About Greg Moore

Founder and owner of Green Mountain Software, a consulting firm based in the Capital District of New York focusing on SQL Server. Consulting DBA ("and other duties as assigned") by day, and sometimes night, and caver by night (and sometimes day). When I'm not in front of a computer or with my family I'm often out hiking, biking, caving or teaching cave rescue skills.

Feeling Good but…

I think it would be fair to say that like everyone, I’m a bit sick of Covid (thankfully not sick from it.) I just got my booster on Friday and then I’m hearing about the Omicron variant.

I submitted talks for SQLBits in the UK for next year, hoping to present in person. And I’m hearing about numbers rising.

I’m planning a mini-vacation/cave rescue training trip to Hawai’i next year and making sure everything is refundable. Just in case.

So I’m feeling god but…

At the start of each year, I set some financial goals for myself. Some include what things I may pay off, save, or how I’ll spend it (now admittedly most of those are fixed, such as knowing I’ll tax property taxes, etc.) As a contractor I also set a couple of various goals for new work and how much I’ll hopefully earn in the coming year. I find these are important as they help keep me focused and moving forward.

The good news is, financially I’ve hit all my goals, and then some, this year. The downside, with that, and with Covid continually popping up its ugly head, I’ve lost some of my motivation for the rest of the year.

Fortunately, this has freed up some time for some projects around the house. Almost two years ago, with help from the kids, I started on a project to replace some leaking pipes and replace the resulting damaged drywall in the basement. I’m proud to say I’ve finally gotten around to taping and painting the drywall in the basement and patching around where I put in the new bathroom fan. Things get done, albeit slowly.

I’m also feeling good because a major project for one of my clients is mostly completed. But it also came very close to burning me out and I’ll admit I even considered walking away from the client over it. The strange part is that it wasn’t a particularly complicated project, though it did involve a combination of SQL, PowerShell, and using a product called Pentaho. Technically it was fairly straightforward. But, for awhile, the project management was absent and the then lead was actually another agency who, I think it’s safe to say didn’t clearly understand the full scope of the project. With the addition of the client adding their own PM and working with a different agency taking over a bunch of the work, things have gone much more smoothly. Now we’re simply dealing with small niggling details that got missed before.

What kept me from walking away (besides it being my largest client) was a sense of responsibility to the client. Without my efforts, I think the project would have easily been set back a month as they would have had to bring someone else up to speed on my efforts.

Now the upside is that because of the overtime required (and it’s still ongoing) I met my financial goals for the year (and hence now have time for the house projects). So that’s a good thing.

But it did highlight how frustrating being a single-person consulting agency can be at times. It’s made me re-evaluate my goals for 2022. I’ll be writing more about this in a future blog, but it has got me thinking more about getting back to working for an company as a full-time employee, ideally in a management position. Strangely one thing I’ve come to realize is I actually enjoy making decisions and I enjoy managing. I sort of miss it.

And perhaps after nearly 2 years of Covid (and nearly a decade of pure consulting), it’s time I get out of the house more and travel a bit and interact face to face with people.

We’ll see.

But that’s it for today. I’m feeling good but…

P.S. One thing I did finally accomplish is submitting my latest article to Redgate’s Simple-Talk.

Thanksgiving 2021

One of the holidays I’ve really come to enjoy over the years has been Thanksgiving. It’s also perhaps the one that has varied the most in my life. One of my earliest memories of it was when my parents were still married (I believe) and spending part of the afternoon playing some tag football with some friends the next street over in Falls Village. (Part of the reason that day was so memorable was the inadvertent discovery of some dog crap after sliding through it!)

After my parents divorced, typically my father and I would go to my paternal grandmother’s house in New Haven and then go out to dinner. She never cooked, for a variety of reasons, including the fact that her kitchen was rather cramped. I recall one year having to shovel out her driveway so we could get back out. Her house was a converted carriage barn at the bottom of a hill in the Westville part of New Haven.

We did this tradition for as long as she lived. But once she passed I decided to take up the tradition by doing it, first at our apartment in Troy, and then later our house. Over the years various friends and members of the family have joined us.

Thanksgiving 2014

While in college, I also did a few early-bird Thanksgivings with a couple of the groups I was involved with. One literally was an “early-bird” where it turns out the students responsible for cooking one of the two turkeys didn’t thaw it first and brought it to the event in a half-raw state. Fortunately my mom caught it in time, mentioned it to Dean Dave and we sidelined that turkey! Thankfully the second turkey was properly cooked and we could enjoy that and the other sides and desserts, including the apple pie I brought.

At some point my dad, who was never much of a cook himself, but enjoyed spending time with his family, suggested we start rotating it from year to year. He went so far as to buy a gas stove (haven gotten rid of the wood-fired kitchen stove well over a decade previously) just to have a place to cook the turkey. I suspect it’s the only time of the year the stove got use. Part of the tradition while driving there, at least for me, included tuning the radio until I could find at least one station that was playing Alice’s Restaurant (that’s the name of the song, not the restaurant of course). One year, we even took a very slight detour and took some photos of the family standing outside of a particular former church in West Stockbridge. (I should note, somewhere in the dirt bike race scene my father has me nestled in his CPO jacket while he’s standing next to my mom. Both were extras, as I suppose was I.)

