From the first day of classes I’ve worried about a week like this. I think I’ve mentioned I’m only taking three of the prereqs I need to apply to PA school. That’s not a horribly heavy load, but this week everything came to a head at once.
Monday – Anatomy & Physiology I Exam
Tuesday – Bio I Exam
Wednesday – Bio Prelab due and Bio Lab Quiz
Saturday – General Psych Exam Due
Sunday – General Psych Paper Due
Literally the only thing that’s NOT happening this week is my A&P lab quiz on bones and their facets and attachments points and more. I suppose I should be grateful for small favors.
And to make things worse, none of my study group for A&P was available this weekend.
Now fortunately, the General Psych paper can be submitted for review early, so I knocked that out Saturday morning and got feedback by Sunday night. So I’ll upload that shortly. And the General Psych test is online and available starting tomorrow night, so I can put off studying for that a bit and take it at my convenience.
And finally, the Bio Prelab is almost literally cut and paste and can be submitted on-line. So that’s been knocked out.
But the A&P I and Bio I exams: those made me nervous. Fortunately they’re mostly multiple choice, with the Bio exam having some essay questions.
I’ve always been a decent test taker, but I have to admit, multiple choice does make things easier. In fact, one of the topics we covered in General Psych last week is memory and how recognition is “easier” than recall. i.e. it’s a bit easier to see 4 possible answers to a question and recognize the right one than to be simply asked the question and have to recall the information and write it down.
That said, for me, one thing I often like to do when taking a multiple choice test is see if I can think of the right answer before I actually see the choices, i.e. make use of recall to reinforce my recognition. This gives me more confidence when I eventually choose my final answer.
And if you add to this the fact that there are actually skills one can learn when taking multiple choice tests, such as recognizing distractors, knowing certain answers are simply wrong and sometimes being able to think through to the right answer.
This came into play on question on yesterday’s test. I went back and checked all my answers before handing in the Scantron (yes, they still use them!) and had marked a few for “definitely look at” and one I wasn’t 100% sure on. But I was able to rule out two answers of the 4 and was down to two answers. I had initially checked one of them, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized the other was the right one.
So, one test down, another in an hour and then on to the rest. Wish me luck.
I wrote last year about how my job title seems to be DBA and other Duties as assigned. A little incident yesterday got me thinking about that again. This time though, it got me thinking more about the DBA side of that title.
I’ve mentioned before I’ve written a number of ETLs for various clients. Some are fairly complex and some are fairly simply PowerShell scripts. In most cases, at the end of the script I send an email with a success or failure status and some additional information if appropriate.
Over the last two weeks I had noticed that the email for one particular ETL was coming in later and later. I finally found somet time to investigate. I looked at the destination table and noticed that some of the tables had extremely large numbers of rows. Now, my first inclination was that the source data had increased (which would be a good thing, it meant the client was basically selling more widgets). But the increase seemed too dramatic and large. My next thought was perhaps the export itself was simply giving me more data.
So I decided to look more closely at the data and I noticed something interesting. Picking on of the tables at random, I simply did a
select * from RandomTable order by GoodIndex
SSMS returned approximately 24,000 rows. But something stood out. There appeared to be duplicates rows. Lots of them. This raised a lot of suspicions.
I then ran the query on my UAT box which in this case actually loads a copy of the production data. I got back about 1,600 rows. VERY curious.
Back on production now I ran
select distinct * from RandomTable order by GoodIndex
This time I got back the same number as UAT. Extremely curious.
Then it dawned on me, about 2 weeks ago, we had made a change to where the script looked for the source data, a number of CSV files. UAT had not changed, but Prod had. The reason for this change was to be able to get the ETL PowerShell script to run on the proper production server (the original location had security issues reading from the original CSV file location.)
So my first thought was that the team that had updated their export had somehow left out the command to delete the old file and was simply appending. I was about to write a pointed email when I stopped myself.
I looked at my code and realized that when I had setup the script on the new production box, I had properly handled all the permissions except one: the step that truncated the destination table. Sure enough, my code was no longer truncating the table before I inserted new information. Fortunately I realized my mistake before sending that pointed email.
So was this a DBA issue or a “other duties as assigned” issue? I don’t know, but I’d say as a DBA I should have not created the problem in the first place, but thankfully, due to proper logging and emails I was able to catch it and solve it fairly quickly.
Moral of the story: Pay attention to details. Notice when things start to drift. They can be the sign of a larger issue.
