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What Three Events Brought You Here?

Looks like yet another chain-post going around, this time started by SQL Jedi Paul Randal on What Three Events Brought You Here? Interesting question and very similar to one of my very first posts Starting the SQL Journey? So I got tagged by not only Scott Gleason, aka @SQLScottGleason on Twitter, but also tagged by Luke Jian, aka @sensware on Twitter, and finally by Marlon Ribunal, aka @marlonribunal on Twitter. I’m guessing since 3 people tagged me I should definitely answer this one so here it goes!

Update: Ok now a 4th has tagged me, the lovely Donabel Santos aka @sqlbelle!

Update deux: Thanks for the tag Andy Leonard (@andyleonard)

As I mentioned before I’ve somewhat covered this topic in a previous post but this one is nice as it forces me to choose 3 key points.

1. YMCA Leaders Club

Eureeka! We have found it!In 8th grade I took part in an after-school flag football league put on by the YMCA. The league was ran by a guy named Chris Shraeder. Chris, in addition to working for the YMCA, also led the YMCA Leaders Club at our local branch. While playing in the league Chris asked me and a few others to come join the club. Up to this point in my life I had always been involved in some sort of leadership position such as Student Council or Safety Patrol (yeah that’s right, I wore that bright orange sash with pride!) but this was the first program truly dedicated to developing leadership skills. Leaders Club gave me the opportunity to lead various groups (teens, camp kids of various ages, even adults when I refereed adult flag football). One of the greatest things that this program allowed me to do was to really learn how to build and foster a community from the inside out and these skills ultimately helped me out a great deal to get where I am today.

2. Attending my first Tampa Bay SQL Server User Group meeting

http://tampasql.comThis was huge for me as it started my path into being involved with not only the local SQL community but ultimately the SQL community around the world! My first job out of college I worked as a desktop technician for the Southwest Florida Water Management District. In this position one of the responsibilities I ultimately took on was administrating a small web server that ran our desktop inventory web app. This app was back ended by an Access database. Yeah, you can already see where this one is going. So because I took a database course in college, and I said “yes” when my manager asked me to be the secondary for the department in SQL Server. The person who was the primary was my friend Eric Byszeski, whom at the time was the desktop staff supervisor as well as my predecessor in my position. He, like me, was also an accidental DBA and I learned what I could from him. Our environment was relatively simple in that we only had one SQL 2000 server that held several databases for small systems. Eric taught me the basics such as how to use Enterprise Manager, how to do backups and restores, and check database integrity. As I kept reading blogs and articles on how to improve your SQL environments my hunger to learn more kept growing. SQL 2005 came out and I soaked up everything I could about it. Luckily I got to stand up a new 2005 instance and got the excitement of setting up a new SQL server from scratch! Looking back I’d probably slap my old self for some of the choices made but hey, that’s progress right? Anyhow, in my adventures in learning I came across the fact that there was a user group in the area so I decided to attend. I was blown away by the fact that there were so many people just in my local community with so much knowledge and experience to share! From the local meetings and events, to the various blogs and webcasts, as well as the social networking with others from around the world I was able to grow professionally and personally. When I first started attending that group a few years back I actually did a show-and-tell type presentation wherein I basically admitted to the group that I barely had an idea of what I was doing. Now this week I’m helping our user group leader organize SQLSaturday #32 here in Tampa. It’s been a hell of a ride and there’s still so much more!

3. Meeting my Wife

GiggityI know that this might seem like a cheesy “gimme” to some but for me this moment truly changed my life. Brace yourself because I’m about to do some soul-baring, Peschka-style. Prior to meeting my wife I was like many post-college kids. Towards the end of college I picked up the habit of smoking umm…glaucoma medicine…a habit which stuck with me a few years. I was also surrounded with folks around me whom I considered friends but it wasn’t until I pulled back and realized how negative they all were and I was following the same pattern. My post-college life had me jump from “relationship” to “relationship”, going out to bars and partying almost every weekend and basically coasting through life. Then I met my amazing wife Jessica. One of the great things about her is that she is amazingly positive. At the beginning of our relationship, due to the fact that I always looked at the negatives rather than positives of a situation, we had our issues. As time went on I began to learn to stop being so negative and change my thought processes. During our courtship I did a LOT of growing up and soul-searching. I stopped doing drugs, I quit getting drunk (note: addictive personalities + alcohol = nothing good), I discovered that I have clinical depression and so I needed medication to balance that out, I separated myself from those I thought were friends and found that no longer being around people with negative behaviors really makes a world of difference. Jessica has also been my greatest supporter and best friend throughout everything (which is why I married her!). In terms of my career, one of the toughest things for me to do was leave SWFWMD as I had been there almost 5 years and I was comfortable. I knew I wanted to expand my SQL skills and I needed a place where I could do that. I found an opportunity with University Community Hospital (my current employer) and I was truly scared to make the leap but with Jessica’s love and support I finally made the jump and it has made all the difference. I would definitely not be here professionally or personally if I didn’t have her in my life and for that I’m truly grateful.

