realized that they were made from regular fold-over elastic. I have a nice collection of assorted colors and lengths of fold-over elastic that I’d purchased for various sewing projects. Most of the fold-over elastic I own cost me less than $1 per yard.
I easily put together 5 headbands in about 5 minutes. I think the hardest part was choosing which colors of fold-over elastic I wanted to use for the project.
Here are the basic instructions:
  • Cut a 21” piece of fold-over elastic 004
  • Overlap the two ends by about 1/2” (thus making it into a 20” loop)
  • Hand stitch the overlapped pieces together
  • Try on the headband.
That’s it! Very simple. For those who don’t sew, simply cut the fold-over elastic a bit longer (24-25” is good), then tie either an overhand knot or a square knot to join the two ends. You can adjust the tightness by moving the knot to make the loop slightly smaller or larger.
Here's my muppet Isabella modeling the aqua headband for me.
You can find fold-over elastic at JoAnn's fabric stores, Rose City Textiles (http://www.rctfabrics.com), and Saf-T-Pockets (http://webstore.quiltropolis.net/stores_app/Browse_Item_Details_v2.asp?Store_id=413&page_id=23&Item_ID=1074).

Monday, July 16, 2012

How to Reupholster a Couch

It’s funny that I procrastinated so long about re-upholstericouch beforeng my couch and den chair since the actual time it took to perform the task was only about 12 hours. I have a couch with 6 cushions that were in sad shape – the seams were beginning to split and the seating surface had developed holes where the fabric simply fell apart. I repaired what I could of the original seats, just to keep it looking somewhat acceptable, but eventually I realized that the fabric was so worn out that it simply could not be repaired. The foam cushions had deteriorated to that state in which anyone who sat on the couch felt like the couch was attempting to absorb them into the lower reaches of the seating area.
I decided that we either had to completely replace the couch or at least replace the cushions. I waited until there was a sale on foam sheets (foam is amazingly expensive), then purchased 3 72”x36”x3” foam sheets. I measured the cushions and then marked cutting lines on the foam to match the sizes of the existing cushions. My husband used a kitchen knife to cut the foam into several pieces.
I purchased about 15 yards of denim (using a 40% off coupon at JoAnn’s), then let it age for about 3 years in my stash until I finally decided that the couch looked so bad that it was ebarrassing to have guests see the couch…I then purchased enough zippers by the yard to ensure that I had enough lengths of zipper for the cushions.
Cutting out the pieces was fairly simple: I put the existing cushion on the fabric yardage and wrapped it around the cushion. I then folded over appropriate amount for seam allowance / zipper space and cut it to that size. The width was cut about 1/2” wider on each side of the cushion. I cut the side gussets by measuring the thickness and width of the cushion.
I serged around every piece I cut, then proceeded to assemble them. It was far easier than I thought it would be since the zipper is attached first (attach to one end of the fabric strip, right sides together. Fold over and top stitch the fabric to the edge of the zipper. Then, put the fabric from the other half of the main piece onto the zipper right sides together. Turn right side out and topstitch along the second side of the zipper. On each end of the zipper, bar tack 3 times (once at the edge of the fabric, once about 1/4” in, and again just over 1/2” in…this way the zipper is less likely to open up from the wrong end)
You now haCouchFinishedve a tube of fabric with a zipper in it. Pin the side gussets to one end of the fabric tube and sew around it. Before you repeat for the second side, be sure to open the zipper at least a few inches so that it can be turned right side out. Then sew second gusset and turn right side out. Stuff with the new foam and then with the old foam (which is so battered that it easily crushes to less than half its original 6” size, thus filling the cushion to the originally intended size).
Place on couch. Done!
Yes, it really is that simple, so don’t procrastinate.  Smile

Thursday, April 19, 2012

SSIS - Speeding Up Package Load Time

Your Package Will Load...Someday 

While working with SSIS, I was often frustrated by how long the package takes to load for editing. Frequently, I was simply interested in opening the SSIS packages to see what they did, but really had no need to actually edit them. Sadly, if you try to open an SSIS package on a machine that either does not contain all of the databases referenced in the package or that cannot connect to those databases, you often have to wait an incredible length of time for the package to open before you even have a chance to change the connections to something valid.

