SQLskills is Giving Away Free Training!

SQLskills is giving away free training for their performance tuning and optimization classes. My entry for the competition is below. If you decide to enter for yourself, entries are due by 11:59 PM Pacific Time on Sunday, August 13th, 2017.

I would love to attend the Immersion Event on Performance Tuning and Optimization — Part 1 training with Paul and Kimberly of SQLskills.

Why do I want to attend?

I want my brain to be filled past the brim with SQL Server internals and performance tuning knowledge. And I know this class will provide that opportunity.

I saw Kimberly present at PASS Summit in 2013. In 75 minutes, I had filled 4 pages of notes about skewed table data and how it affects statistics. I received great information that was immediately applicable to the queries I was working on back at the office.

I’ve never seen Paul present live, but I’ve been responsible for more than a few dozen hits to his blog posts on DBCC IND and DBCC PAGE. Whenever I have a question about SQL Server internals, I inevitably think “does Paul have a blog post on this topic?”

I’ve heard from others that IEPTO1 is amazing (and exhausting…in a good way!). I’ve learned so much from reading SQLskills team’s blog posts, watching Pluralsight, and sitting in at SQL Saturday sessions that I am certain that I would thoroughly enjoy a week of intense training with Paul and Kim.

How would I use the knowledge?

By giving back to the community.

Every week I write blog posts and create videos teaching analysts, developers, and DBAs how to improve their SQL querying skills. I speak at local user groups, SQL Saturdays, and at conferences. I help coworkers and those on Twitter with solving their SQL problems.

By taking this training, I will advance my own technical understanding, which in turn helps me be a better SQL mentor.

My favorite type of performance tuning challenge

I love it when I can decode some of the “magic” that SQL Server is doing behind the scenes.

For example, recently when learning to work with JSON in SQL Server 2016, I was mystified by how SQL Server could quickly filter JSON data using a non-persisted computed column index. Was it truly parsing JSON on the fly or was it doing something else?

That curiosity led me to investigate further with DBCC PAGE. To my surprise, SQL Server really wasn’t persisting my parsed JSON values on the data pages; it was however persisting the parsed JSON property on the index pages.

One more SQL Server mystery revealed.

Thank you.

Thank you for running this competition and giving people the opportunity to receive world-class training.

Additionally, thank you for all of the blog posts, newsletters (book reviews!), Pluralsight courses, and everything else you do to help the SQL community; I have benefited tremendously from all of these resources over the years.

Thanks for reading. You might also enjoy following me on Twitter.

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One SSMS Trick That Will Make You a Faster Query Builder

SQL in 60 Seconds #3

17/365: i could be your magician” by Jin is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Here’s the scenario: you copy and paste some code into a query you are building. A few minutes later you need that same snippet again, but you’ve already copied and pasted something else onto the clipboard.

The next five minutes of your life are spent searching across the twenty query editor tabs you have open looking for that original piece of code.

Sound familiar?

THERE’S A BETTER WAY!

Copying and pasting is a feature that’s available in nearly every text editor (“nearly” — anyone remember the days before iOS had a clipboard?).

However, SQL Server Management Studio goes above and beyond the regular copy and paste feature set — it has a clipboard ring.

What’s a clipboard ring you ask?

The clipboard ring let’s you cycle through the last 20 things you copied onto your clipboard when you go to paste in SSMS. It can be accessed in the Edit menu (like in the screenshot above) or by using the keyboard shortcut CTRL + SHIFT + V.

Let’s say you have the following queries:

And let’s pretend you want to copy all of the fruit names into the IN statement of this query:

Instead of copying and pasting each fruit separately, you can batch your copies together and then paste them from the clipboard ring into your IN statement at the same time:

Use this trick the next time you need to find that snippet of code you used right before heading off to lunch and I guarantee you will be saving yourself tons of time.

 

Thanks for reading. You might also enjoy following me on Twitter.

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Epic Life Quests

It is easy to get caught up in the daily details of life and not take the time to reflect on longer term goals and accomplishments.

Inspired by Brent Ozar and Steve Kamb, these Epic Life Quests are intended to help me reflect on my accomplishments and help me stay focused on the things that are important.

Each level contains five achievements and once all are completed I can “level up” to the next five. Follow along and let me know if you create any epic life quests of your own.

Level 2 (currently working on)

  • Blog weekly for 6 months straight — Last year I began blogging more than any previous year, but I didn’t always stick to a schedule. My biggest problem was I didn’t know what I wanted to write about so choosing topics was difficult and frustrating. After looking back at what posts were the most well-received, I’ve decided to focus the first half of 2017 to mostly technical and professional development type topics.
  • Speak at a technical conference — I’ve been presenting technical content in small user group type settings for years but this year I want to try my hand at some larger audiences. Completed January 2017 at the GroupBy conference.
  • Vacation in Hawaii — Our vacations in 2016 focused on places we could reach by car so that we could save some money for a larger trip. This will be the bigger trip. After visiting Hawaii, I will have visited 36 states + Washington D.C (airports don’t count!).
  • Work on mental mindfulness— practice meditation to improve focus, patience, manage stress, be happier. I want to average at least 5 days/week for 3 months to reach this goal.
  • Always be reading at least one book — Although I read 40+ books in 2016, there were stretches of weeks at a time where I was not reading anything. For 6 months I don’t want to go more than 3 days without having picked a book to have available to read.

