T-SQL Tuesday #99 – Dealer’s Choice

This T-SQL Tuesday is an interesting one, as the challenge is to talk about something you’re passionate about outside of the usual work grind. Well, it turns out I’m very passionate about Star Wars, and I’m very passionate charity. Funny thing is, there is a way to combine them. But first, let’s rewind a few years to the beginning of the story.

Back in 2013 I went to a small game convention in my home town. I met an acquaintance I had not seen for about 10 years, and while it was great fun to reconnect with him, what was more fun was the fact that he was driving a full-size R2-D2 droid from Star Wars. My jaw dropped and I was instantly taken with the idea that I might one day have my own. I’ve always been a closet Star Wars fan, but this led to the slow emergence if a true fan. I started collecting information and pieces, and it turned out that one didn’t just buy a robot – oh no, you had tyou BUILD the thing. On your own. From scratch. The club (Astromech builder’s club) provide the specs and drawings, but you have to do the actual work fabricating and collecting pieces yourself. This means that the mean time from start to finish of such a project is between two and four years, depending on the choice of materials. While the droid was slowly taking shape, I started attending conventions with my newfound droid-builder friends, and here I came into contact with an organization to which I would devote a lot of my time the following years: the 501st Legion.

The 501st Legion was started in the USA back in 1997 and has since grown to over 12.000 members all over the globe. Every member has at least one screen-accurate costume from the Star Wars universe (we’re presently at ~17.000 costumes) – be it for instance a Storm Trooper, a TIE Pilot or a Sith Lord. The club is focused on the Imperial side of the costumes, with the sister organization the Rebel Legion handling the “rebel scum”. The club gathers people from all over the globe who all share a love for Star Wars, but also love the opportunity to do charity work.

Premiere of the Last Jedi in my home town. I’m the TIE Pilot in black.

We attend conventions all over the world to display our costumes and promote Star Wars, but we also visit children’s wards, collect money for various charities (such as Make-a-wish foundation), surprise children on birthdays or participate in reading days at libraries. Our “troops” as they are called can be as small as two troopers and go up in size from there. Our members often go out of their way to make a child happy, often driving for hours to troop for an hour or two (often wearing an uncomfortable costume). We are not paid as everything we collect go straight to charity and 90% of the costumes have been made/assembled by the wearer.

The subunits of the 501st are called garrisons, and in the Nordics the garrison goes by the name the Nordic Garrison. It consists of Sweden, Norway and Finland, as Denmark recently split off to form their own Danish Garrison. We are around 200 troopers and some 50 supporters, and as of last year I’m honored to serve as the Garrison Commanding Officer. It takes a lot of time and money, but the happiness and joy I see in the eyes of parents and children make it well worth it.

The droid, then? I’m coming up on four years and while I was sidetracked with the costuming and leadership of my Garrison, the work continues – albeit slowly. The droid drove for the first time on January 1st this year, and I hope to have him done enough to bring to conventions this summer. A droid is never really “done”, so it is fruitless to try to set a date when he should be finished.

The 501st is my third family after my wife and cats, and my #SQLFamily. We’re a great bunch of people, always eager to welcome new recruits into the fold. Come play with us!

The last post of the year

On January the 7th I celebrate my 10th anniversary at Atea. I came to be a consultant after 6 years working internal IT at the local university, and let’s just say consulting was a bit of a… change in pace. At the university I was responsible for everything that was spelled Oracle or SQL Server (and quite a lot of server/SAN/Windows and UNIX/Linux stuff as well), handling everything from day-to-day with backups, performance tuning and troubleshooting, to architecture, design and implementation of new systems and solutions.

Anyone who’s ever spent some time at a university can attest to the place being somewhat of a “gated community” when it comes to how things work, and while I had a lot of responsibility, in many respects way more than I ever could have had out in the industry at that level of proficiency, it was still the university.

Then I became a consultant, thinking how hard can it be? Answer: very. I suddenly was thrust into situations where I didn’t have all the answers due to the fact that I hadn’t designed and built the platform I was working on at any given time. I constantly felt like being a fraud (hello imposter syndrome!) and was just waiting for someone to expose me and throw me to the curb. I went into overdrive and have thus spent the last 10 years cramming an enormous amount of knowledge into my tiny brain.

I spend a lot of my free(?) time testing, experimenting, reading and toying with tech in general and data related stuff in particular. I’ve made my phone and my computer extensions of myself, always having them within easy reach. In many ways it is easier to use my computer or my phone than to just ask someone. My body was at home but my brain was off doing things related to work.