I discovered a small trick which cures that dilemma - open the SSIS package in a text editor (the package content is actually XML), make some minor edits, save, then finally open the SSIS package in BIDS.

Delaying Package Validation Until Later

 Open your package in a text editor and search for all instances of
 "DelayValidation">0</DTS:  
Replace those with
"DelayValidation">1</DTS:

This simple change will prevent BIDS from attempting to connect to and validate every object before allowing you to view the content of the SSIS package. It will still attempt to validate an object when you click on that object to edit it, but at least you won't have to wait for it to time out on its attempts to validate every item.

Correct Connection Strings

Open your package in a text editor and search for all instances of
<DTS:Property DTS:Name="ConnectionString">
Check the value for Data Source and Initial Catalog - are these correct for the environment you're working in? Many times, the package may have been created with connection strings specific to the server they were built on and either the server no longer exists or is no longer accessible. By correcting the connection string information prior to opening the package in BIDS, you can speed up the package load time and avoid the flood of validation errors that go along with incorrect connection information.*

=======
* Yes, I know there are some SSIS tricks for handling different connection strings, such as using a configuration file to hold the connection information, however many SSIS packages that people inherit do not have configuration files for the connection information.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Adventures in SSIS: Data Migration

After escaping from technical support to the “greener fields” of Product Engineering, I thought that I would finally be in my element and have completely stress-free workdays.
So untrue.
So painfully untrue.IMG-20120130-00016
The new position offered enough stress to make event the most stable person ready to fling primary colored cartoon-like stuffed birds at an equally cartoon-like stuffed pig (who, for some unexplained reason, is lime green rather than pink, and seems to be just a head). Not that I do that frequently, but these poor birds have seen better days, as their ruffled feathers can attest. I suppose I could try to take my stress out on other things, but HR gets a wee bit upset if I throw chairs or coworkers (drat).Fortunately, they don’t seem to mind the occasional Angry Bird™ flying through the cube farm, however, so I fling away.
What is the current stressor?
SSIS.
I must admit that up until now I haven’t touched SSIS at all. I have plenty of experience working with DTS packages, but none with SSIS.
Until now.
There is no easy DTS to SSIS knowledge conversion. They’re completely different animals. They may do similar things, but nowhere near in the same manner. Books Online offers some information, but if you don’t already know SSIS the documentation might as well be in Klingon since it assumes you fully understand everything and are just using the books online for a quick definition check.invisible_woman1
Great. And it’s due by the end of February. Which, by the way was yesterday.
Thank GOD it’s a leap year, otherwise I would have had to ensure I learned invisibility instantly.
Some of the sections of the package I was able to copy from other migration packages I found in our Source Control (it’s Tortoise Subversion, BTW), but the rest had to be created by me, and quickly.
Some things I could figure out: get data from Source, compare to Destination using LookUp, then Insert New unmatched data into Destination. Works great unless you have some wiseguy who customizes the data and causes a primary key violation between Source and Destination. Simply inserting a new row without keeping the key value didn’t work because the Destination table does not have identity insert (aka “autoNumber”) on the key. I searched everywhere for ideas—checking  “SSIS Upsert” and equivalents in Bing and Goolgle—to see if anyone had written code that could help me. Most articles assumed that the destination had identity insert turned on.
Thankfully, I had the #SQLHelp hastag on Twitter and received responses from some awesome people* who were able to provide me the hints / guidance that I needed to plow through this disaster waiting to happen. The saving tweet (thanks @EricWisdahl) contained a link to an extremely helpful article by Phil Brammer called, “Generating Surrogate Keys”. It was exactly what I needed. 
Well, mostly….
SSIS is extremely fussy about certain things—C# coding is case sensitive; datatypes must match exactly; math on certain numbers mysteriously changes the datatype. Things like that.
The issue I had was that the Source table use int for its KeyID, and the Destination table used tinyInt. Most searches for an equivalent in SSIs won’t tell you the full story… but I finally found it.
First, several sources tell you that
tinyInt is equivalent to DT_UI1 (single byte un-signed integer),
but if you check the list of datatypes for variables, you’ll note that it’s missing (or if not missing, then named something that is NOT intuitively equal. What does DT_UI1 mean anyway?).
After many false starts (including learning that the C# scripting is painfully case sensitive), I discovered that
the Byte data type works for tinyInt Variables.
The other thing I found was that in SSIS scripts, when you add something to a value, it automatically forces a conversion to int datatype—and it’s very difficult to undo that. What I did was use Eric’s script unchanged, except to the final statement
Row.ClientKey = NextKey;
I added a conversion to byte:
Row.ClientKey = (byte)NextKey;