We also would then on the third year, go to his half-sister’s house outside of Boston where she would host. One one hand I missed hosting every year, on the other hand it gave me a chance to enjoy someone else’s efforts. Unfortunately, this tri-yearly rotation did not last overly long. I think we got in two dinners at my father’s before 2015 when he passed away.

Since then, while we’ve enjoyed a few thanksgivings at my Aunt’s, both last year and this year have conspired to prevent us from gathering with here. Last year it was strictly due to Covid and this year, to other health issues. It’s frustrating as we’d love to see her again.

My Dad and my Aunt Thanksgiving 2013 in Boston

So, on Thanksgiving, I will miss my father and my aunt. But both kids are home from college, my mother will be joining us (since her mother passed several years ago, she’s started doing Thanksgiving at our house when it’s held here) and perhaps a few others.

I’ll watch the Macy’s parade while preparing the turkey and fixings and catch part of the Great American Dog Show.

We’ll go around the table before digging in and each give thanks for something in the last year. I think it’ll be easier this year than last year when the days were darker, not only because of the angle of the Sun, but also the general temper of the year.

And then, at some point, later that evening, probably around 8:00 PM, I’ll go to the fridge, carve off some leftover turkey, grab some mayonnaise, a dash of salt and bread and make myself a turkey sandwich.

Thanksgiving 2011

No matter where you are, or who you are with, I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. And here’s looking forward to 2022.

Summit Recap

As many of my readers know, last week was the 2021 PASS Data Community Summit hosted by Redgate. In the past I would have travelled to Seattle to attend in person. Last year, due to Covid the Summit became a virtual event. I was a bit disappointed since I had finally been selected to present and was looking forward to doing so in person. I ended up presenting virtually. That alone would have been disappointing enough, but there were other issues and basically the underlying structure that supported PASS and its structure went belly-up and declared bankruptcy.

More Thoughts on Last Year’s Summit

My recap last year was positive but I have to be honest now. I was certainly trying to put a good spin on things. The truth is, I was more frustrated than I originally let on. I’m still not only grossly disappointed by the poor closed-captioning, I’m still a bit offended. I’m as guilty as anyone for probably not being inclusive enough when it comes to things like color-blindness, difficulty of hearing, etc, but to know that the organization had weeks to get good closed-captioning done, and didn’t still offends me.

I was also extremely insulted when weeks before the Summit, User Group leaders were asked to pony up money to attend. A benefit of doing the work of leading a User Group has traditionally been a free ticket to Summit. To have that change weeks or just a few months before Summit, especially one that was going virtual definitely felt like a bait and switch.

This and some behind the scenes factors in regards to PASS had left a bitter taste in my mouth. Then of course we finally got word that PASS as an organization was no more.

There were wails of anguish, and rending of garments, and wearing of sackcloth. (ok, I may be overdramatizing a bit). But I was hopeful. As I stated then, PASS really is the community. It’s the people. And they’re some of the best people I’ve known professionally: #sqlfamily.

This Year’s Summit

So, on to Summit this year. Within months of the demise of the former structure, Redgate announced it was buying the intellectual property associated with PASS. Microsoft in the meantime was rolling out tools to help the user groups. Steve Jones was working on SQL Saturday. Things were looking good. I was hopeful.

Redgate announced the Pass Data Community Summit would happen, albeit virtually. I was excited and looking forward to it. That said, I’ll admit I did not put in to speak this year. I just didn’t have the motivation. This was a mark on me, not on Redgate’s efforts. Redgate also announced that while the precons would cost money, the Summit itself would be free. Last year there was a lot of discussion about charging for a virtual summit and while I defended the concept a bit, because there are still enormous costs associated, I also was not a fan of it, because I knew it would be a hard sell to managers. I think I was proven right there. The very preliminary numbers I heard for attendance this year appear to have FAR outpaced the numbers for last year. I think that’s a good sign.

So, enough rambling, what about Summit this year?

First two criticisms

I common complaint, and one I knew I was guilty of, was it was unclear that for many sessions one was supposed to watch the recorded session first and then attend what was essentially a live Q&A. I know for the first presentation I attended on Wednesday, even the presenter, who was in the Q&A was confused by this. I’ll admit, I never did figure out how to watch the recorded sessions beforehand.

The second was, I didn’t discover the Spatial.Chat system until the 2nd day, and that was only because I am a Friend of Redgate had received a specific email inviting me to a private chat.

Now, partly, I will put the blame for the above two criticisms squarely on myself for probably not reading the emails in enough detail. But, it does seem others had the same issue and perhaps more succinct, clear links or emails might have helped. I honestly don’t know.

The Positives

That said, despite the above criticisms, I really enjoyed Summit and in a huge part because once I learned about the Spatial.chat system and how to use it, I for the first time, felt like I was in a virtual space that closely mimicked real life. The idea of being able to move closer to people to hear them better, or to move away if I wanted to focus on some work but still be “part of the crowd” worked REALLY well. Trying to translate a physical presence into a virtual one is often tough, but I think the Spatial.Chat stuff worked really well. I found myself hanging out there more than anything else.

