Back to Work

It’s strange to be back to work on a Monday, with kids still in the house (they start school tomorrow), after being gone for the last 10 days  from work. It was really gone, as I didn’t process email or mess with work in any meaningful way. I did clean some spam over vacation when others were gone, and I added a few Database Weekly links last week, but I didn’t check SQLServerCentral, edit articles, or do anything really SQL related.

About the only computer tasks I’ve done since the day before Christmas were a few hours on the Advent of Code stuff I’ve been working on in my spare time, and even that was minimal. I got stuck on a few puzzles, and didn’t have much time to work through them. I’d give it 20-30 minutes, but then break for family time.

It’s a new year, and I’m starting slow. At least slow this week as I take stock of the publishing queues and start to plan how I’ll proceed forward. As I left last year, there were a lot of new technologies coming from Microsoft in 2016 that I felt I needed to get up to speed on. Some are out, some coming, but they’re a point of emphasis. Like Buck Woody with his Data Scientist work, and Grant Fritchey with R, I’m proceeding to learn more about analytics, including data lakes and statistics, as I move through the year. Particularly I’m focused on Python as the language to use, though from what I see with R, lots of the same libraries and formulas apply.

I’m also looking to continue forward with the #SQLNewBlogger posts and see if I can inspire some of you to move forward with your own skills and thoughts on how SQL works for you. I’m going to look to get at least 2 posts a month out here, and perhaps more.

Travel starts quickly, with a week long trip to the UK in two weeks and then SQL Saturday Austin, but other than that, it will be a light quarter for me. Just one event in Feb, and none in March. I am looking forward to that slow beginning.

Standing Desk Update

It’s been a long time since I wrote about my workspace, however I made a change recently. This was the "short term test" situation I set up a couple years ago:

Photo Aug 24, 9 14 19 AM

After just using boxes for a few days, I decided I liked things and got monitor stands. However I left my boxes in place for the keyboard and mouse. Mostly because I wanted a few months of playing with heights.

I actually did experiment, adding and removing books a few times, but mostly I let things languish. I wanted to build my own keyboard stand, but kept finding excuses. I lived with the setup, getting annoyed with no good place to place a mug of coffee or a piece of paper. Precariously balancing my laptop on the books at times.

A few weeks ago I saw some friends on Facebook mention they were getting standing desks. I’d seen Brent Ozar’s desk, but had no desire to spent that kind of $$. I wasn’t even sure I wanted an adjustable one as when I sit, I usually go to a table or couch with my laptop.

Someone recommended a simple desk, which I liked, but wasn’t sure I wanted to ask my boss for $700 for a hand crank desk. However I did spend a few minutes shopping when my daughter asked for a desk for her room. She got a normal desk from Ikea as she’s starting high school and wanted a workspace.

I saw a $400 electric adjustable one, and was tempted, but decided to go for a $40 upgrade for mine. I got a small table, and added it.

Photo Aug 24, 10 43 42 AM

This one isn’t perfect as it’s a touch high. I did add a couple more foam mats and raised myself to a good level, but I’m not sure I love this.

I do, however, like the extra shelf and space for putting a couple mugs down. I usually have two (coffee and water), so this is handy. I also have space for a few pieces of paper if I need to set them down.

I’m not sure if this is a good move. For now I want to leave things alone as I’m not in a hurry and want to be sure I would use an up/down desk. I certainly have some tasks that work better sitting down, like webinars, so I am tempted to get a chair and work here at times.

The one good thing I have going for me is Redgate is good about ergonomics and ensuring a good workspace. I am tempted by the treadmill desks, but I think I’d just as soon just walk away from the desk if I need a break.

In and Out

Travel always causes issues with work. It was the same when I was a production DBA as it is now as editor and evangelist for Red Gate. The tasks I have to manage and complete don’t seem to ever be scheduled with the idea that I might be away from my desk.

I was off Monday with holiday and family celebrations (and the last ski day of the ’14-’15 season). I also leave Thur morning for SQL Saturday in Huntington Beach and will be gone until the weekend.

As an editor of what’s essentially a newspaper, the issues must go out regularly. That means that last week before I took time away I had to ensure that I had newsletters scheduled for Fri-Tue, as well as working on content for this week. That compresses the schedule of tasks, with more being done before I leave. Today I need to catch up things that occurred while I was gone, as well as prep for tomorrow and Thursday. I’ll also need to get enough done that I have things scheduled for Friday and Monday.

Time management can be hard, and over the last 10 years I’ve learned a few tricks to ensure I can handle the variety of tasks that come my way. What has worked for me is to take some of the lessons from the Boy Scouts and apply them to work.

Be Prepared

For those items I need regularly, I have learned to look ahead and always have a couple items prepared. This mainly means questions, articles, and editorials. Since I’m not sure what will happen in a week or two, my plan is always to hold a few items back and ensure I have at least a week’s worth of items planned.