and it worked.

Now stress is greatly reduced and my Angry Birds and Green Pig are happily noshing on my cereal.



* HUGS! to @onpnt and @EricWisdahl for being “first responders”

Monday, January 16, 2012

January #Meme15 Assignment

<*Cough* *Cough*> It’s awfully dusty here, isn’t it? Yeah, I’ve been neglecting my blog. Terribly sorry about that…. Well, nothing like trying to get things going again at the start of a new year. Hopefully this year I’ll be more consistent about posting (and not quit half-way through the year)

#Meme15 Assignment #2

The #Meme15 is a meme started by a group of people in the #SQLFamily who wanted tomeme15new discuss how they use Social Networks to enhance their careers and professional development.
The assignment for this month was posted on Jason Strate’s blog – talk about Twitter, answering “Why should average Jane or Joe professional consider using Twitter?” and “What benefit have you seen in your career because of Twitter?“
Let’s get started.
 

Why should average Jane or Joe professional consider using Twitter?

From the Oatmeal - click photo to go to sourceThat’s exactly what I wondered when I first heard about Twitter – why bother slogging through countless random postings about useless things written by strangers who have too much spare time on their hands? I really don’t need to know that you’re taking your goat for a walk or that you ate sushi last night. Besides, I likely already saw your post on Facebook, Linked In and Google+ on exactly the same thing. Sounds like a major time waster, right?
If that’s all there was to it, then it would probably have gone the way of the 8-track tape within a few months. But thankfully, following people on Twitter can offer far greater benefits, as I discovered at the 2009 SQL PASS Summit conference. About halfway though the first day, I found out that the majority of the SQL people I really admired were all using Twitter as their main means of keeping in touch with other SQL professionals. And they weren’t tweeting useless stuff – they were posting announcements of new blog posts, links to articles about SQL, free online training, and other SQL-related items.
For SQL server professionals, Twitter definitely has benefits – just follow all of the awesome SQL gurus and the #SQLHelp and #SQLPass hashtags. For other professionals, it may or may not be helpful – it all depends upon whether other professions have a significant number of people tweeting about their profession.

What benefit have you seen in your career because of Twitter?

I’ve used the #SQLHelp hashtag several times to ask SQL-related questions and have received answers so quickly from SQL experts that it felt like they were right there with me helping me along.
From Twitter, I’ve also been able to find out about free online webinars and more SQL articles and blogs than what I have time to read in a day. Without Twitter, it would likely have taken me far longer to find the same information – or I would’ve completely missed seeing the information at all.
Finally, the most important benefit of chatting on Twitter with all of these SQL professionals is that when I attend a SQL conference these people actually know me by name – which has made networking so much easier.

Unblocking blocked files

I recently stumbled across a somewhat frustrating feature of Windows 10. With the intent of protecting users from viruses and other malware,...