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Louis Davidson

PASS Wrapup

Yeah, yeah, I know. PASS ended two weeks ago. Well, not for me. The effects of 5 days of standing and walking and standing and walking took their toll on my post operative hip and I went down for the count. Finally things have calmed down and it is time to do what I should have done before.

Basically, this was quite a good conference, with lots of great connections made, and a chance to reconnect with what are becoming old friends after 10 years of attending. The effects of budget cuts were very apparent, with no volunteer gathering this year, far less snacks, etc. Luckily, one great thing about the Seattle location is that there are several places to get your own food including a Subway, and a pretty good Baja Mexican restaurant.

Next year, if there isn’t a gathering paid for by PASS, we need to do it anyhow. Bowling the year before was a lot of fun, and I would have happily dropped a Jackson or two to hang out and bowl or play pool before the conference.

I arrived on Sunday evening, still with plenty of stuff to do to get ready for the week. Ate some dinner at the Daily Grill, Paul Nielsen and I went back to the room we were sharing and continued prep for our Friday Post Con on database design. Biggest lesson learned that day, use your sinus meds when sharing a room. Apparently if not you snore a “bit”.


Monday was a busy day, with a snippet of an Insider session and a couple of PASS meetings. Really good stuff that I need to relay back to my Nashville SQL Server User group buddies.  The we moved on to Quiz Bowl.  After all of the years, different configurations, etc, we finally hit upon a method that worked best. New software to run the Quiz Bowl was purchased (here) and it worked really nicely.  And add to that that we used “celebrities” instead of random people from the crowd, we had a much better set of contestants.  In the past we had tried many different configurations and unfortunately had always ended up with one really good contestant, and some not so decent ones. Paul Randal and Kimberly Tripp proved they were up to the task, and beat the other teams of Kevin Kline and Brent Ozar, as well as Joe Webb and Grant Fritchey. Next year it will likely be more of the same, but who knows.


Slow day, with the biggest thing for me was the “Birds of a Feather” lunch, where I hosted a table for database design, along with Paul who tried to do a starting an ISV table, but abandoned it quickly to talk database design.  The day was finished off with an Insiders party, but I left early to go back and get some work in prep for Wednesday.


This was a really long day for me, and started my downward slide mentioned in the opening italicized paragraph. It started off rough, with a Quest sponsored breakfast where four speakers tried to do way too much with little prep and even less bacon that we were promised (the sausages were good :).  I especially tried too much, and left the crowd less than satisfied (I feel). Got plenty of good comments (and a few negative ones in the feedback,) and I immediately (during the keynote on my new mini-PC, which I will review in my next blog, and which I am typing right now) put together a blog entry on the Disk IO stuff I tried to cover.  Will blog the performance monitor DMVs in the upcoming days.

Next up was the most rockstar moment of my life. We had a book signing for the SQL Server MVP Deep Dives book. I signed (along with the other nerdiariti who wrote and/or edited the rest of the book) like 150+ copies. Very definitely a cool project and a cool feeling to sign so many books (even a few for the higher ups in Microsoft.)

Then I had my database design session. I have finally become comfortable enough with the material (which you can download here) that it goes smoothly and even fits into the allotted time span…I just to run way short of time, but now the presentation seems short (hence the reason why did a post-con on Friday.)

Didn’t make any sessions because I ended up standing around talking for the entire day. Wore me out, but one of the best things about PASS is the community, meeting new people and keeping up face to face relationships with everyone you have met throughout the years.

From there I bailed on the party at Gameworks and got some rest.


On Thursday, I hit a couple of Insider’s sessions, and then the second rockstar feeling moment of the summit. Did an interview with Joe Celko and Paul Nielsen for the Midnight DBA crew. Oh yeah, and Buck Woody happened in as well for a section of the interview. Will post more when (if?) it shows up on their site. It was pretty wild at times, and Sean and Jennifer McCown were a lot of fun to hang around with for a couple of hours. Frankly I still don’t feel like I am worthy of being interviewed with the likes of Joe Celko.  Why? Because like most technical people, I am not a pioneer of anything.  Joe Celko was a part of getting SQL to where it is, and even Paul has some nifty new stuff with his Nordic Object Relational framework. Rather, I take the work of others and attempt to make it accessible to the masses. When I was in college, the academic stuff went over my head, until I finally tried it and got it. Won’t say more because I have said it all before.

I actually went to a couple of sessions this day, including a few on virtualization (something we are getting ready to do in a major way at my employer.), but again mostly a lot of socialization, then headed in early since we had an early day on Friday for the post conference session.

The downside of the day was that I was in considerable pain by the end of the day and had to bail on the Red-Gate dinner. I really hated to miss it, as I am very appreciative to them for what they do for the SQL community, not to mention I ended up eating a 44 dollar hamburger in my room for dinner…really good, but nothing compared to what they had planned.


The post con session was a great deal of fun. Paul and I have made a habit of presenting together at several conferences over the past few years, and one thing is always the case. Not enough time. So this year Paul suggested we put in for a post conference session and while I thought we had a snowball’s chance in Bermuda of getting it, and well, I was wrong. We had a good crowd of 47 with a lot of good conversation and in the end, 6.5 hours was a decent amount of time to do an advanced session on database design, though still with no active involvement doing design. It did give us time to use the white board and show some designs when people wanted more, or the places where we didn’t write good enough slides (you can get the slides here: PASS2009_AdvRelDBDesign_PostCon.pptx).  Hopefuly we get to do the session again next year, as it was a tremendous amount of fun.

Finally, many of the MVPs headed out to a fantastic meal that Arnie Roland has arranged for the past two years.  This year, he managed to get Quest to sponsor the proceedings, and they not only fed us, but gave us a bag of t-shirts as well. Good food and nice people are always appreciated. Afterwards, back to the room to finish packing.


Then it was a matter of making it home, which was a pretty interesting experience.  Southwest Airlines has some definite software problems that cause troubles every time I fly.  And they always point to the “new” system.  That was a reasonable excuse during last PASS, but a year later? Mercy. At the very least I was able to get my luggage in at exactly 50 pounds after swapping a book for an umbrella. I am home now, and now somewhat getting over the physical experience of it all.  The mental experience is something I will never get over, at least until next November.

Published Saturday, November 21, 2009 1:23 PM by drsql

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Joe Celko said:

I have to see the session on Midnight DBA myself.  That was fun!  

It is weird to find that so many people are scared of me.  Someone else put a similar comment on his blog.

I am not a cannibal; in Texas, you have to eat the WHOLE baby to be charged.  They might change that part of the law next year ..

November 21, 2009 4:37 PM

Louis Davidson said:

Joe, "Scared" isnt the right term for me. More a manner of status. If we were on Star Trek you might be Spock or Scotty (or to the NNTP crowd you would be more like Khan), and I would be a science crew person who was wearing a red shirt for the week. You have been doing this for a very long time and have forgotten more about SQL than most of us have learned.

But you seem to be a fine gentleman to converse with and very interesting. I would suggest anyone who has time at a conference you are at to give you a chat and see what they can learn from you. The pure relational way you tend to go about things (untouched by some of the realities of the implemented RDBMSs) is interesting and a lesson in and of itself.

November 25, 2009 11:40 PM

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