This trip to Kalamazoo was, at first, supposed to be the front end of an epic road trip involving SQL Saturday 160 and SQL Saturday 149 in MSP. Those plans wound up scrapped when Tammy’s brother announced his wedding date on the same day as 149. Instead of spending the week between visiting friends & family in NW Indiana and doing stuff in Chicago, we only did some of those things; for the most part spending time in/around Indianapolis. It wasn’t all bad, as we were able to spend more time with some people than we otherwise would have; those people just weren’t #SQLFamily .
SQL Saturday 160 was the second SQL Saturday that Tammy submitted a session to. The first was Kansas City back at the beginning of August (159). The one that started it all was kind of a non-standard submission: Long story short, Andy Galbraith (blog | @DBA_ANDY) said on Twitter that they had five (or so) speaker slots still available and anyone interested should submit a session. I more-or-less threw Tammy under the bus publically on this, she did submit her “SSRS for Nubs” (not really its name) session, and it was accepted. Yay, speaker!
We steamed away from the house on Thursday morning. Left so early because we were going to stop for a bit in Indianapolis to visit Tammy’s Grandma, who is still in the hospital recovering from open-heart bypass surgery. We wouldn’t have otherwise been able to get to Kalamazoo in time for the Speaker’s dinner if we had waited to leave & do all of that on Friday.
After eight hours-and-change in the car, including my first-ever speeding ticket while driving through Louisville (because I wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing), we made it to Kalamazoo and checked into the water-logged hotel. Turns out something happened to a sprinkler head on the third floor, and drenched half the hotel (and by “something”, I mean, “some guest allegedly broke it”). This means that half of the people staying in the hotel that weekend were going to have to be moved somewhere else. Probably the only thing that got us a room for the weekend was the fact that we got there on Thursday instead of Friday. Everyone who had a reservation had a room in one of two other hotels (one of which wasn’t part of their chain), so that was good.
The Good Stuff
Friday was a nice, relaxing day, where we didn’t actually do much. We kind of needed that.
Had the Speaker’s Dinner Friday night at Tim Ford’s (blog | @SQLAgentMan) place. I love Tim, and after this weekend, pretty much his whole family, too. He had a head-start on that, being a fellow Pentax shooter and all. We had been to a SQL Saturday Speaker Dinner once before, ahead of Nashville’s first SQL Saturday two years ago (they had invited volunteers to it), but this is the first one where we were actually there as a speaker (well, Tammy’s the speaker; I’m just Demo Tech Support). I’m still not quite used to being one of the “cool kids” yet, so I spent some time simply weirded out by being where I was with who I was Friday night.
Saturday itself went really well from my perspective. We didn’t get to the venue as early as I would have liked (my fault), but it was a great venue and there was even some breakfast available! I went to a session in every time slot, as there was interesting stuff for me, and it’s not like I had to sit around and be nervous about speaking later.
My favorite session (criteria: general “interestingness” of the topic/session and how many detailed bits of info I learn and can take away) is probably a toss-up between David Giard’s (blog | @DavidGiard) Data Visualization and Allen White’s (blog | @SQLRunr) “Manage SQL Server 2012 on Server Core w/ PowerShell”.
David’s was nice, because it’s full of little ways to improve data visualization that might not seem so obvious until they’re pointed out…at least not for me. I maybe got more “don’t”s than “do”s out of it, but that’s still OK. Some of the “don’t”s are really good. I especially like David’s use of Charles Joseph Minard’s chart of Napoleon’s army during the French invasion of Russia in 1812. Full res of the chart is on Wikimedia here, and is inlined in the Wikipedia page on the invasion itself. The chart is sweet, because it shows so many different pieces of info all at the same time in a fairly easy-to-understand and interpret package. Lots can be learned about data visualization from that one single chart.
I got a lot out of Allen’s session, although possibly not what he exactly has in mind. I’ve recently begun building a new test environment at the house, self-contained on a Dell PowerEdge 2950 that I picked up a few weeks ago. My intent with this is to do everything all ultra-modern. The metal has Server 2012 Core installed on it, running Hyper-V. Everything will be virtualized in that environment. I’m doing this for a couple of main reasons, but I realize that talking about it too much here is fairly off-topic, so I’m going to skip it for now. Anyway, I was a fan of just watching Allen work within Server Core, because although I’ve got our server set up from that standpoint, there was a lot of Googling semi-randomly, running either legacy commands or PS snippets that I barely understood. I have everything written down that I ran, but now I understand a little more of it. Additionally, I know what I need to set up SQL 2012 on Core, which is a task that is coming up after everything going on in the next month or so calms down (that’s another blog post, too).