Like my son works on merit badges, the other thing is to regularly work on items I need rather than wait until I need them. My son often completes a work requirement before he needs it. I may have to remind him, but he’s learning to adopt that on his own. I do the same thing at work, writing, editing, soliciting content before I have the actual need.

Vacation Isn’t Free

Perhaps it’s an American thing, but it seems that vacation is rarely a free gift of time away from work. Even when I worked at a job that was 9 to 5 and few hard deadlines, I still found the need to prep systems or people for my time away.

In addition to the daily work.

There are others on staff at SQLServerCentral that help me out and I really appreciate the time, but there still is an additional load for me to prepare to be away. It helps to tackle this like saving for vacation (or the future).

A little at a time. On a regular basis.

A Week Away

Almost. I’m off this week in Steamboat Springs, enjoying a vacation with the family, but I’ve got one commitment: Database Weekly.

We rotate the workload, and most everyone else has something this month, so I got stuck with it. I didn’t want to try and mess up anyone else’s schedule, as we’re all on holiday, so I’m going to fit it in.

It will be short, so don’t be disappointed next weekend.

Back to Work

After surgery Fri am, I’ve been mostly taking it easy, but now it’s back to work. Got kids to school and at the standing desk. Overall I feel good and can walk fairly normal. Other than this big brace on my leg that slows me down and makes walking funny.

Doing well and looking forward to getting back to full strength, and also being able to travel to events again Smile

The Desktop Setup

Most of us find ourselves to be creatures of habit. We want to have our chair set at a certain height or we can’t easily type. We prefer certain colors on our monitors, and we want our software to be configured in a certain way. For those of us that work with software, we typically desire a particular set of applications installed on all our systems, or we struggle to be productive.

Whether you have a laptop or desktop, or even tablet, there are probably certain things you expect to be set up in your environment. These could be hardware or software items that you find necessary to do your job. This week I wanted to ask you what those items are.

What do you consider to be valuable for your desktop environment?

It could be hardware or software. Are there tools that you find useful for development? For administration? For ergonomic comfort or efficiency? Perhaps even more importantly, do you have a procedure to easily rebuild your next machine, or this one if it has issues?

I don’t have a procedure, but I do tend to work in VMs for SQL and development work. This gives me an easy backup, and if something breaks, I restore a snapshot in the VM. More importantly, I still have a machine that is working if some piece of software causes issues in my environment. Aside from SSMS and VS, I do find that I want the Red Gate toolbelt, an image capture tool (I can’t decide which one), Edit PlusLive WriterGithub, and Evernote in my working environment.

In terms of hardware, I’m fairly flexible, though I do like my standing desk for most work. I find I prefer it to sitting at a desk or table. Of course, the one constant no matter where I work is I need a good supply of water and coffee.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

Listen to the MP3 Audio ( 2.6MB) podcast or subscribe to the feed at iTunes and Mevio . feed

The Voice of the DBA podcast features music by Everyday Jones. No relation, but I stumbled on to them and really like the music. Support this great duo at

Learn about Database Deployment in DC

SQL in the City is coming to the DC area in a few weeks with a seminar on the Stairway to Database Deployment. Both Grant Fritchey and I are traveling to the Washington DC area to deliver a half day, free seminar event on Friday, December 6, 2013. We are likely going to be in the Chevy Chase, MD side of DC that afternoon, but I don’t have a location right now.

If you are in the area, and want to see our vision of how to streamline your database development and deployment and make it run smoother, register today. It’s free, it’s a half day, and afterwards Grant and I will be chatting with you at a happy hour to talk shop, deployment, anything you want.

The seminar is three sessions. I have been presenting the first 2, and Grant the third. The sessions build on each other and are the following:

  • Team-based Development with Version Control
  • Automated Database Build and Test
  • Best Practices for Database Deployment

I’ll also be at SQL Saturday #233 – Washington, DC on Saturday, December 7, 2013. I think I have one session, and I may leave early as I have family in the area, but I’ll be there all morning and happy to chat with you, shake hands, or even just say hi.

If you can attend, please register for SQL in the City or SQL Saturday #233. Both events are free, but we’d like to know who’s coming so we can plan.

One day in the office

I got back from SQL Intersection on Wednesday afternoon. I did work a bit, but not too much after traveling and speaking this week. Today I’m in the office, but only today.

Tomorrow I’m outside.

I have more vacation scheduled tomorrow, along with Monday and Tuesday. Given the nature of my job, that means I need to ensure things are prepped and scheduled for the next few days until I return next Wednesday.

It’s been a busy day. Some of my prep was done last week, but with three days in Las Vegas this week at SQL Intersection, I wasn’t completely prepared. I’ve been editing content, scheduling things, recording podcasts and more.

I’m almost done, which means I should get a good vacation. I should have the chance to start work on another project tomorrow: building a horse shelter.