To Sleep, perchance to Dream…

Ay, there’s the rub.

As I mentioned last week, I’ve been putting in a lot of hours in the ED. Between that and my school schedule, sometimes sleep is at a premium. This is the one area where I most recognize my age. When I was less than half my age I could easily pull an all-nighter and then be raring to go the next day. Now, not so much. Now I need to make up that sleep.

Fortunately, with my school schedule and consulting schedule, I’m allowed that precious time known as “a nap.” Sometime in our youth we start to resist naps. I suspect because we don’t need them and there’s too much of the world to see. Then at some point we look forward to them. Or at least recognize the need for them. For me there’s still too much of the world to see and things to to, but alas, I need my sleep.

I’m also fortunate for an ability I’ve gained over the years, even if my family at time will laugh at me for it; the ability to fall asleep almost anywhere at almost any time. I’m at the point where if you put me on a plane, it’s Pavlovian and I’ll fall asleep before pushback.

So yes, sometimes I’ll work until 3:30 AM and have class at 9:00 Am, but fortunately I can squeeze in some makeup sleep later in the day. And I’m glad for that.

I am curious to see how things will be once I’m in PA School. But that’s for another time.

Winter Finally

I’ll have to admit, I actually tend to like the winter. Though I haven’t enjoyed it as much lately as I probably should. In fact, I should be more specific. I enjoy certain weather associated with winter. I don’t necessarily like the season unless I get that weather. Bluntly, I like snow.

I like the quietness during a nighttime snowfall. I love the white blanket over everything. I’m also one of those rare birds that actually likes driving in the snow. Of course since I have a Subaru with all-wheel drive, that probably contributes to it.

What I don’t like are the cold, dreary, wet days without snow. Those are the worst. I’d rather have it be 20F and snowing, then 33F and raining.

So, overall, this winter has basically been a bust around here. In fact, over the decades, we’ve had more winters that I didn’t enjoy than when I was younger. It’s not so much because I’ve gotten older, but because they have for the most part gotten more mild.

So I can genuinely say, I’ve appreciated the snow that came over the weekend for us. Finally some real snow. Snow that if I were more inclined, I could make a snow man out of. Or I could make a snow fort out of. Or, had I made the time, driven in when the roads were still covered.

So, I’ll enjoy the snow we got.

The picture that should appear with this post is back from 2003!

“Help me put out the drunk cat”

Just a short post today. The title comes from the little bit of a dream that I recall from last night. It was something my father said in my dream. There’s really no meaning to it more than what it seems. In the dream he needed help catching and putting the very overweight and drunk cat outside. Don’t ask me why the cat was drunk or why it had to go outside (though I suspect that’s a better place for a drunk cat).

Why do I mention this seemingly random line? It’s because it’s an insight into how my dreams of my father have progressed. In my dream I heard my father’s voice. This is very bittersweet for me. Of all the tangible things I miss the most since he’s gone it is his voice I miss the most. For awhile I didn’t dream of him at all. After a while I’d start to have dreams with him in them. They were often variations on discovering that he was actually alive and we had to figure out how to undo selling his estate and all that paperwork. Then my dreams changed a bit and within a dream I’d remind myself that it was only a dream. Then they changed again. This time it was an inner voice telling me, that at least this time it wasn’t a dream. Those were hard to wake up from. But they also all had one other thing in common. He was always silent in them.

That was the hardest, I was forgetting his voice.

That too has changed over time. More often now when I dream of him, I hear his voice in my dreams. I couldn’t tell you what it sounds like and honestly, I’m not sure it’s really HIS voice, but in the dream it seems to be and that’s good enough.

I miss him every day, but some days, it’s his voice I miss the most.

I am in the Right Place

A couple of weeks ago I asked “Am I in the Right Place?” The question will always be in the back of my mind and I think that’s a bit healthy. I think any time anyone gets too sure of themselves, especially when lives are involved, it’s a bad idea. That said, I’ve now done 3 shifts in the Emergency Department (ED) and the answer to my question is “yes.”

