SQLPam's Blog

March 30, 2012

Proud Momma

Filed under: Personal thoughts — sqlpam @ 1:14 am

Today was a rough day and very strange – full of lots of twists. I did not get more than a couple of hours sleep last night while staying at my mother’s house. No reason I could put my finger on – sleep was just elusive. So the morning was not welcome. I was at Mom’s to drive her to a dental appointment where she was to have some oral surgery. I live 2 hours away and somehow – I am the only one able to reliably drive her to these things. Her friends her age scare her – so she looks elsewhere – which means me. I am grateful to have my Mom. I lost Dad back in ’94 – so I smile and thank the Lord I have her in my life.

We ate, got ready and drive over almost an hour’s drive. I hoped I might sleep in the foyer while she had her procedure – but no – everyone in the room had out their phones and were doing something – all with touch noise confirmations going. So there were clicks from one of the phones, dings from another and some strange hiss from the third. In the meantime my stomach was telling me it was not happy with the recent drug overdoses of antibiotics for the ear/nose/throat infection I was trying to get over.

They all got quiet and I fell asleep only to be wakened by the dentist himself. He introduced himself and I expected an update on my mother’s surgery. She was fine but this was a different visit – he wanted to tell me how much my mother reminded him of his mother who he lost in 2001. He brought photos and shared how he felt closer to Mom than most of his patients due the resemblance. I let him know that I knew I was lucky to have her and thanked him for taking special care of Mom. I later found he told the staff I was his “other” sister. Strange encounter – but not unwelcome.

When Mom was at checkout – I found my stomach was not going to stay quiet and ended up sick in the ladies room. I did feel better afterward in some ways – but very empty. Things were not settled enough to feel comfortable eating enough to feel the void.

After several stops on the way home – I crashed. I really needed to get home to my family. Today was my son’s Ryan’s 16th birthday. A big milestone for a youth and I was missing it. If I attempted to drive home at this point – I would never make it – not how I wanted him thinking of his Sweet 16. So I laid down and took a nap after calling and letting everyone know where I was. That call let me know that my loving husband now had the ear/nose/throat infection I was trying to kick and he was not happy about it.

I slept and was woke up by Mom’s new cat – Boots. I got things packed and loaded into the car and headed home. I got home around 8:45 and loaded my son in the car for his birthday dinner – better late than never. He chose Macaroni Grill – the same place for the last 3-4 years. Over dinner I got a question that made me warm and proud. “Mom can you teach me SQL so I can better track the data for my Yugioh cards?” My kid has been paying attention. He saw me prepping for my recent presentation “Taking the scary out of Monster Reports” and liked what I was able to do with the data. Now he wants to do the same types of things.

All the crappy parts of the day disappeared. It was getting played forward to me. He watched me take care of my Mom – always telling him that I have to take care of her while I have her. He was now saying he wanted more time – close time with me. So I gave him a run down of SQL over pasta. We’ll see how serious he is – but it stills feels wonderful knowing he has an interest.



March 22, 2012

A New Presentation – Monster Reports – Part I

Filed under: Presentations,SSRS — sqlpam @ 10:35 pm

Taking the Scary out of Monster Reports – this is the title for my latest presentation. For the past 4-5 years I have had one presentation on reporting services – Tips and Tricks of Reporting Services that has been presented at least 15 times. It discusses the joys of the dynamic features in SSRS that allow you to modify the report’s appearance and behavior by using data. But it was getting old – way old and it was time for another main line presentation. I must note – this was not the only presentation over that time frame – just the most well received.

I write reports for my clients. Recently, I saw a trend to more complicated reports or what I refer to as “Monster Reports”. I tend to cringe when I see these. They are very important reports to management. They usually mean that instead of digging to the bottom line of a number of reports – they have one report that encapsulates what they need to see.

I have noticed two directions for these reports. One has a lot of disparate data on the report while the other has a lot of disparate controls on the report.

The disparate data report is usually a report that combines the subtotal/total lines from a number of reports. A lot of time they look at fixed period(s) in time to display associated totals. But sometimes they get even more complicated by spinning in different columns within the multiple subtotal or they request charts to visualize one or two of the result sets. These can be a beast to create and maintain.

The disparate controls report has a similar challenge in that you are pulling back very disparate data – but the presentation is what differs so much with this one. You are attempting to wedge multiple charts, grids and potentially gauges on a single page – possibly more. They want is packed tight with few gaps. But they want it nice looking.

So the point of the presentation is to supply the attendees with a number of strategies to help make these “Monster” reports less “Scary” to tackle. So I will be posting a series of blogs over the next or so to go into a little more depth than the typical hour presentation will allow. My carrot to the attendees is that at the end of the presentation – they will have access to a series of RDLs that will allow them to start to monitor their Reporting Server Database. The idea for the topic was inspired by Jessica Moss (Blog | Twitter) who dids a presentation at PASS Summit 2011 entitled: Preventing the Oh, Poop! Reporting Situation. I liked that at the end of the presentation the attendee actually had something useful. So I built on what she supplied.

The next blog will be on the Disparate Data reports and the techniques I employ the tame them.

A renewed experience

Filed under: Community — sqlpam @ 6:31 am

Last night I did something I have not done in a long while – I visited a SQL User Group other than one of my local groups. You tend to forget how different we are until you step outside your box. Last night I drove the hour and a half from my place over to MagicPASS in Orlando. This is a SQL group run by Kendal Van Dyke (Blog | Twitter). I was a little surprised when I saw in the announcement that the meeting start at 5:00 pm with a video presentation. Driving over – I thought about it. Having a time when people can feel comfortable just dropping by – without feeling they were dissing a speaker – might get that bit of the group that I lose because they have an hour to kill between work and group. Arriving – I found that it was also a great opportunity to network / reconnect with those members as well.