I’ve spent a large part of my life running just to keep up and having a feeling of inadequacy if I didn’t learn everything in sight. I want to be able to take on the likes of Bob Ward, Reza Rad, Adam Saxton or Brent Ozar AT THEIR GAME – without having neither the experience, resources or clients they do. They’re only human and hence it is doable (the jury’s still out if Bob IS human, but that’s another story) I probably could be as good as any of the aforementioned gentlemen – if I decided to focus on one specific thing and spent the next 15 years doing exactly that.

To stay on top of my workload I have to spend hours and hours outside work just to keep up. “Have to” is not entirely correct as everything I do is done by my own free will.
I talk to a lot of people, read a gazillion blogs and in general interact way more with people on the internet than I do with people physically around me. Don’t get me wrong – I find this to be both fascinating and fun, otherwise I wouldn’t do it. The best thing I know is to go to a conference and meet my #SQLFamily.

But something has been nagging me. Right at the corner of my awareness, the feeling that “something” is not quite right in my life. The other day I came across a youtube clip from an interview with a guy that laid out the problems with the millenials (people born 1984 and later). Even though I’m not technically a millenial, one thing he said resonated with me – he said that a lot of people are addicted to technology and social media in a way that resembles alcohol.

This felt a bit like a mental smack in the face. I’ve been pestering my wife to use her phone more, use more chat apps so I can reach her, sync her email and calendars, etc (she flat out refuses). And I think I did that for the wrong reasons. I realized she’s doing it right and I’m doing it wrong. I spend a lot of time looking at my phone, fiddling with my phone, looking up (irrelevant) stuff on the internet and chatting with other people. In short – I was doing everything but being here, in the present.

This year has been a tumultous one for me and my wife. We’ve lost two cats, our dearest friends of almost 15 years. We’ve had our ups and downs, dealing with medical issues and misfortunes. However, we’ve also decided to get two new cats (goodbye sleep!) and make some serious changes in our lives for next year.

Thus we come to the conclusion and the point I want to make in this blog post.

Starting with my 11th year at Atea I will strive to be bored again. I will make sure it becomes a year where I have the time to read a science fiction novel, where I can just take long walks or just stare into a wall. The phone will be lying somewhere in the apartment so it can be reached if I need to make a call or if someone texts me. I’m going to break my dependence on always knowing what people are doing and I will be spending way more time being here, in the present.

I will spend more time teaching and presenting in 2017 than I’ve ever done and I will be spending more time helping colleagues develop their skills. Next year will be more about helping others, but not by working myself into the wall due to constantly being plugged in to the rest of the universe. I will not be trying to emulate Bob, Reza, Adam or Brent. That’s simply not for me at this stage of my life. I have an enormous respect and appreciation for everything they do, and while I’m envious of them having the drive they do, I’ve come to realize it’s not for me.

My blog probably won’t be seeing monthly updates (when has it ever?) but I have a small project in the works that might suit me better.
Next year, I will be helping others by helping myself. That way everybody wins.

Have a great New Year’s eve, and I’ll catch you on the flipside.

PASS Summit and the #SQLFamily

PASS Summit 2016 was a week ago, and I’ve tried (unsuccessfully) to put my thoughts into words. I’ve read many excellent blog posts about the conference and I wholly agree with them all, but I wanted to articulate my feelings in a blog post of my own.

PASS Summit 2016 was my third Summit on paper, but was more like my first in reality. The previous two times, I went to the sessions, spent time on the exhibition floor, ate my lunch with other attendees and then I went back to my hotel to read up, do research, work or just watch TV.

The Summit lends itself to this kind of activity very well, as the sessions and speakers are generally excellent, there is fun stuff to be had, done and seen on the exhibition floor and the other attendees are very friendly. It has consistently been one of the best conferences I’ve been to, and I’ve been to quite a few by now.

But this year was to be something different. This summer I held a presentation at SQL Saturday #536 in Gothenburg and there I had the pleasure of meeting a Norwegian MVP by the name of Cathrine Wilhelmsen. Not only was she firmly established in the PASS community, but she thrives on bringing new people in and helping others grow their network. We kept in contact and she promised to introduce me to other members of the PASS community and I went to Seattle with an open mind.

I had just picked up my badge when Cathrine happened. She grabbed hold of me and proceeded to physically haul me around the hall and introduce me to a multitude of people, several of whom I recognize from the community and whose blogs I frequently read. I must have looked like a deer i headlights, much to the delight of Cathrine. Among the people I was introduced to was the guy I went on to spend the week with – Adam Saxton (of Guy in a Cube fame). We hit it off immediately and hung out almost every night. He in turn introduced me to more people than I can remember, and for this I will be forever thankful to them both.