In 36 hours I’ve learned a lot. I’ve done at least 2 dozen EKGs and only had to repeat one of them at doctor’s request. I’ve done more than my share of Covid Swabs. I’ve done a psych sit. And one of my fellow techs let me practice a straight stick blood draw on her. According to her I did well (she commented on her lack of bruise the next day). I’ve also done chest compressions. I’ve also sat around with nothing to do. That’s rare and one savors those moments.

I’ve had sore feet and one night as I got into my car my lower back froze and I couldn’t move for a few seconds. I’ve gotten dehydrated because I had forgotten my water bottle one day and it was too long between getting some water. I’ve snacked on the run (fortunately however, as an orient, I’m in theory guaranteed an actual food break which I’ve taken advantage of so far, but once I’m beyond orient status that may no longer be available).

I’ve worked to 2 12-hour shifts back to back and then gotten up on the 3rd day to make it to A&P Lab after only 6 hours of sleep.

But, though I’m only 3 shifts in (and about to run my 4th) after the first night I was confident I’m in the right place. I’m gaining confidence in my skills and abilities and I’m earning the trust of my colleagues. And at the end of the day, I’m enjoying what I’m doing. At least so far. We’ll see what I’m saying in 6 months or 12 months.

But at the end of the day, so far, yes, I think I’m in the right place.

And now the obligatory disclaimer that I do not speak for my employer Albany Medical Health Systems and my views are entirely my own.

Having Faith

Over a week ago, I had someone tell my wife that they were excited about my applying to PA school and they’d love to be my patient if I make it. While I appreciated their faith in me, I reminded my wife that if my career choice goes in the direction it does, my preference would be to work in an Emergency Department and as such, that person might not want to be my patient. This reminded me of a time when a friend was giving me a tour of the med-flight helicopter he worked on and showed me the logo that was on the ceiling above where a patient would be laying on a stretcher and joked few people saw it the way I did. In fact he added, many in a position to see it from a stretcher were often not in a good enough shape to really see anything.

Last week on social media I posted a bit about a specific concern I had in the process. It was more a comment than anything else. I generally don’t post such things looking for support or the like, it’s often more a stream of consciousness. Well the amount of “attaboys” and “you’ve got this” was uplifting and encouraging. Now the truth be told, most of the folks posting didn’t know the specific details of concerns and while I appreciated the sentiment, it didn’t change the actual reality. But that’s ok.

Here’s the thing. I might not succeed. I might hit a roadblock. I might find a class that simply stumps me. I might find my time in the ED to be such a negative experience that I decide to go back to being a fulltime DBA. Most of all, even with all the prep work, there’s no guarantee my primary (or even backup) schools of choice will accept me. Simply statistically, the odds are long. (Fortunately it’s not as simple as a roll of dice, there’s a lot more to the process than simply that.) But at the end of the day, knowing people have my back, for better or for worse, helps hugely. It’s not so much “how can I fail when I have so many people cheering me on” as much as “whether I succeed or fail, people will support me”. That makes the effort that much easier. And for that I’m grateful.

So, a year from now, I really hope to be able to tell folks, “yes, I was accepted” but even if I’m not, I’ll know they have faith in me. That’s helps more than I can express. Thank you.

Transitions and Regrets?

I was originally going to write a bit on the death of Queen Elizabeth II and reflections of mortality in general but thought I’d talk about a bit more about a more personal change.

It’s not news to my readers that I’m working to get into PA School. If all goes well, this means eventually I’ll move completely out of being a DBA and purely into the medical world. But this is not a quantum leap (which I have to say, I was pleased with the premiere of the new series last night). Things are not happening over night. I still have course work and patient contact hours to get in. The process is somewhat gradual. But, due to a biological need to sleep, it does mean I need to balance my obligations and in some cases turn my back on certain things.