Since I never did figure out how to watch recorded stuff before the live Q&A, I focused on the actually live sessions and they did NOT disappoint. As usual, while folks talk about how great the social atmosphere is at Summit, the truth is we tell our bosses we go for the technical content and it was topnotch as expected. Once again great content!

I also really enjoyed the Keynotes this year. I’ll admit, because of jetlag and because I’m often up late talking with the college friends whose house I crash at while in Seattle, I am often late to the keynotes (if I make it at all) and sometimes doze off in the large, warm dark room. This year, none of that happened. I was entertained and really enjoyed them. I especially enjoyed Brent Ozar‘s Keynote on Friday and the impact of the Cloud on ones career.

I think this year’s Summit overall felt more positive for a number of reasons. For one, I think many of us are finally hoping to see a light at the end of the Covid Tunnel. For another, I think most of us are far more hopeful about the overall #SQLFamily community and future PASS Summits than we were a year ago. Finally, I think we just all felt the need to socialize again, albeit it virtually.

Redgate has already announced next year’s summit will be in Seattle again next year, but will be a hybrid event. I will be very curious to see how that works, but I can tell you right now I’m already budgeting to attend in person.

  • End note: I am a Friend of Redgate and write for their Simple-Talk blog. That said, in this case Redgate isn’t paying for my thoughts and my thoughts are my own.

Impact and Legacy

One of my favorite movies for many reasons is Dead Poet’s Society. Robin Williams is excellent in this role. Shortly after his death, Apple repurposed a short segment that I’ve always loved where he quotes my favorite poet, Walt Whitman: What will your verse be?

“That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” – Walt Whitman.

I’ve been thinking more about my legacy and the legacy of others and this week seemed a good time to muse on that. This is the week that in the past many of us would travel to Seattle (or in years before my time, other cities) and gather at PASS SQL Summit. This year things area bit different, but Pass Data Community Summit is happening, albeit remotely. Though at times like this, I can’t but help think of and riff on a line from the Passover Seder, “Perhaps next year in Seattle.” So in any case #SQLFamily is on my mind. And here’s my thoughts on the impact of some individuals.

Let me start with saying this is FAR from a comprehensive list of the people who have had an impact on me. If I didn’t name you, that’s more an oversight on my part and please don’t take it as a slight. And there’s really very little order to this.

Grant Fritchey – I’m sure I remember my meeting with Grant better than he remembers meeting me (is oft the case when a presenter or instructor teaches so many) but it was at a SQL Saturday in Boston where I first heard him speak, in this case on HIPAA. From there I learned not only more about SQL but about #SQLFamily itself and how important this community truly was.

Rie Irish – I want to say it was a SQL Saturday in Philadelphia, but I could be wrong. I was one of two men in her talk  Let Her Finish: Supporting Women’s Voices in Technology. Turns out the other was a friend she had asked to attend. I still wish more men had attended, it’s still a great topic. Rie has helped me be more aware of diversity issues in this community and called me out at least once or twice when I needed it. She’ll be speaking at my user group in a few months and can’t wait.

Andy Mallon – There’s just something infectious about being around Andy that no matter what my mood makes me want to smile.

Bob Ward – Despite him being a Dallas Cowboys fan, he’s an all-around good guy. More seriously, despite how hard he works for Microsoft, he always takes time out to speak to the community and I’ve been honored to have him speak at my local User Group more than once. And despite the general advice to “not type during a demo” he’s brave enough (or crazy enough) to pull out the debugger and debug SQL Server live!

Kathi Kellenberger aka Aunt Kathi – At my first Summit I attended a talk by her on writing a book. What a long strange trip it’s been since then. I wrote my first book and numerous articles for Redgate since then. And yes, I did say first book. I have ideas for others.

Jen and Sean McGowan – Not only have I spent plenty of time on their coach in their booth at Summit, I still find Sean’s class on regexp usage in SSMS, especially for find and replace to be one of the more useful technical skills I’ve learned that arguably isn’t really T-SQL specific.

Tracy Boggiano – For being their during Covid and for making me more aware of mental health issues. And I’m proud to say I’ve got her first ever signature on a book she co-authored with Grant Fritchey!

David Klee – My go to man on certain subjects who knows more about VMWare tuning than I’ll ever hope, let alone want to know. His current Twitter profile picture is a bit misleading, as it suggests a rather sedate, mild-mannered person, but the reality is there’s a mischievous streak there.

Deborah Melkin – I first saw her speak at our Albany SQL Saturday and was immediately impressed, especially as it was her first SQL Saturday. I immediately cornered her and didn’t so much ask as told her to prepare a topic to present to our user group. She happily obliged. One of the aspects I really like about her presentations is she can take a topic that may appear to be a 100 level topic, but still have something new to teach to experienced DBAs.

Andy Yun – I of course now can’t mention Deborah without bringing up Andy’s name. We first met at a SQL Saturday Chicago where I had a blast. At the time it was my most western SQL Saturday gig (since surpassed by two in Colorado Springs). Always helpful and just fun to be around.