Tagging Time

Well at first I was going to tag Kevin “Caesar” Kline since he got missed during the last meme rounds. So given the fact that it’s taken me forever to get this post out, and since everyone else seems to have been tagged I am opening this up to the world. If you are reading this and you have a blog, consider yourself tagged!

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Goals and Themeword for 2010

Well looks like another chain-post, this time started by none other than the SQLRockstar Tom Larock (@SQLRockstar on Twitter). He poses the question “What are your goals and themeword for 2010?“. From there I actually got tagged by not only Colin Stasiuk but also Jeremiah Peschka so I guess I’d better reply!

After reading everyone’s posts I thought long and hard about what my theme word would be for this year I decided on (drum roll please):

Organization

As my wife and co-workers will gladly attest to, I battle with A.D.D. (self-diagnoses folks, no official meds/doctors were involved). As I become more involved with the SQL community and finding more things I’d like to do I find I really need to find a system that works and stick with it. Earlier this year I bought David Allen’s ‘Getting Things Done‘ book as I’ve heard great things about the methodology and how it has helped folks. Unfortunately I got a quarter of the way in and let my boss borrow it and haven’t gotten it back yet. Fortunately I follow some great folks on Twitter like Brent Ozar (@brento) who write posts about GTD such as How to Use GTD 50,000 Ft Goals which allow me to get the general idea without having to read the book (but I will dammit, I will).

Any who, I’ve already taken some steps to try and get myself organized but this year I’m going to try focusing even more. One of things I’ve done so far is download Appigo’s Todo on my iPhone as well as Notebook. I still need to organize consistent lists but so far I’ve done half-decent job of adding tasks as I get them and assign them in the few lists I have so far. What I’ve failed to do thus far and will start doing this year is weekly review of goals and tasks. Apparently this is a key part of the whole process and I’ve been slacking on it. D’oh! Well no more, I say! Another thing I’m going to try to do is little things to help myself get more organized like actually plan out my day rather than just show up to work, do morning checks and wing it the rest of the day. I need something more concrete otherwise my mind wanders all over and all hope is lost.

As far as direct goals I have one glaring goal that is most definitely my number one:

ATTEND THE PASS SUMMIT CONFERENCE!

  • Yup, that’s right it’s THAT important. I missed out this past year and while it was cool feeling like I was part of the action via Twitter it’s most definitely not the same. There are so many people in the community I’d like to meet and so much good content at that conference that I cannot let another year go by and miss out on the action. I’ll probably get shot down but I’m going to attempt to ask my boss next week if there’s a chance in hell they’ll register me and get the early bird discount of $995 (good until January 15th). Push comes to shove there’s going to be some bank robbing in my future, just sayin’.
  • Other non-felony related goals include me finishing what I started and getting the last two certifications knocked out so I can be a full-fledged MCITP:Database Administrator. My first and only certification is in 2005 so if I’m feeling froggy this year I’ll not only knock out MCITP but I’ll take the upgrade exam as well to make it a 2008 one. Also in the distant horizon I was considering doing the database developer track as well. We’ll see how that goes.
  • I’m in mid process now but I’ll add it here too: writing first book. Right now I’m currently co-authoring Pro Policy-Based Management with Ken Simmons and Colin Stasiuk. We’re all very excited about this book and hope to have it published in March/April time frame I believe. This has been a very interesting challenge so far and hopefully the next book I get to write won’t be so tough based off this learning process.
  • In the last couple of weeks myself and some coworkers have started dabbling in application development using VB.NET which has got me excited to all sorts of new opportunities. I’m hoping to learn more about application development and pick up some C# as well and start creating some truly helpful in-house applications to help support our staff at work.
  • Continue speaking/presenting/blogging. This year I’m planning on submitting presentation to PASS and see where that leads. Maybe company will pony up the cash if I’m a speaker at the conference! Honestly I just really enjoy presenting and teaching so even if I don’t get to present at a major conference I’ll continue doing rounds in Florida user groups and any other group that will have me (via LiveMeeting).
  • Compete in a major fitness event (i.e. triathlon or marathon). Seeing Tom talk about him running a marathon and seeing others go out and do similar feats I figure “why not me?”. My wife and I are also fans of the The Biggest Loser on NBC so watching them run a marathon especially after everything they’ve gone through I think I should be able to do the same. This year I downloaded the Couch to 5k app on my iPhone and I’ve stopped/started program a few times. I need to see it all the way through and keep pushing from there. Hopefully by year’s end I can say I’m a marathoner. We’ll see how that develops.
  • [Late addition] I’d like to blog more technical articles. I started this blog not really knowing how or what I’d be blogging on or about but I’d really like to add more technical content to my..err content. I’m going to aim for doing at least 4 submissions to one of the major sites like SQLServerCentral this year.

Well that’s all I can think of for now but at least this gives me something I can refer back to later and see where I’m at. Now time to tag a few folks:

Ron Dameron (Blog - Twitter)

Jonathan Gardner (BlogTwitter)

Tim & Lori Edwards (BlogHis TwitterHer Twitter)

and just for kicks lets get out of the SQL circle and have my wife try one out:

Jessica Segarra (Blog - Twitter)

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DBA Horror Stories

Psycho-shower-scream In light of the fact that this weekend is Halloween I figured this would be a great time to start this meme: Give us your best database/IT horror story to date.