I was reminded of one of those yesterday: PASS Summit. I’ve written about my previous experiences here and here and more. I’ve really loved my time visiting Seattle to attend it. I also enjoyed presenting, albeit it virtually. Besides being a great opportunity to meet with vendors and to attend a LOT of great sessions, it’s a great place to make friends and to catch up with friends. And yet, I’m not going this year. Under the old scheme, I had the advantage of being a User Group leader and as such getting a free pass. This helped me cost-wise, which as an independent consultant was a bonus. That wasn’t available this time around, so that figured into the decision a bit. But perhaps far more decisive was that I really don’t feel like I can take the time off from school.

What makes this doubly tough on me is that there are a lot of friends I really was hoping to catch up with in person and the fact that for the first time, I’d be an actual Friend of Redgate, an honor I’m proud of and with Redgate being the folks in charge, something I wanted to be more a part of than in the past.

I also did not put in to speak this year, because I knew I’d have classes during this time. I had been excited to be picked in 2020 to speak. The impact of Covid forced the conference to go virtual which dampened my excitement some.

So at the end of the day I had decided not to go and pushed the decision to the back of my mind. I figured I had no real regrets.

Then yesterday, a client asked me some questions about Summit and asked me to suggest some sessions that his people might get value out of and to give him some other notes about Summit.

So I had to pull the scab off the wound and to look at all the sessions. I of course saw a lot that applied to my client, but also some I knew I’d be interested in. And of course I saw easily a dozen names of people that I knew. This reminded me how much I’ll miss the social aspect of Summit. So it hit home. I’m going to miss Summit. The regrets are there.

I’ve given a lot of thought over the last 9 months about how my decision to apply for PA School would impact my life. Slowly pulling away from the #SQLFamily is one of them.

This doesn’t mean it’s going to be a complete break just yet. I actually have hopes of applying to speak at Summit next year since by then I should have all my pre-reqs done and have the time to attend. But in the meantime, I have to sometimes pull back from #SQLFamily events to focus on school and I’d be lying if that didn’t hurt a bit. What smooths this some though is exactly how much I’m enjoying my work to move towards PA School. So, on the balance, it’s worth it so far.

Why Bicycling Can Be Hard

I’ll start off my apologizing for two things: First there are no pictures, and second this is basically a rant.

As many of my readers know, I love to bicycle. Last week I wrote about buying my new bike. The first few days I took it out for short rides, call them test rides. I have been slowing expanding the envelope of how comfortable I feel with the bike. For example its braking characteristics are a bit different so I’m learning how fast I can safely stop.

So that said, Sunday was the 2nd annual CASSUG BBQ. The location is about 10 miles from my house. I did this ride last year and figured a good 20 mile round trip was a good expansion of my test rides (more on that distance in a little bit). One nice thing about this particular ride is that a fair portion of it is on a bike trail. Despite a headwind from the north, I made it to the bike trail without much problem. Then about 1-2 miles in I approached one of the underpasses and started to note debris all over the trail. For the next 1/2 mile or so the trail varied from covered with sticks, sawdust and other debris to totally rutted. From what I could tell, some maintenance crew had been through clearing trees and replacing probably a water line or other underground line. It was quite clear there was little regard for keeping the trail passible while this was done. I preserved on, but was annoyed.

I was even more annoyed when I noticed at the north end of this area of work, there was an actual detour sign. There had been no such warning coming from the south. This got me thinking, you’d never see this on a road for cars. In such a case, even if the road were left open, there would at least be signs in BOTH directions warning drivers.

After the BBQ, because I was feeling good and because I have certain goals each month, and one of them is a long ride of a particular distance, decided to try for that goal on Sunday, in this case 40 miles. So I rode further along the trail before turning around. This was a nice pleasant ride and I got to see more than I had in the past. For those who are local, this included biking UNDER the Twin Bridges, which was sort of cool.

Once I turned around, I figured when I hit the detour, I’d follow the signs and end back up on the trail past the bad section. Sure enough I followed the first detour sign and then… nothing. There were no more signs showing how to get back on to the bike trail past the broken up section. Again, I can’t imagine road maintenance would be quite so blithe about such a thing (and in fact, right near my house there’s been a bridge under repair for 3-4 months now and all the detour signs are clearly posted).