Steve Jones – If nothing else, his Daily Coping Blog posts have been a light in my day (even I only skim them). That said, I honestly, don’t know how he gets time to write so much AND do actual work!

Hamish Watson – Despite being literally half a world away, great fun to be around and has shared his great chocolate me, and for that alone he gets a mention.

There are so many more folks that have had an impact: Monica Rathbun, Chris Bell and Gigi Bell, Andy Levy, John Morehouse, Matt Gordon, Kimberly Tripp, and so many more. If I’ve left a name off, I apologize. Honestly, there are dozens of members of the #SQLFamily that have had an impact on me. The only folks I’m not intentionally naming are folks local to me, simply because I want to focus on the larger, worldwide community as a whole. The folks local to me hopefully already know how important they are.

In years past, I’d be looking forward to seeing many of them in person at Summit, but this year the best I can do is perhaps see them virtually and remember them this way.

You may notice a theme too: the impact hasn’t always been directly database related. While it’s true I’ve learned some great database tips from everyone above, their impact has been larger than that. And all of the above folks are more than simply folks who “work on the Microsoft Data Platform”. They’re folks who have lives outside of that. Some rock-climb, some run up buildings, some love to cook, others love to bake, others love to work on their houses, or love to talk about their dogs or cats. And I care about all of them

They’ve each introduced a verse (or more) into the powerful play of both #SQLFamily and to my life. And I’m eternally grateful. Thank you.

Feeling Older

This is probably far from the last time I’m going to write on the subject, and certainly not as in depth as I plan to someday, but this past week made me feel past my prime.

While in many ways I believe age is just a number, the truth is, it does change us. While I am still very active, such as biking a century ride last year, still caving and teaching cave rescue, the reality is, the body and mind are slowing.

I’ve been working with SQL Server in one form or another since 4.21. I’ve spoken at PASS Summit, I’ve presented at more SQL Saturdays and User Groups than I can remember. I’ve published a book and numerous Red Gate articles and I’ve mentored more than a few people over the decades. I’ve worked at two start-ups (not counting mergers and acquisitions) and been a consultant before, between and after those gigs.

So I think I can safely say I’m comfortable with my credentials.

That said, the past week really made me consider if it was time to hang up my cap, or at least change caps again. I won’t go into details, other than to say a particularly stressful project for one of my clients reached a major milestone. I’m actually just one small cog in a much bigger piece of the project, but it’s a fairly important cog. And, it had issues. Now, I’ll put on my shoulders that a bit was due to issues with my code and some assumptions I had made. Most of the issues actually stemmed at a far higher level and with another consultant agency working on the project. Let’s just say that GIGO still thrives. But some of it I realized was, I was slightly off my game, and I think a bit of brain fog was involved. I don’t know if that was age related, simply a result of being cooped up for well over the last year due to Covid or what.

Regardless, the culmination of all that and other issues, some personal, started to come to a head. By Friday I was seriously wondering how much more I had left in the tank, physically and mentally.

Today I will admit I’m in a better place. The last major piece of code I needed to get working finally succeeded in production last night and the GIGO problems seem to be disappearing.

But that was after a long weekend of introspection about where I’m headed. I am at that age where retirement is no longer some far off nebulous goal, but an actual reality I have to consider. I’ve always known I’ll probably never truly retire; I do enjoy being busy and working too much. However, I have for several years now done the delicate balance between making sure I hit certain target goals for income and actually enjoying my work. Last week that balance was way off. I need to get it back.

This is my long-winded way of saying that for the first time in years, I’m honestly not sure what I’ll be doing a year from now. Perhaps I’ll still be consulting in my current form and enjoying it. Perhaps I’ll go back to a full-time 9-5 gig; I have come to realize, I deeply miss the management side of work. For my two stints as a full-time employee I was a manager and honestly, I loved that. I miss it. Perhaps I’ll be consulting in a very different way going forward. Maybe I’ll invest in real-estate. Perhaps become a vagabond teaching cave rescue across the country (this last one is not as far fetched as it sounds, I am planning on teaching at least 2 if not 3 different classes next year.)

But I think change is coming again. It’s the season.

Extruding Keratin

I have been thinking about getting a 3D printer for awhile and even briefly looked at getting one during the height of the pandemic last year. Then a meme on Facebook made me laugh and got me thinking. It was a graphic of Skeletor saying how your head is simply 3D printing hair. I pointed out that fingers are doing the same thing.

And as most will probably recall from high school, hair and nails are basically both keratin so it’s the same basic thing, just in a slightly different form.

First, I have to say, I find it amazing and wonderful on how conservative nature really is in the form of evolution. It really makes a lot of sense when one things about it. Once a basic structural protein has evolved, it’s probably easier making certain tweaks to it that are good enough for other uses than expecting something completely new to evolve. Hair and nails fill very different functions, but adapting keratin structures for each use works well enough.

Perhaps one can think of evolution as a bit object oriented and keratin is the base object and nail and hair are simply inheriting its features and deriving new classes.