Kendal amazes me with his depth of knowledge and more – his ability to always seem to remember names with faces. This is a major failing of mine. In his group, I saw he helped this out by having everyone wear a name tag – another note to consider for future meetings. As time came for the main presentation – Kendal started with the announcements. This was the time when everyone should be there – right? The announcements were lengthy – but full of very useful – relevant information. He started with the supplied PASS slide deck and worked from there. Additional information included new information on certification – along with the announcement of forming study groups. All great info. Somewhere in all of this the food arrived – nice and hot – delivered by his wife and children. By this time in my group – the speaker was half way thru the presentation if not really warmed up. We took time to eat and network – that critical piece – network. When everyone had their fill – I was asked if I was ready. Oh no – the panic set in. But these were friendly people – it won’t be an issue.

I got a wonderful intro by Kendal and explained that this was the debut of this presentation. I got a little more than half way thru my material and Kendal informed me that it was 8:45 pm. I almost freaked – how did the presentation get so long? I know there were lots of questions – which is good – but really – almost 9:00 pm? I had been in this room for almost 4 hours at this point – but it was a full 4 hours.  Lots of information exchanged and not all of it from me.  I wound down. We finished with raffles and distribution of shirts and lapel pins left over from my SQL Saturday. We rearranged the room and headed out to the local watering hole for even more networking.

I am not sure what of this I will incorporate back home – but I know my comfortable view of the home meeting has changed. It was great to meet some wonderful new people. I even joined a certification study group to assist me with one of my goals for the year. They will be held via live meeting – so the distance is not an issue it would be otherwise. I came away much richer than I arrived.

Thank you Kendal!

March 15, 2012

SQL Saturday #110

Filed under: SQL Saturday — sqlpam @ 8:20 pm

So we have another SQL Saturday Tampa on the books.  This was our fifth – our fourth at KForce who supplied facilities.  Based on the reviews – it was another success.

This year we had two last minute precons held on March 9th, 2012 at the Ybor City Hampton Inn.  One session was for the DBAs led by Eddie Wuerch (@eddiew) entitled The DBA Skills Upgrade Toolkit The other session was for our BI audience led by Bill Pearson (@Bill_Pearson) entitled Getting Started with PowerPivot and Other Microsoft  Business Intelligence Topics.  The events were opened to the public only a couple of weeks before the event – so an attendance of 34 was a pleasant surprize.

We had over 40 people attend our Pre-event dinner at Spaghetti Warehouse.  This was a good time by all.  It was a chance for our speakers, sponsors, and volunteers to get together and let their hair down before getting to work on Saturday.  This was the core of the people who helped make the event a great success.

The morning of March 10th, 2012 found us at KForce very early in the morning.  This year registration opened at 7:00am to allow for the elimination of one room that was not conducive to learning.  Instead of six time slots we had seven – so that meant a very early start.  Registration was a breeze for those that pre-printed the SpeedPasses supplied by the SQL Saturday site this year.  This did create some confusion.  Last year, since I was prototyping the process, each registrant got a SpeedPass delivered via email.  The common thread from those that did not print them was that never received the PDFs.  I need to do a better job of clarifying what the process is next year.  We also had issues with the SQL Saturday site’s SpeedPass process on the day of the event which created a few glitches for those that did not pre-print the SpeedPasses.  This is a work in process – so all information has been submitted to PASS.  The site continues to improve – so I see these wrinkles being resolved soon.

We had 42 scheduled sessions led by 40 speakers and 1 co-speaker.  We did end up with 2 no shows the day of the event.  One of these was filled by a speaker on site with a similar topic while the second was left unfilled.

We had 20 sponsors for the event with 11 on site.  We had three sponsors that were bloggers trying to get their names out there – my hope is they got the exposure they were hoping for.  We also had three Bronze,  five Silver, seven Gold and one Platinum.  Although this looks like a lot of sponsorship money, there was a lot of this that was in trade for needed materials for the event.  My hope is that each sponsor got what they hoped to get out of the event to encourage them to continue sponsoring SQL Saturdays in the future, not only Tampa – but all events.

We saw a marked decrease in registrations this year.  There were several reasons that I assumed caused this.  First, we changed the time frame we had our event.  In past years it has been held soon after the beginning of the year.  This posed challenges with sponsorship budgets – so this year we moved to March.  I received some emails stating that they planned on coming in Januray – but March was not possible.  The other factor is the number of SQL Saturdays that are occurring.  I think that that the sponsors, speakers and attendees are reaching a saturation point.

A big round of applause should go out to our volunteers.  They were the silent partners that made the event a great success.  I would like to give a special word of thanks to two of my volunteers.  Karla Landrum (@KarlaKay22) is now a PASS employee – but she went well above the call of duty to assist me with details that boggle the mind.  Brooke Ranne (@BabblingBrook01) managed the registration desk for me.  She has gotten it down to a science by volunteering at a number of the events in the south east.  On Friday night, the volunteer staff stuffed 300 event bags in less than an hour.  I have to say – my team kicked butt.  My warmest gratitude to each and everyone.

Lots of things went right – but besides registration glitches we had a few things that raised concerns from attendees.  I heard concerns about signage – we had more this year than ever before – I guess there will have to more next year.  There was also concerns raised that although the Guide Book was mentioned in a pre-event email – there was not enough information for attendees to know how to use it.  The cardinal sin of all was that we ran out of coffee.  Last year it was overkill so I backed off – looks like I need to gear it up a little more for next year.

Thank you to everyone who spoke, sponsored, volunterred or attended.  You each added to the community.  For those first timers – I hope to see you again in the future.  For those that came back after a previous attendance – thank you for continuing the cause – free training and the expansion of the SQL Family.


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