Tammy participated in the Women in Technology lunch panel discussion, which I think is the first one of those I’ve gone to (not sure how/why). This particular one didn’t have a specific topic to discuss, which led to a lot of varied conversations. There were a couple of audience members who got specific answers to questions that they had, which was really cool to see.
Tammy’s presentation was in the last slot of the day, which led to a slightly tough crowd. It went well though, with one minor hiccup. I like her presentation in general, and so far she’s been getting good feedback on it. Although this is only the second SQL Saturday it’s been done at, she’s given basically the same training to a couple hundred people internally at her company, so the content is fairly refined. It’s done in SSRS 2008 R2 at the moment, and we’ve talked about upgrading the demo to 2012. For right now, it’s going to stay where it’s at, because we don’t get the feeling that 2012 has reached enough of a critical mass, especially considering the intended audience of this session. In fact, one of the attendees in the session asked a question related to running reports against 2005 instances, because they’re currently stuck there and can’t upgrade.
The after-event was held at the Kalamazoo Beer Exchange. I know very little about this place, other than they have a lot of beers on tap, whose prices are all driven by demand within 15-minute chunks. I hoped this would be good for us, because of our propensity to drink Porters & Stouts. Due to the number of taps they had (and that we’re in Michigan), I also hoped for a good selection of said beers! I wasn’t really disappointed on either point.
Tammy and I both had Dark Horse (Marshall, MI) Thirsty Trout Porters to start out with. I was a big fan based on its name alone, just because it’s a big giant mouthful. I thought it was good. Didn’t write any notes or anything, but I classify it as “definitely a porter”, which all but guarantees I’ll like it. One of the things the KBE has is one cask beer available. When we were there, it was Arcadia Brewing’s (Battle Creek, MI) Baltic Porter. This stuff out of the cask was ri-dic-ulous. Have no idea what it tastes like out of a bottle, and I don’t know if I’d ever even want to after having it like this. It was really that good.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see how their food is, because there was a slight fiasco with getting seating. Apparently the place doesn’t take reservations (which I can understand), and have limited space for even medium-sized (not to mention large) groups (which I can also understand). Long story short on that is we didn’t get to eat there, as some of us basically decided to bail and head back to Tim’s house. Good times were had by all, on all accounts. #SQLCAH
This is one of the best SQL Saturdays we’ve been to but we honestly haven’t been to all that many, so I feel like I’m not saying much.
Back to the Driving
Mostly at the last minute on Sunday, we decided to go to Chicago for the afternoon. I love Chicago. I also love driving to/in Chicago.
It was refreshing to blast up the Dan Ryan at 80 behind a BMW 6 and not have to work too hard to do it, even though traffic wasn’t exactly light. See, Tennessee drivers don’t exactly “get” the whole “keep right except to pass” thing (or, in the form of Kerry’s Driving Rule Number Two, as applied to Multi-Lane Interstates: Only be as far left as your speed and traffic dictate). In fact, when traffic is light-to-light/moderate, the lane where it’s easiest to go fast is usually the far right (#1) lane. Once to a certain point, no clear winner emerges—either you have to just take the speed you can get, or expend a lot of effort—and greatly increase your risk—to weave around in traffic. Bonus points for the guy going 10 under the limit in Lane 1 during rush hour. So, driving on a five lane wide slab of concrete where things work like they’re supposed to is pretty high on my list of favorite things to do.
Did I mention I got a speeding ticket in Louisville on our way up on Thursday? The first one I’ve ever gotten? Because I was spending more time looking at airplanes than paying attention to how fast I was going and the Edge goes fast kinda easy? Yeah. That. Everything makes sense now, doesn’t it?
Anyway, walked around some there, got our Sunday night steak at Michael Jordan’s restaurant (convenient more than anything), took some pictures, and took the Skyway back to Indiana.
Then more driving, we stopped at my parents’ place, spent some time in Lafayette to see some friends and some other family (and get a DenPop), then time in Kokomo and Indianapolis, Tammy’s brother’s wedding, etc, etc, back to the Osburn Hideaway just in time for Sunday steaks again.
All in all, a really good trip. I’m pretty happy for the time off, even if we were really busy most of the time. It’s always so nice to sleep in our own bed after a trip like this. I don’t know how some of our #SQLFamily do as much traveling as they do. You guys are crazy. And awesome. But possibly mostly crazy.