Many weeks I struggle with what I plan on writing about, but this post came to me last Thursday or Friday. It was clear to me that I should write about 2022 SQLBits.
Now, the more astute of you are probably thinking, “But Greg, you weren’t there. How can you write about it?”
Well you’re right. I’m not going to write about my experience attending it. Rather I’m going to write about my experience not attending it.
I had applied to speak at SQLBits, but didn’t make the cut this year. That happens. But this time there was more than mixed feelings. Had I been selected, I almost certainly would have tried to find a way to do so in person. However, as many of my readers know, I’m back in school taking classes as prereqs to get into PA school. And frankly, I’m loving it. But it is taking time and focus. This week, March 14-18 is Spring break for my fellow students. But last week I did have classes and I’m not sure I could have taken the time off to fly to the UK. And I’m not sure I would have wanted to; if only because of missing my A&P I lab this week (learning about the bones of the head and spine, including the axis and atlas (C1, C2 vertebrae).
So in a sense, I’m almost grateful that I wasn’t chosen to speak. It solved me the pain of trying to solve the dilemma of do I attend in person or not?
But dang, did I miss people. I saw posts from so many of my #SQLFamily that I was sad I couldn’t see them in person. And then, looking at the calendar, it dawned on me, I’m not entirely sure I can make the PASS Summit this year, again due to classes.
It just drove home how much so many of you have become family and how much I miss so many of you. And in some ways its just the start. As my plans continue, I’ll find myself making the slow transition from the #SQLFamily to hopefully a #PAFamily or whatever community I find there. And while I have often found myself in many communities, for example besides #SQLFamily I’m also heavily involved with the NCRC and plan on continuing my efforts there, I know over time my active involvement in #SQLFamily will slowly diminish. That said, I’m not walking away just yet and will continue to be involved as much as I can, both in presenting when I can and in running my local user group.
But that said, I miss you all. And do look forward to seeing any of you when I can.
Today is International Women’s Day. I was reminded of this from a semi-unrelated post by a fellow #SQLFamily member, but this post is an intersection of a variety of Facebook posts and discussions I’ve had over the past week that touched upon women’s health. In the interests of privacy and protection I am going to anonymize a bit what happened. I’ve mentioned in past posts how we as DBAs have to take into consideration topics such as gender and more. We’re here to describe the world, not to prescribe it. But, if my hoped for career change to become a Physician’s Assistant passes, topics of women’s health will become even more important for me to take into account.
Let me start with the first discussion I had: menopause and Nuvaring. A friend mentioned she’s going through menopause and her physician had suggested the Nuvarin as a form of hormone replacement to help reduce the effects such as hot-flashes. She looked into what her insurance covered and found out that it would cost I believe $360 for 3 months of coverage. But, Viagra was free. That’s health insurance in America. Want to get an erection, if you have good health insurance, it’s free. Want to avoid feeling like you need to rip off your clothes in public because you’ve gone from cold to sweating hot in seconds, sorry that’ll cost you $120/month! Perhaps it’s time to rethink how we allocate some of our funds.
The other discussion that came up was someone that I know more vaguely, but who is a trans-woman. She mentioned how doctors have turned her away. Pharmacies have refused to fulfill prescriptions for her that they routinely fill for cis-women. In general, because in their minds her physical presentation doesn’t match their expectations, they treat her as an outcast. Let me be simple and blunt: I’m offended and angry. She deserves access to the same treatment as any of the cis-women around her (and as the above discussion suggests, women in general deserve better treatment).
Writing this, I realized, I lied a bit, unintentionally. The above paragraph was prompted by a particular post, but I know several women to whom it could apply. So no need to try to guess who she is among my friends. She could be and is in fact a compilation of several.
Before I close, I want to recommend a Youtube channel I spend some time on: Dr. Momma Jones. While I don’t think my specialty will involve Ob/Gyn (I’m more interested in emergency medicine), I love watching her posts because I learn a lot, both medically and about gender bias and topics that I’m generally less familiar with.
That said, in closing, if I become a PA, I will work at treating all my patients equally and equitably and to the best of my abilities, regardless of their identity. Even if I don’t become a PA, I will continue to work to fight for the rights of all and to treat all equally and equitably .
So on International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate and remember all women.
P.S. and in the meantime, let’s fight against the rules put in place in Texas regarding medical treatment and discussion around trans-children and against the “Don’t Say Gay” law being voted on in Florida. I will say right now: children will die because of these rules. They will commit suicide.
Today’s T-SQL Tuesday edition comes from Rie Merrit and she is asking about “Advice on Running a User Group.”