Anyway, as a side effect of all this, humans especially have, pretty much as far back as we can look, modified hair and nails. It’s one way we distinguish ourselves from each other.

Head Hair

In my personal life I’ve both paid a lot of attention to my own hair grooming habits and very little. In ways I’ve experimented with its length and style over the decades. My grandfather apparently had very strict ideas on hair length and was known to give money to bagboys at the supermarket if he spied long hair and would tell them to get a hair cut. I don’t think he’d have approved of most of my hair experiments.

In high school, we had a dress code that wasn’t overly strict, basically it was boys hair could not be longer than “lightly touching the shirt collar.” That was fine for me. Beyond that, I probably didn’t pay much more attention to my hair than that. A few years later I met a fellow graduate (he was probably 6 years behind me) that had a mohawk that he had maintained while attending the same high school. He pointed out that when spiked out, it was no where near his collar and when it wasn’t, it flopped over and was still just lightly touching the collar. I have to applaud him for both following the letter of the rule, and completely flaunting expectations.

Back in the 90s when the original version of MacGyver was popular, mullets came into being. I’ll admit to being a fan of MacGyver for many reasons and it may or may not have influenced my hair style for a bit. Later I grew a bit of a rat-tail. I liked it for a number of reasons. Strangely, I found it sort of helped me as a consultant. I could dress in business casual, and look serious when meeting a client, but then they’d notice I had a bit of the look they expected from a computer geek. I’ll admit too, I didn’t mind the attraction some women found for it.

But, as I got a bit older, and honestly, as the gray started to appear, I decided I had to either grow out all my hair and go with the 60s hippy look (something I probably could have pulled off honestly, and had the family history for) or trim it. And so trim it I did. Since then, until recently I’d go in for the obligatory hair cut, but that was about it. At first I didn’t really care who cut my hair. I’d go to a place, take the first open chair and let them go to work. That stopped after one stylist kept butchering my hair shorter and shorter trying to fix the mistakes she kept making. I got up, paid and walked out.

Then while working in DC I happened to find a stylist I liked and would wait for her to cut my hair. Once back home, it took me a while to find another one I liked. She eventually moved but recommended someone else, who I liked. Then Covid hit.

At first I just let me hair grow, but finally it started to annoy me enough I ended up joining the crowd and buying a set of clippers with attachments. Now, I cut my own hair on a more regular basis than I did before Covid and according to my wife, I’m getting pretty good at it. She still helps me trim the very back but that’s about it.

Beard

In the summer between my Freshman and Sophomore years of college, I went on a road trip with a college friend. He had a full beard. We both shaved the day before we left. Three weeks later we arrived home. It looked like he hadn’t shaved. My dad’s only comment (who was bearded) was “Oh, trying to grow a beard?” It was evident then and for decades later that any beard growth for me would be an exercise in either futility or patience.

But Covid changed that. Sometime last year I decided though to give up shaving. No real reason other than, “Hey it’s Covid, why not?” And since I wasn’t going to be seeing clients, visiting people, etc. I could take my time. Though in some ways too it was very much an experiment, “let’s see what can happen?” This time the beard took. Again I’ve played with lengths. At the longest, it was probably an inch long and very fuzzy. I sort of liked it, but my wife wasn’t and I also felt I wanted something that looked less “mountain man” and a bit more professional. So now I keep it trimmed fairly close and like that even more. That said, I suspect sometime in the next year or two it’ll finally go. It may make reappearances later in my life.

I started this post talking about a meme and evolution, but it’s grown. Funny that. And it’s down done growing.

Nails

One last bit though. I also mentioned nails. I suppose one could say over the past few months I’ve done some experimenting with those. At least the ones on my left hand. I’ve often had a slightly longer pinky nail, useful if only for a deep satisfying scratch or the like. But this time I’ve let all of them grow and well it’s been interesting. The pinky, because it had a head start is visibly longer. The others, from the backside, just now peaking over the pads of my fingers.

And, I’ve learned a lot:

  • For example, within the past few days, removing contacts has become a bit trickier given the way I’ve done it. I have to be very careful to make sure only the pads of my fingers are there, and I don’t scrape the cornea with my nails. (I thought I had a few days ago. That’s a hard thought to fall asleep to. Trust me.
  • Scratching myself definitely gives different feelings between the right (trimmed) and left hands.
  • Typing is a tad different.
  • Putting on an oven mitt was a surprising difference, at least with the extra-long pinky nail. Hard to describe, but I can’t pull it on quite as far and as a result gripping stuff is a bit different.
  • I find in general, with my left hand I have to be a bit more dainty in my usage, both to protect the nails and in some cases to protect what I’m handling (see contacts above).