Fortunately I had a good sense of where I was and a good sense of direction so I followed the city streets in the right general direction. Suddenly I came across another, different bike trail headed in the right direction. I figured this was great, I’d avoid traffic and enjoy the ride.

Sadly I was again mistaken. This bike trail varied from paved for about 100 yards to gravel for another 100 yards back to paved and then back to gravel. There seemed to be no rhyme no reason for these changes, it was almost like someone randomly decided to pave only sections of it. This trail eventually dumped me out on one of the most potholed roads I’ve ever been on.

Fortunately that was only about 3 blocks from the end of the original bike trail and from there I was back on track. I finally got back on course and headed south. Of course by now the headwind had done a 180 and was now coming from the south. (This seems to be a truism on bike rides!)

In any event, I decided to take a different route home in order to hit my 40 mile mark. It was bit slower than I would have liked, but I made it. So that goal for the month was complete.

But, I’ll admit, I’m still annoyed. Bike trails are often afterthoughts and even when they are built are often poorly maintained or when work is done, treated as the bicyclists aren’t important.

I love to bicycle and have for decades. I will bicycle for pleasure. I will bicycle to run errands. I will bicycle to save gas and cut down carbon emissions. I will bicycle on back roads, bike trails, or even busy streets. I’ll bike wherever it’s legal.

I’d love it for more folks to bicycle. But honestly, it’s hard to encourage others to bicycle when the routes dedicated to them are often poorly maintained or don’t go where folks need or want to go. I’m glad to see there’s a growing network of bike trails near me. I’m just hoping that they’re correctly maintained and when there are necessary closures and the like that we get proper signage and detours.

Anyway, this post is rambling, a bit like my ride, but I hope you get my point. Let’s not treat bike trails as an afterthought.

T-SQL Tuesday – The Conference That Changed Everything For Me

My faithful readers get a double dose today, only because when I wrote my earlier post I had not yet seen the invite for this month’s T-SQL Tuesday. Otherwise I would have started with this post (and perhaps written a better version of it. This will be a bit hurried).

Like many I’m picking PASS Summit. No, not very creative, but true and accurate. I should note my first conference was SQL Connections back in I believe 2006 or 2007 in Orlando and that had a fairly important impact on me too. But my first PASS Summit in 2015 had a bigger one. I managed to go in the place of our SQL Server User Group organizer provided I attended the User Group update the day before and also represent us officially in that capacity. I of course did both.

But I also had an ulterior motive for going. Two of my best friends from college lived in Seattle and I had not seen them in years, in fact in well over a decade. So it was a good chance to catch up with them. (Let me just say, flying from the east coast to the west coast and trying to go to bed at 1:00 AM West coast time, but waking up at 7:00 AM doesn’t work well!)

That said, the real reason this conference was so important was because I met Kathi Kellenberger @AuntKathi. She gave a presentation on how to get published. For years I had given thought to writing a book and with the recent death of my father, who had always wanted to write the Great American Novel this seemed like an interesting session to attend. She of course gave a great presentation. I spoke briefly with her afterwards and then went on to the next session. But her session stayed in my mind. Later that day I tracked her down and asked further questions and before I knew it I was introduced to her rep at Apress.com. Very quickly I was discussing my idea with him and before I knew it, he expressed and interest and suggested I submit a more formal idea via email. Within a few weeks of the conference I did so and my idea was accepted. That was the easy part. Translating my thoughts to paper was a bit harder. But a year later by the 2016 Pass Summit I was a published author. My dad wasn’t around to see it, but the book was dedicated to him. It wasn’t the Great American Novel and honestly, sales never lived up to even my more pessimistic expectations, but that doesn’t matter. Someone paid me for my writings! And you can still buy a copy of IT Disaster Response: Lessons Learned in the Field, my take on combining IT Disaster response with thoughts on plane crashes and cave rescues. It’s not the most technical book, nor was it intended to be, but it was meant to be sort of a different and more holistic way of looking at responding to disasters. Instead of talking about “do backups like this” it talks about using ICS (Incident Command System) and CRM (Crew Resource Management) techniques to help respond to your disaster.