Level 1 Quests (completed before 2017)

Here are some of my achievements before I started this page on January 1, 2017.

  • Set up an environment for programming regularly at home — completed 2016
  • Start using GitHubt for my coding projects — completed 2016
  • Built a hardware project that gets regular use (not just proof of concept) — completed 2016
  • Buy a house — completed 2015
  • Get into backpacking — completed 2015
  • Take a car trip in Europe with Renee — completed 2015
  • Learn to read books for pleasure — completed 2014

Thanks for reading. You might also enjoy following me on Twitter.

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My Year in Books 2016

Shocker: they aren’t all self-help or by Stephen King.

My GoodReads Year in Books

This year I read/listened to about 41 books (“about” because I didn’t finish a couple of them and because I still have a week and a half left to finish a couple more). I mostly read non-fiction, self-help, and horror fiction. Below are some of the more memorable reads from this year.

Code by Charles Petzold

Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software — Charles Petzold

If you have ever been interested in how the nuts and bolts (bits and bytes?) of computers work, this is the book to read.

Petzold starts out describing data transfer via tin cans and string and quickly moves you on to telegraphs, relays, binary logic gates, etc.. until the end of the book when you have “built” a model computer with full features like memory and an assembly language.

I think the book is targeted more towards a lay-person with interest in computers, but it is a fun read regardless of your technical ability as long as you are willing to think while you read.

Shenandoah by Sue Eisenfeld

Shenandoah: A Story of Conservation and Betrayal — Sue Eisenfeld

I’m not a huge fan of reading history unless I can directly relate to the subject matter. In this case, I read Eisenfeld’s Shenandoah right before our camping trip to Shenandoah this year.

What’s interesting about Shenandoah National Park is that unlike its cousin parks out in the western United States, Shenandoah became a national landmark long after the land area was already inhabited by people. This means that if you visit the park today, you can find remnants of roads, cabins, cemeteries, and orchards all throughout the park.

This book looks at the history of the people of Shenandoah before the land became a park and the lasting effects that it has had on the United States.

Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss

Never Split The Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It — Chris Voss

Never Split the Difference is probably the best “self-help” book I read all year. You can find my notes on it in this previous post.

Voss was a master negotiator with the FBI, often helping negotiate for the lives of hostages. Each chapter provides an exciting story from his tenure with the FBI, along with the techniques he used to help direct the negotiation in his favor. He then goes into additional examples of how he has used these techniques when buying a new car, negotiating salary increases, and even how to get an unresponsive individual to respond to your emails.

Like any self-help book, it’s easy to read but more difficult to put into practice. I’ve already used many of the strategies Voss teaches in his book, and it is one of the most useful self-help books I’ve ever read.

Never Broken by Jewel

Never Broken: Songs Are Only Half The Story — Jewel

I am not a huge fan of Jewel’s music, nor am I a folk music listener in general. Before reading this book, the only things I knew about Jewel was that she’s an Alaskan singer/songwriter that had a few hits in the late 90s.

After reading the book however, I learned that she is a pretty incredible person: she dealt with abuse from her family, lived out of her car for a while, paid her way through music school, is a yodeler, and has spent a lot of time about thinking about life and philosophy (one of my favorite observations from her was that “hardwoods grow slowly”, referencing how growth needs to be a long-term goal).

Overall, Jewel’s Never Broken has many good lessons and interesting stories from her time growing up as a folk singer. After reading it, I have a much better appreciation for her music too.

Priceless by Robert K. Wittman

Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures — Robert K. Wittman

Another book on my list from a former FBI agent (these FBI guys sure do have interesting stories to tell!).

Robert Wittman specialized in art crime during his FBI tenure, helping track down stolen masterpieces. Lots of art crime is difficult to prosecute because details are difficult to verify — a lot of the time Wittman’s stories come down to Ocean’s Eleven style sting operations with lots of planning, false identities, and large SWAT teams storming into hotel rooms to take down the criminal dealers and save the works of art.

Besides the crime thriller aspect of the stories, the book also provides good introductory background on art and the different types of crimes that get committed, from breaking into and stealing from museums to illegally selling Native American bald eagle feather headdresses, making the book both exciting and informative.

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

The Hidden Life Of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate — Peter Wohlleben

Peter Wohlleben is a German forester who has spent his life in nature, initially as part of the logging industry but more recently as a custodian of natural growing forests. His book The Hidden Life Of Trees discusses the importance of diversified (yet native) flora and how old-growth natural (not planted by humans) forests have amazing ecosystems.

Wohlleben anthropomorphizes trees to the point that you will feel bad the next time you accidentally snap off a twig, however the book is full of amazing information about how trees “communicate” with each other and how trees share some of the same “senses” that we humans have like the senses of sound and touch.

The Hidden Life of Trees is a light read that will make you appreciative of your surroundings the next time you are taking a hike in the woods.

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

Full Dark, No Stars — Stephen King

I read six Stephen King books this year (still have quite the backlog to get through) and Full Dark was by far my favorite.

This book is a collection of four short stories. I only really liked three of the stories, but even so this is one of my favorite Stephen King books of all time.

Although I generally like all of King’s books, I think this one was especially great because it wasn’t focused on the psychic /other-worldly aspects like in many of his other stories — instead this book focuses on real-seeming characters with their real-seeming problems.

I think the relatability to the characters in this book is what makes the stories especially terrifying.

Thanks for reading. You might also enjoy following me on Twitter.

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