As I was musing on what to write this week, that thought above really ran through my head; in two ways. The first being how the longer nails, even at this fairly short length, has impacted hand movements. But also on the adjective. At first I was going to say something like feminine, but realized that wasn’t accurate. I think it’s mostly because at this point in society, while we may associate long nails with being a feminine quality, there’s nothing inherently feminine about them. Men and women, cis or trans can obviously grow them. They are much like hair in this aspect. For years, as my grandfather seemed to believe, men had short hair and women had long (his wife, my grandmother had gorgeous red hair that cascaded down her back). But again this is simply a cultural norm, not an inherent characteristic. We look back at Samson with long hair and it was considered a sign of virility. And in 20th century America, women wearing short hair has also become acceptable. So obviously hair length itself doesn’t have a feminine or masculine inherent characteristic.

Conclusion

We assign to many things characteristics that are not an inherent part of them. Fortunately, in my mind society is getting better about this, though there are still far too many people that insist that their definitions are an inherent truth.

As for me, my head hair, I’ll probably keep cutting myself when it gets long enough to annoy me, the beard will stay until it doesn’t and the nails, we’ll see. Who knows, maybe I’ll paint them once before I trim them, or maybe I’ll simply cut to trimming them. It’s been an interesting experiment, and I’ve enjoyed it, but also not something I’m necessarily huge on keeping. But that’s ok. It’s my body and I’ll do what I want.

But I think if it weren’t for Covid, I might not have experimented like I did above. Both age, and the time of being away from people, has given me a little more confidence to explore, both my own expectations of my body and presentation and just in general. It’s one of the few good things to come out of Covid for me.

Speaking Again

Last week I spoke remotely for the Sioux Falls SQL User Group. Adam Hafner had approached me several years ago about speaking at their SQL Saturday event. As much as I was interested, I just couldn’t fit it into my schedule at the time.

More recently he approached me again about speaking, this time at their user group meeting. I hesitated at first, but finally agreed. My hesitation had nothing to do with the group itself, but because I had not spoken in awhile and am still suffering from a bit of what I consider burn-out from Covid and had two less than stellar experiences speaking remotely.

As a User Group Leader, I’m often in the in the position of trying to find speakers and I know how much work that can be at times. And as I’ve noted in the past, I like to give back to the #SQLFamily community that has given me so much. So I said ultimately yes.

I have a variety of topics I can speak on (my favorite though is still my talk about Plane Crashes and IT) and when I’m in a regular rhythm of talking, I can probably give almost any of them on short notice and with little practice. That said, ideally I will run through any of my talks at least once in full again before I present it in front of people. This helps me with pacing, remembering what slides come when, ensuring I don’t forget points I want to cover, and equally important, not straying too far off topic. If the talk requires demos, I DEFINITELY want to run through it at least once or twice before I present.

In this case, since I think I had only presented a SQL talk twice since PASS Summit last year and it was even longer since I gave this talk (A Dive into System Databases), and this one is particularly demo heavy, so I definitely wanted to practice. And it was frankly a damn good thing I did. One demo didn’t work at all. I realized after 30 minutes of struggling with it, that it had never worked and I had simply forgotten that. (Though the comment at the top of the code Do Not Demo might have been a clue to me I should have heeded. I just couldn’t remember why I had written that). Another demo quite honestly, didn’t work nearly as well as I would have liked, in part I believe because I had written the demo for SQL Server 2014 or 2016 and was now running that machine on 2017. I didn’t have time to rewrite the demo, but I did have time to revise my comments and put the issues into context.

The other demos ran according to plan, but being able to run through them again helped me group my thoughts and comments so I could present them more effectively.

Ideally I would have had one more chance to run through my entire talk before I presented it, but I just didn’t have the time. I’ll admit it was not my best effort, sorry Sioux Falls folks, but it wasn’t one I am ashamed of either. And it was far better than if I had not run through it at all.

One of the issues with giving a remote talk is you don’t get nearly as much feedback from the audience. That can also be discouraging. And I won’t shame any particular user group, but there was a group I presented to remotely in the last year where it went quite honestly from my ending it with “Any Questions?” and getting none to having the organizer within seconds basically saying, “Thanks Greg. Ok folks, meeting is over” and closing the session. The lack of any feedback, positive or negative was really discouraging (hint to organizers of remote sessions, don’t do that.)

In this case I had several questions and we chatted briefly afterwards before the session ended. I also ended up with at least 2 additional followers on Twitter. I’ll take that as a good sign.

I think as the time of Covid is hopefully ending I’ll be looking at speaking more and more. I still prefer in person (and have one scheduled next year for the Hampton Roads SQL User Group) but will probably still do a few more remote ones.

Writing this, I realized I had ignore an interview I recently did with an old college friend and a partner of hers. It’s not a presentation, so didn’t come to mind when I was writing the words above. The interview was about an hour, but they managed to break it up into 2 different videos, with some overlap.

Subject2Change – Caves

Subject2Change – Leadership, Risks and Cave Rescues

Inbound and Outbound to NYC

I still recall the first computer program I wrote. Or rather co-wrote. It was a rather simple program, in Fortran I believe, though that’s really an educated guess. I don’t have a copy of it. It was either in 7th or 8th grade when several of us were given an opportunity to go down to the local high-school and learn a bit about the computer that they had there. I honestly have NO idea what kind of computer it was, perhaps a PDP-9 or PDP-11. We were asked for ideas on what to program and the instructor quickly ruled out our suggestion of printing all numbers from 1 to 1 Million. He made us estimate how much paper that would take.

