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Merrill Aldrich

Technical content about Microsoft data technologies. All opinions expressed are purely my own and do not reflect positions of my employer or associates.

2010: It’s a Wrap

So, last day of the year, and I can see many people are in a reflective mood. I don’t usually deep dive into goals or resolutions, but I’m not immune either :-). But I’ll try to keep this short and to-the-point.

First a big shout out to Adam for letting me have a presence here on I am humbled by the other SQL experts we have on this site, and I am certainly one of the least qualified, but I hope my small contributions are useful. Also thanks, Adam, for all the other community support and effort you put in. You rock.

I am happy to report that some of my content has had more views than I ever imagined. I know I owe most of that traffic to synergy from the reputation of other bloggers on -- but it still feels good, and indicates, I hope, that people are getting value out of my efforts. Top posts as of today, just from the Community Server canned stats:

Post Views Agg Views
Top 10 T-SQL Code Smells 7640 2802
Flow Control in SQL Scripts 5769 2218
San 101 for the DBA 3311 2093
Taming the Log-Eating Defrag Beast 2989 2117
SAN Disk Array Performance: Beware LUN Concatenation 2869 2652
Transaction Isolation / Dirty Reads / Deadlocks Demo 2396 2034
OT: Motorcycles and Access 
(This last one surprises me, because the post doesn’t really say anything.)
2315 1877


This marks about a year and a half I’ve been blogging, and it’s really been valuable to me personally. Everyone goes about this differently, but I’ve settled into some basic routines that help keep it useful and fresh for me:

  • I try, not always successfully, to keep to subjects I think this particular site’s audience will genuinely find value in reading. I try to stay in the realm of SQL server technical content, this post and a few others excepted.
  • The technical content generally comes from experience at my real day job. I don’t typically go out and do research into blog topics except perhaps to dive deeper into something I’ve have to grapple with at work. The usual notion is that I’ve had to solve some issue, and writing about it helps me to clarify the issues and the solutions.
  • While I am prone to rants, I try not to publish them. Still, sometimes they make it through the filter…
  • There’s a saying that the best way to learn is to teach. So, and I hope you’ll pardon me for this, I write as much for me as for you. Taking the time to compose a post and to put it out there in front of a lot of knowledgeable people allows me to clarify my own understanding and, hopefully, fully grok whatever topic I am presenting. That’s definitely an asset. In my place of work I am one of the most advanced people technically with SQL Server, and I don’t have a lot of mentorship, so the blog also gives me a sort of peer review above and beyond my own team.
  • I don’t write just to write, and I don’t try to do it on any schedule like two posts a day/week/month. If I haven’t got anything new to offer, you probably won’t hear from me. I don’t want it to feel like a burden, and I certainly don’t want to bore you with some forced topic I just had to write because it’s Wednesday or the 10th or something!

Returning to Regularly Scheduled Program?

On a personal note, it’s been a strange and difficult year for me in some ways. Many folks are looking back at resolutions they accomplished or missed, or what goals they are setting for 2011. My goal in 2010 was, literally, to do less. It was sort of an anti-resolution. And so, the past year has resembled most a “commercial break” in my life. Pause life’s TIVO, if you will. And I did it – mission accomplished. But let me explain.

Two years ago, in ‘09, my wife and I found we were in a tough place. We were in a nearly renovated but incomplete fixer house, with a baby and a little boy. We were not really in a good place financially, either. We’d invested huge amounts of time, sweat, money and emotion since about 2002, creating a life in the Seattle area. The cost of living here is astronomical, so buying the fixer house was a way for us to have a home on fairly modest means. Having studied architecture I was able to do much of the work on the house, and teach my wife, but it took a lot out of us too.

During that time I’d also changed careers and jobs, and we had two kids. We even demolished the second floor of the house ourselves while my wife was pregnant, and finished reconstructing it afterward. And so on, like that. I cooked, did dishes, changed diapers, designed the house, built the kitchen, built the bedrooms, cut the lawn, did plumbing and electrical work, drywall, painting, rough and finish carpentry, did my full time job, changed careers and commuted two hours a day the whole time. Looking back, life was pretty insane.

Then, in 2009, we had some really tough conversations, and realized a few things. First, we had far over-estimated what it was practical for us to be doing. At the same time, we’d pretty comically under-estimated the type of commitment that raising our kids would actually entail. (Having kids? Note: you will have no time or money to do anything else. That’s a fact, and it is easier to figure that out beforehand than afterward.) The house wasn’t done, and work on it had slowed to a crawl. We were out of money to put into it. We had no child care options outside of excellent but insanely expensive nannies that we wanted but could not afford. Then my commute to a new job required an hour and a half each direction and a few hundred dollars a month. My wife was unhappy in ways I didn’t even realize. We were both about to turn 40. Things were deteriorating from “busy” to “stupid.”

Quietly, I had an “Aha!” moment. And not a happy one.

I looked back and realized that, quite literally, for too many years to count (probably from 1982?) I had been going full bore, all out. It started when my parents enrolled me in a private school in the seventh grade – for which I am grateful, despite the thrust of this story – and amped up the academic expectations I set for myself. From then through to high school I did a very challenging six years of honors courses, homework, sports. I decided to become an architect, somehow got into a good university and then did six years of demanding studies and hard work there. All-nighters, heartache. School convinced me I should save the world as a world-class architect. I graduated and then worked like a maniac. I taught at the university. I got a job with a firm at the top of the profession. But I found I wasn’t any sort of world-class architect. I was very unhappy.

I enrolled in night school in comp sci, and planned how to change careers. I got a 4.0. (I then had eight years of college coursework behind me. Yikes.) We moved across the country. Started the house renovation. I learned how to be a SQL Server DBA and became one. Partway through realized that if we didn’t have kids we’d miss our chance to. Had two wonderful boys. Hit the wall.

So, in 2009 it was time to stop. We got the house in reasonable shape by borrowing a risky amount of money and hiring contractors to finish key parts of it. Last January we sold it and moved out, off the island where we were living and into a rental house closer to my office. And I had that middle-age epiphany: life isn’t about any of the things I thought it was about. Full stop.

In 2010 I did nothing.

So, 2011 is a mystery. I don’t know what comes next. Over the next few weeks I need to figure that out.

Published Friday, December 31, 2010 6:27 PM by merrillaldrich

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AlexK said:


I respect your style and attitude, which you describe yourself in the following: "keep to subjects I think this particular site’s audience will genuinely find value in reading", "generally comes from experience at my real day job", "don’t write just to write, and I don’t try to do it on any schedule".

As a result, you blog only when you have something useful to say, the quality is good (you write about things you have used in real life and understand well), so the signal-to-noise ratio is high - mostly signal without much noise.

As a result, your blog is a useful resource for me. Thanks!

January 5, 2011 1:52 PM

merrillaldrich said:

Thanks Alex - you made my day :-)

January 6, 2011 9:08 PM

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