It proceeded to become the best conference week in my professional career. Let that sink in for a moment. The people I met and my growing network was the best thing that could have happened. I keep going on about that I’ve been doing this for close to 20 years and while that is all good and dandy, it also means that *I’ve* been doing this. Singular. The magic happens when there’s more than one person, when ideas get exchanged and networks grow. The discussions I’ve had with amazing people over the week, over karaoke, drinks, food, pool or just hanging out at the conference center has done more to boost my career to the next level than a lot of the technical work I’ve done the last couple of years. Technical stuff is extremely important, but it is only part of the equation – the other parts are a willingness to share, wide-ranging contacts and a network of like-minded people.

That’s where the SQL Family comes into play, and the whole reason I needed some time to put my thoughts in order. At Ignite in Atlanta I had the idea to have silicone wristbands with the text #SQLFamily made up to give to people in the community. I got a good deal for 200 bands, and kind of expected to give out some 30 or so. This turned out to be the single best idea I’ve had in years – they took off on Twitter like crazy, and people from near and far sought me out to get one. I met even more amazing people this way and the reaction of everyone who saw the band was the same: “I love my #SQLFamily! Where can I get a band like that?” At the end of the conference I had less than 80 left.


The SQL Family is unlike anything I’ve seen – a collection of like-minded individuals who live and breathe the Microsoft data stack, ranging from wide-eyed newbies to hardened veterans such as Kalen Delaney or Bob Ward. Everyone is invited to come play, and everybody takes care of everyone else. This community is the reason I think PASS Summit 2016 was the best conference of my career, and this community is the reason I strive to share my knowledge through teaching, blogging and presenting. Together we are strong and together we can grow exponentially. Come join us!

A eulogy in a technical blog

I’ve been absent from the blog for a while. This has several reasons, ranging from work, to lots of things to do outside work and what I’d like to take a moment to talk about today – the death of one of my cats.

I got Salsa, as she was called, back in May of 2001 when she was about 8-9 weeks old. She and her sister Tesla (along with a couple of other kittens) were born on March 15th, 2001. Straight from the get-go it was obvious that they were very different from each other – most likely due to different fathers. Tesla is rather calm and thoughtful, and Salsa was everything you’d expect from a calico cat – all paws, more speed than control and an utter lack of consequence analysis. After less than a year me and my then-girlfriend separated and I received sole custody of two small balls of fur.
This was the way of things until I met my wife 10 years ago.

Fast forward to May 2013 where we had a very bad week. Tesla broke a tooth and required surgery, Amys, my wife’s cat of 14 years passed away, and Salsa was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism – a chronic, wide-ranging illness that would require medication morning and evening for the rest of her life. A year later Tesla was also diagnosed with this illness, something not unexpeced as they were siblings.

The medication worked out fine despite some tricky periods where we had to adjust the dosage. She had a great life, lots of love, lots of toys. And food. She loved food. So much we had a blimp for a while (this was somewhat due to the medication, but mostly due to her love for all things edible). We weathered that as well, and have had the pleasure to share our lives with a generally healthy and always happy pair of cats. Until yesterday.

I had paramedical training back in the late stone age, and looking at her beside me in the morning I realized that Salsa showed signs of somewhat labored breathing. After a short  phone discussion with the vet we drove the 10 minutes to the local clinic for an emergency chest X-ray. The news were not good. She had a rather large amount of fluid in her lungs and around her heart, pointing to congestive heart failure. This is not that uncommon in older cats and especially not in an older cat with hyperthyroidism (and the resulting hypertension, despite medication). She received some diuretics and we were told to come back a few hours later for a follow-up X-ray to see if the fluid would be cleared.
After observing her for a few hours and noting no change in her breathing or level of activity, I decieded to call my wife and ask her to meet us at the clinic. From Salsa’s clinical presentation and the knowledge that none of the reasons behind the heart failure would be in any way curable (and most likely not treatable to any larger degree) we decided then and there to put her to sleep and end her suffering.

So there we have it – one of my best friends of 15 years is no more.

I am very, very thankful for the 15 years we had together – and all the ups and downs associated with any life. The picture below was taken a few minutes before we went to the vet for the final time. She leaves a cat-shaped hole in our hearts and she will be sorely missed.

Sleep well, my beloved calico cat. Say hi to Amys for us.