I’m not here to sell you on my book but talk about how that one conference and that one chance encounter with the right person changed my life. But I won’t stop you from buying it. It’s a quick and I thikn fun read! And you might even learn something.

I’ve enjoyed all my PASS Summits, including 2020 when I finally had a chance to present (albeit remotely) and SQL Saturdays (where I’ve learned a LOT and owe too many people to name a great deal of thanks for all they’ve taught) but that first Summit was the one that probably had the most impact.

Thanks for reading.

A Hole in the Ground

A close friend of mine had asked me earlier this summer if I could take him, his daughter, and a work colleague caving. I immediately said yes. I also tried to schedule to take a couple of other folks caving, but alas, life got in the way. I had to postpone once, but was able to finally get underground this past Sunday.

For anyone who has been living in the area or watching the weather, you’ll realize exactly how hot and humid it’s been lately. Fortunately it’s cooler and in this case less humid underground. Because of the heat and humidity I was glad to have a chance to get underground. The only danger of course is overheating in your cave clothes before getting into the cave.

Often when I take beginners, I will take them to Clarksville Cave also known as Wards-Gregory. I’ll state up front it’s not my favorite cave in New York but it’s a decent beginner cave because it has a bit of everything and given the fact it has 3 entrances, one can plan several different types of trips from a pure walking with only a few spots of crawling to a trip with a good deal of tight crawling. You can stay almost completely bone dry to getting wet up to your neck. So it has variety. It is also not to far away and the hike to the entrance is an easy one.

The main entrance is a bit of a climb, but honestly, almost anyone can do it. This opens up into a large sized room with where I can start to orient folks to the cave and caving. One question that often comes up is “is this cave going to collapse on us?” The reality is no. The fact is, especially in caves as well travelled and large as this one, if it were to collapse completely, it would have collapsed long ago. That said, things do change at times. In this case, one thing I’ve noticed, is that after Superstorm Irene, the hydraulics of this cave did change a bit. The stream that travels the length of it and that used to commonly flow through this room has diverted a bit to one side and this room is often bone dry. I point this out to newer caves. I also tell of the time, decades ago that on a particular Friday night trip after a major rain storm, the water was so high in this room there was a rooster tail of water where the water was entering and then backing up. We cancelled that trip.

But that was not the case this Sunday. The water level was among the lowest I had seen it. On a typical beginner trip we headed up stream to what is known as the Lake Room. Often this requires some wading through toe deep water, but not this time. It was dry enough one could keep their feet wet the entire time. There’s some crawling required to do this, but not much. Often beginner trips will simply be a trip to the Lake Room and then back out. This is known as the Wards section (originally Wards Cave) But I had told this group we would head back past the entrance we came in (the main aka Ward Entrance) and go through the Gregory section (no relation to my name). This has what’s known as the Duck-Under. This isn’t really a bad section of the cave. I mean the ceiling is about 5′ above the floor. However the water is often 4.5′ deep here! Very rarely it will reach each the ceiling and sump this part of the cave. I was in the cave once (but not here) once when this happened. Folks went in the Gregory entrance sump dove the Duck-Under and apparently got disorientated and needed a quick rescue.

As I had mentioned, the water level this time was particularly low so there was closer to 1′ or more of headroom here. This still means getting pretty wet and trust me, going from being wet up to your knees to just past your waist is… not necessarily fun and often causes more than a few yelps from the cold water hitting sensitive spots.

But I was with troopers and we managed this without too much gasping at the cold water.

Now I’m going to share a little secret. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve done the Wards side of the cave. As I mentioned, it’s an easy beginner trip and one I’ve done often. But the Gregory side I’ve explored far less and I suspect there’s parts I haven’t seen in decades if at all. Partly because by the time one gets in there, one’s got a goal of “get through the Duck-Under and now that we’re wet, get out.” (and to be fair, the more interesting stuff is before the Duck-Under, so once through it, there’s not much left to explore.).