Fortunately she’s only asking for 1-2 ideas, not an entire book (though there’s at least one book out there on the topic, which I’ll admit I’ve skimmed but not read cover to cover).
It Starts at the Door
This is actually an area I’ve not done as well in as I’d like, but I’m going to continue to work on. For your in-person meetings (we remember what those were like, right?) find one of your more outgoing, sociable members, ideally someone who is good with names and details, and position them by the door to greet people. When someone new comes in, this person should make sure they get their name, ask them if they have any particular interests, and then introduce them to others, ideally with similar interests.
It can be very intimidating to walk into a new User Group meeting where you know no one, and every already there is already happily chatting away and you end up feeling like an outsider.
By assigning someone to the role of greeter, ideally any new person instantly can be made to feel welcome. Besides simply introducing them, the greeter can explain how things work in terms of schedule, where the bathrooms are, where food is at, etc. This keeps newcomers from feeling lost and left out.
On the flip side of this advice, the greeter has to make sure they’re not too enthusiastic either. If the newcomer indicates they’d rather just sit in the corner and listen and leave, that’s fine too. The goal isn’t to force everyone to socialize. The goal is to make it easier for those who wish to.
I can guarantee that if you make people feel welcome, they’re more likely to come back.
It Pays to have Sponsor
Or more accurately, its sponsors that make it possible to pay for food and other costs. Several years ago at a User Group Leader meeting at PASS Summit, I listened as a speaker talked about looking for sponsors you might not normally consider, i.e. going outside of getting sponsorship from technical companies. This has worked really well for me in the past. But before you even go that far, you need to get some data. And since we’re DBAs, we should be good with data. I recommend once a year, collecting data about your group with some questions such as:
How many people receive your weekly or monthly emails. You don’t need an exact number, but is it 100, 300, 500, 1000?
How many people typically attend your meetings? (and now ask in-person versus on-line if you’re doing hybrid)
Where are they coming from?
How many years have they been in the industry?
Do you have a breakdown by age range?
You’re trying to get a sense of demographics. This will come in handy when you look for sponsors that are non-technical (for technical sponsors you will want different demographics). But with the data from my group, I have approached a number of different sponsors such as banks, insurance agencies and the like. My sales pitch is generally along the lines of:
I can put your name in front of 400 people via email and 20-30 people in person that are in your demographic (generally 40-50 years of age, higher income) that are probably in the market for your services (such as life insurance, investment opportunities, etc).
I’ve had a lot of luck with this approach. Sometimes I’ve gotten a check right there, sometimes they’ve had to go up their chain of command, but now they have data to sell the idea to their boss. And sometimes, you find out a prospect is not a good match. This happened with me when I approached a contact at the local, then new casino. Turns out their target demographic was older, retired women. Apparently they spend a lot of time and money at the casino. In contrast, mid-life professional DBAs don’t gamble much!
The other key detail when approach a sponsor is being clear on what you’re selling them. You probably recognize this without really realizing it. At any conference you’ve been to you’ve seen Platinum Sponsors, Gold Sponsors, etc. The more someone is willing to pay, the more mention they get, the bigger their logo may be featured, etc. This works for user groups. My advice here is to not overdue the number of sponsorships and to deliver on what you promise. For my group, pre-Covid, I would typically try to have no more than 3-4 sponsors at a time, and total over a year, perhaps 6 or so. Some sponsors would sponsor for 3 meetings, some for the entire year. There were discounts for an annual sponsor as opposed to a quarterly sponsor. If you were a quarterly or greater sponsor, besides having your logo in emails and being mentioned from time to time, you were given the opportunity once a quarter or so to give a 5 minute pitch before the group. Some took advantage of that, some didn’t. But I have to say those who did, I think made a better impact when they could introduce themselves and point to the food and say they were glad to sponsor our group.
I’ll close with one final comment on sponsors: not all need to provide a direct financial contribution. We have a local hotel that has provided us 1-2 free room nights a year. We typically use one to put up a speaker who is coming in from out of town, and the second as part of our annual holiday raffle. We also had the local garbage collection company provide a free year’s service as a prize for our annual raffle. That was surprisingly one of our more popular prizes. In SQL Server you don’t have to worry about garbage collection and for a year neither did one of our DBAs!
I can’t speak for other user groups, but I do know we’re probably very close to going back to in-person meetings in the near future so I’ll be dusting off the playbook and doing the above as well as other things in order to build up our successful in-person attendance again.
I look forward to seeing what other group leaders advise!