I’ve been fortunate to date as far as the databases I’ve dealt with not having any crazy problems. For that I’m thankful. Given that fact my story is more of a general IT horror story. It was a dark and stormy night (actually it was clear, humid, hot day day but those don’t work as well for these). I woke up this fine morning to hear the call with the two words every IT pro dreads to hear: major outage. As I got into work, fueled up on coffee I got details of what happened that fateful morning.

Every month our operations staff does a generator load test wherein we switch from commercial power to generator power for testing. On this day, however, the generator felt saucy and fate gave us the finger. They threw the switch as they had done so many times before when “something happened” and a major failure happened in the generator. Normally this wouldn’t be too bad as you can switch right back to commercial power but, nay, not this day. For some reason the switch was unable to cut back so our whole data center went down faster than Balloon Boy’s family credibility. Like over-caffeinated monkeys on speed everyone leapt to action to find out the extent of the affected systems and implement the appropriate DR plans. After some scrambling the picture looked bleak. Despite having an alternate data center it turned out some of the systems on that side relied on the SAN…in the datacenter…that was now down and out. Awesome. Over the next few hours meetings were held to determine which systems needed to come back up, in what order (yes, I know, this should have already been established but as we soon discovered our DR plans were dated). Power was restored by noon and that’s when the real work began.

As we began bringing systems back online a flurry of disk checks and fixes began. Things slowly began shaping back to normal as everyone hunkered down and brought everything back up. But not all was well in Whoville. Ripping out a SAN from underneath servers is not the greatest thing to happen. To make matters really awesome we’re a heavy VMware shop and guess where our VMDK files are? Yeah…well in the midst of the madness we lost 2 LUNs due to corruption. Couple this with the fact that some of those servers turned out not to be backed up and needless to say you have a recipe for pure FUN! The good news is we have a good staff of dedicated folks who stayed as long as it took to get as many systems back online and working again. By 2:00 am (the failure occurred around 7:00 am) we were 95% back up and running with no major losses of data. Over the next few weeks I got the pleasure of working the every living hell out of the restore feature of Arcserve as well as check and double-check servers were being backed up.

Moral of the story is:

Have an up-t0-date DR plan, you never know when disaster is going to strike. Jonathan Kehayias wrote a great article recently about this.

Time to do some tagging:

Jonathan Kehayias (since I mentioned him already)

Kendal Van Dyke

Jennifer McCown aka MidnightDBA (let’s put that new netbook to work ;-D )

Happy Halloween everyone!

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Database Mirroring Freak Show – SQL Quiz from Chris Shaw

Chris Shaw ( Blog | Twitter ) started another great web chainpost. He tagged Brent Ozar, Brent tagged Thomas LaRock and Tom tagged me. This particular quiz is a two-part question and here are my responses. Excuse my lack of wit and charm. It’s late, my caffeine supply is running low and my cat is eyeballing me in a most peculiar fashion.

Do you feel that you have a reliable SAN solution? If so, what’s the secret?

It’s hard for me to answer this one given that just a few weeks ago our data center (SAN included) came crashing down hard. Now given that the problem was a faulty generator test and not the SAN itself that was the problem I can’t really place blame there. Honestly I can’t say anything really bad about our SAN. Tons of disk space, tons of cache, it does what its supposed to do. We’re also in the middle of finding a replacement for a SAN administrator so what SAN solutions we have in place now could radically change in the coming months. As far as secrets go I’d say you just need to make sure you have an open line of communication with your SAN administrator. They have no idea what’s going on in your world and you have no idea what’s going in theirs. Clear communication of needs need to be there as a SAN admin worth his salt is going to know what they need to do on their end to make sure you get the best performance on your end (i.e. proper RAID levels for your LUNs depending on needs, I/O throughput, etc.).

Explain Database Mirroring in layman’s terms

Everyone else seems to be giving off-the-wall answers to this so I’ll give it a go as well. Not going to lie, took me a good portion of my drive to Melbourne last week to finally come up with an example.

Think of clustering as a conjoined twin. You’re talking to the same body. Both heads can hear the conversation but ultimately the two are stuck together because they have to share the same base trunk. Now if you were to punch one twin in the face and knock him out you’d still be able to talk to the other head but you’re still lugging around that base. Now, imagine a set of regular twins (non-conjoined). This is your database mirroring in that you have two separate entities. You knock one out but the other is still chugging along just fine. Only difference being that the location of the second one doesn’t really matter because he doesn’t have a shared trunk to deal with. I’m sorry if that explanation sucks, if you’re bored check out the whitepaper written by someone who doesn’t have a fascination for using genetic defects to compare feature sets. Ok time for me to tag a couple of unwilling victims fellow bloggers:

Kendal Van Dyke

Jack Corbett

K. Brian Kelley

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