In any event, we got through the Duck-Under and headed towards the Gregory exit. We hit the hot, humid air and I swear I was MORE soaked by that than the Duck-Under. With the Duck-Under I had managed to keep my upper chest and head dry. Not so much outside in the humidity.

But it was still a great end to a good trip and their were smiles all-around.

It was only later that I reflected, I think this is the first time in 3 years I’ve been in a cave purely for pleasure. I have been in caves (including Clarksville multiple times) over the past 3 years, but every time it was for cave rescue training. Those trips aren’t really caving per se. Yes, I’m in a cave, but not really showing it off or exploring it. I realized exactly how much fun I had had on this trip, especially with an enthusiastic bunch of new caves.

I’m hoping to plan at least one more trip with some beginners in the next few weeks as well as an Orientation to Cave Rescue class (which will use Clarksville on its second and final day). I don’t know if I’ll take this group to Clarksville or another local cave. We’ll see. Perhaps that time I’ll remember to take pictures!

And as always to my faithful readers, I extend the invitation if you ever want to try out caving, let me know. I can tailor trips to your level of interest and physical ability.

Sorry, Neither

I heard the sad news on Sunday of the passing of Nichelle Nichols. I had always been fond of her character Nyota Uhura on the original Star Trek. Growing up in a fairly liberal household and only catching the original series in reruns, I didn’t find her presence on the bridge of the Enterprise all that surprising. It seemed normal. Of course I was young and honestly naïve and didn’t realize until years later exactly how groundbreaking her presence was. This of course was in contrast to a young African-American woman named Whoopi Goldberg.

Well, when I was nine years old Star Trek came on,” Goldberg says. “I looked at it and I went screaming through the house, ‘Come here, mum, everybody, come quick, come quick, there’s a black lady on television and she ain’t no maid!’ I knew right then and there I could be anything I wanted to be.”

That said, there was always a scene from the episode The Naked Time that stood out to me. Lt. Sulu, under the influence of the polywater and in swashbuckling garb, grabs her and says “I’ll protect you, fair maiden.”

Oh my!

Her response, the title of this post “Sorry, neither” is perhaps the shortest quote that stands out from any of the Star Trek series. However, it wasn’t until recently I learned that some folks interpreted it different from me, and I realized they had a point. They interpreted the neither to mean Uhura was declining the protection and demurring against the “fair maiden” part of the quote. And I certainly can see it that way. And I always figured that was part of it. She was quite clear, she was a Star Fleet officer, as highly trained as Sulu, and not in need of any particular form of protection. This perhaps more than anything else I think helps define her position in Star Fleet and Rodenberry’s and her concept of Uhura. She wasn’t a token.

But, over the years I had focused a bit more on the fair maiden part. I’ve often thought the neither was used to negate both parts of that. Let’s be clear, Nichelle Nichols was by any token a fair woman to set ones gaze on and the camera work in the early Star Trek often used softer lenses to highlight the female cast members. But, as Uhura, while she had the voice of an angel as demonstrated in the Episode Charlie X, it again was clear she wanted to be first considered an officer and a competent crew member. Perhaps in off hours calling her fair would be taken as a complement, but on-duty was an insult.

So that leaves maiden. One often associates the idea of a maiden with being virginal and with that again a certain level of helplessness or having others determine ones fate. Uhura was making it clear that she wasn’t virginal, helpless or incapable of determining her own fate. While in the original Series we never really saw any romantic relationships with her, she in a single sentence made it clear she had probably had them and had a say in how they developed and progressed.

In the end, regardless of how you interpret it, those two words spoke volumes. Nichelle Nichols was playing a character who was capable, confident, competent, and had earned her place on the bridge of the USS Enterprise. Since Star Trek, especially then, has always been an allegory to hold up to the real world, Nichelle Nichols in two words seemingly spoke for every African-American out there.

On a more personal level, I had the honor and pleasure of meeting her and with my daughter getting a picture taken together. This was in 2019 and while it was clear she didn’t have the verve she had from her youth and was seated the entire time, her presence was unmistakable. We were standing in the presence of greatness. I was honored to be there.

Hailing Frequencies Closed.