So instead we wrote a program to convert temperature Fahrenheit to Celsius. The program was as I recall a few feet long. “A few feet long? What are you talking about Greg?” No, this was not the printout. This wasn’t how much it scrolled on the screen. Instead it was the length of the yellow (as I recall) paper tape that contained it. The paper tape had holes punched into it that could be read by a reader. You’d write your program on one machine, and then take it over to the computer and feed it into the reader and it would run it. I honestly don’t recall how we entered the values to be converted, if it was already on the tape or through some other interface. In any case, I loved it and fell in love with computers then. Unfortunately, somewhere over the years, that paper tape has since disappeared. That saddens me. It’s a memento I wish I still had it.

In four or five short years, the world was changing and quickly. The IBM PC had been released while I was in high school and I went from playing a text adventure game called CIA on a TRS-80 Model II to programming in UCSD Pascal on an original IBM PC. (I should note that this was my first encounter with the concept of a virtual machine and p-code machine.) This was great, but I still wanted more. Somewhere along the line I encountered a copy of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator. I loved it. In January of 1985 my dad took me on a vacation to St. Croix USVI. Our first step on that trip was a night in NYC before we caught our flight the next morning. To kill some time I stepped into 47th Street Photo and bought myself a copy of Flight Simulator. It was the first software I ever bought with my own money. (My best friend Peter Goodrich and I had previously acquired a legal copy of DOS 2.0, but “shared” it. Ok, not entirely legal, but hey, we were young.)

I still have the receipt.

For a High School Student in the 80s, this wasn’t cheap. But it was worth it!

I was reminded of this the other day when talking with some old buddies that I had met when the Usenet sci.space.policy was still the place to go for the latest and greatest discussions on space programs. We were discussing our early intro to computers and the like.

I haven’t played this version in years, and honestly, am not entirely sure I have the hardware any more that could. For one thing, this version as I recall was designed around the 4.77Mhz speed of the original IBM PC. This is one reason that some of my readers may recall when the PC AT clones came out running the 80286 chip running at up to 8Mhz (and faster for some clones) there was often a switch to run the CPU at a slower speed because many games otherwise simply ran twice as fast and as a result the users couldn’t react fast enough. So even if I could find a 5 1/4″ floppy and get my current machine to read the drives in a VM, I’m not sure I could clock down a VM slow enough to play this. But, I may have to do this one of these days. Just for the fun of it.

I still have the original disks and documentation that came with it.

Flying outbound from NYC

A part of me does wonder if this is worth anything more than the memories. But for now, it remains in my collection; along with an original copy of MapInfo that was gifted to me by one of the founders. But that’s a stroll down memory lane for another day.

And then I encountered SQL Server only a short 6 or so years later. And that ultimately has been a big part of where I am today.

Updating My Avatar

A want to thank in part, fellow DBA, Cathrine Wilhelmsen for the topic today. She posted a tweet this morning asking we all look like our Twitter profile pictures when we meet again at in-person events. I replied that I wasn’t sure I was ready to shave my beard. So, instead, in the meantime, I updated my avatar on Twitter photo to my latest headshot, which does include a beard. I figure I can always shave it and update my photo later.

I was at a loss for a topic today until that tweet came in and then a request from Adam Hafner came in reminding me to send him an updated bio for my upcoming talk at his User Group in Sioux Falls later this month.

Between these two events, it was another reminder of how much as changed in the last 18 or so months and how much will change again in the next 18 months. For example, I signed up to do an in-person User Group presentation next May for the Hampton Roads SQL Server User Group.

The beard is perhaps my most obvious change. But I’ve also come to realize how much I miss my #SQLFamily. I’ve been fortunate in the past 18 months to teach two in-person cave rescue classes and still avoid Covid. And yet, I missed travelling. I miss getting out. Last month my wife and I drove our out to Buffalo to help my son move into his apartment for his final semester of college. That’s the furthest I’ve been from home in 18 months. Other than teaching the cave rescue courses about 30 miles away, I don’t think I’ve slept under another roof in all that time. This is unusual for me.

I had even stopped doing remote SQL presentations. My writing for Redgate dropped off (though I just had a new article published, check it out here!)

But, that’s all starting to slowly change. I can feel the winds shifting and I think next year will be a great year for travel and I’m excited about it.

And, I may or may not have a beard. Hopefully you’ll recognize me. And I hope I recognize you.

The World Wonders

I mentioned recently that I had picked up a copy of the book The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors. I just finished it and would highly recommend it. The author, James Hornfischer does an excellent job of interweaving the fates of the ships and their crews over the course of several chapters. There’s an excellent sense of the fear and sense of duty among the sailors. He also includes several maps to help one orient themselves as they read about the battle unfolding. He appears to have done his research, which includes numerous interviews with the survivors, reading of the ships logs and more. The one area of missing information, and he admits it, is an adequate understanding of the Japanese side of the battle. This appears in part to be due to a lack of access to such logs and I suspect a language barrier and the difficulty of travelling to Japan.

I mention this because it’s important to understand that the story he writes, nearly 60 years after the battle gives a far fuller picture of what happened than any of the participants had that day. But even now that story is missing pieces.

To quickly recap, the Imperial Japanese Navy was given the mission of breaking up MacArthur’s landings on Leyte in order to reclaim the Philippines. Like many Japanese naval plans it was audacious but also required meticulous planning and timing. And it involved a decoy fleet. This is an important element to what precipitated the last stand. At this point in the war (late 1944), the Japanese Navy had few planes and few experienced pilots, so their aircraft carriers were not an effective force. This despite the fact that the Japanese had shown at Pearl Harbor that the future of surface naval warfare was almost exclusively to be done via aircraft. So they decided to use their aircraft carriers as bait for the Third Fleet commanded by Admiral Halsey. A bait he took; hook, line and sinker.

This left the northern edge of the Seventh Fleet, guarding the San Bernardino Strait basically undefended except for 3 task forces, Taffies 1-3, with just a slew of “jeep” carriers and destroyers and destroyer escorts. Taffy 3 was the northernmost of these and the ones directly engaged by the Japanese fleet. They were soon to be met be the IJN Yamato and and the rest of Admiral Kurita’s fleet of battleships and cruisers. By any measure, Taffy 3 was outgunned and outmatched. Yet, by the end of the day, despite the loss of 2 destroyers, 1 destroyer escort, and 2 escort carriers, the Japanese fleet had lost 3 heavy cruisers, 3 more damaged, a destroyer damaged and the loss of 52 aircraft (compared to the US losing 23) and was in full retreat.

At this point, and for the last 77 years one could reasonably ask, “why?” What drove Admiral Kurita’s decision to withdraw. Unfortunately, most of the answers are predicated on guesswork, educated guesswork, but still guesswork all the same. The simple answer appears to be two fold. For one, he didn’t know if Admiral Halsey had taken the bait, and in fact it appears that he didn’t think Halsey had, and that he was in fact attacking the fleet carriers, not escort carriers, and hence a much larger American fleet than was actually present. But despite his erroneous belief about the American Third Fleet’s position, he was most likely correct in his appraisal of the future of the mission: he did not believe he could continue forward and disrupt the landings. Since that was the primary goal of his mission and it most likely would fail, it appears he saw no point in risking the rest of his fleet and withdrew.

One can speculate what would have happened had he continued on with the battle. My personal, and mostly uneducated guess, is that he probably would have succeeded in sinking the other 2 carriers of Taffy 3 and perhaps the rest of the destroyers and destroyer escorts. However, his position was extremely precarious with the growing number of American aircraft starting to make sorties from Taffy 2 and from an improvised airstrip the Army had prepared and the pilots from Taffy 3 had basically taken over. It’s most likely he would have ended up with several more of his own ships on the ocean floor, including the Yamato.

So, he made what he thought was the best decision based on the information he had at the time. As did Halsey when he took the bait of the Northern Force of the basically defanged Japanese carriers.

So why do I recap all of this? Because I think it’s topical to a lot of what we do at times. This past weekend I was upgrading a SQL Server for a customer. Fairly routine work. And I ran into problems. Things I wasn’t expecting. It threw me off. Fortunately I was able to work around the issues, but it got me thinking about other upgrades and projects I’ve done.

The reality is, in IT (as well as life) we make plans to get things done. Sometimes they’re well thought out plans with lots of research done prior to the plan and everything is written down in detail to make sure nothing is forgotten.

And then… something unexpected happens. The local internet glitches. It turns out there’s a patch missing you had been told was there. Or there’s a patch there you didn’t know was there. Or a manager unexpectedly powers down the server during your data center move without telling you (yes, that happened to me once).

When things go majorly wrong, we’ll do a post-mortem. We’ll look back and say “Oh, that’s where things went wrong.” But we have to remind ourselves, at the time, we didn’t know better. We may not have had all the information on hand. When reviewing decisions, one has to separate “what do we know now” from “what did they know then.”

Now we know, “…Halsey acted stupidly” to quote a famous movie. He shouldn’t have taken the bait. We know Kurita probably should have turned back earlier (since the other half of the pincer had been turned back by the Seventh Fleet, putting the Japanese plan in serious jeopardy, or perhaps pressed on a bit longer before turning back (and taking out a few more escort carriers). But we shouldn’t judge their decisions based on what we know, but only on what they knew then.

Finally, I’m going to end with a quote from the battle. Spoken by Lieutenant Commander Robert W. Copeland of the USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413) to his crew over the 1MC “This will be a fight against overwhelming odds from which survival cannot be expected. We will do what damage we can.” And that they did. Among other things they launched their torpedoes at the IJN heavy cruiser Chōkai, hitting and disabling it and then took on another Japanese cruiser with their 5″ guns until finally a shell took out their remaining engine room and they ended up dead in the water.

I can’t begin to fathom the heroism and bravery of the men of Taffy 3 that day. If you can, find the time to get a copy of the book and to read it.

P.S. The title of this post has an interesting story of its own, and I know at least one reader will know it all to well.