Rob and I will be running the Portland Half Marathon (that’s 13.1 miles) on 9 October 2011. We’ve even created a hashtag, #SQLRun , to help follow our plans and races. Other #SQLRun participants will be using it, too. You can help us by donating and being part of our scream team.
As part of our entry, we must raise at least $1500 for a charity, Ray of Hope. We chose this charity because:
- It’s a small charity. No multi-million dollar advertising campaign, no lawsuits to enforce their alleged trademark on certain colours, no primetime commercials.
- They are program-oriented. There are no spew of pink/green/bluewashing third party products in weak fund raising schemes, no celebrity endorsements, no product deals with companies hoping to make their products look better. They don’t pay any salaries at all, just a tiny budget for office supplies and marketing.
- They need our help. With such a tiny budget, I imagine that our data community could make a huge difference in what programs they are able to deliver. With almost all your donation going to programs (see below), you personally can make a big difference in someone’s life.
- Let’s just say that Kenya is well-known for their running expertise. We will be drawing upon our inner Kenyans to complete this race.
A great fit for us in that we I love fund raising for causes where the charity meets those requirements and they sound as if they could use some help getting more of their programs in the field. I’d love to blow the top off our fundraising goal for them.
From the Ray of Hope website:
What does your contribution to Ray of Hope provide for our programs in Kenya?
- $20 Gives labor support and nourishment to a woman delivering at the Bware Maternity Center
- $25 Water for one week at the ROH Clinic and Learning Center in Kawangware
- $50 School supplies for one primary school classroom per term
- $100 Monthly salary for an HIV/AIDS Outreach worker in Kawangware
- $250 Cost of a Girls Empowerment Seminar for 100 girls in a rural community
- $750 Full year sponsorship for one student at a secondary boarding school
- $1200 Cost of a 6,000 L water harvesting tank and roof gutters at a primary school
You can see how even a small donation can make a difference.
Be on our Scream Team
What if you aren’t able to donate at this time? We’ll, we’d love to have you on our scream team, either in person or virtually. As we get ready for this race, we’ll be training and running local races to help whip us into shape…at least in shape enough to finish the race upright and smiling. Your virtual shout outs on Twitter and Facebook will mean a lot to us and the other #SQLRun participants. So when you see our Fitbit, Runkeeper, Runmeter, Nike+ , Garmin or other data collection/reporting status updates "cluttering" our timelines, remember that we are training for a very long run as well as raising money for a great cause. Tell your community members running #SQLRun that you support them in their efforts.
If you are going to be in Portland the weekend of 8-9 Octobers (remember, there’s a Portland SQLSaturday on 8 October), you can come downtown Portland to cheer us on. The race has a cut off of 8 hours, but we don’t expect to take nearly that long . All the #SQLRun participants would LOVE to see you on the side the course, cheering them on.
You can be part of our team by running, walking, fund raising, donating, cheering our training or cheering for us during the race. Just do it. (Apologies to Nike).
The organizers of the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) have opened up abstract voting for the PASS Summit, being held in Seattle, 11-14 October. There are a gazillion amazing sessions that were submitted, but you can help direct which ones get picked to be included in the Summit program by voting on the session proposals you prefer. Voting closes on 20 May 2011.
Rob and I have both submitted sessions. Rob has submitted a Professional Development topic:
Getting What You Deserve: 7 Steps to Gain Respect in Your Organization 
Session Category: Regular Session (75 minutes)
Session Track: Professional Development
Speaker(s): Rob Drysdale
Too often we hear people complaining that they don’t get respect in their organizations or that they aren’t involved in projects when they should be. It seems like our organizations don’t understand what we do, why it’s necessary and the overall value that we can bring to the organization. On the flip side, they are ready to blame us for all the problems. This session will provide the audience with insight into why this lack of respect exists, how we got here and how we can change it.
I’m biased, but I really like this presentation because Rob is giving it from the point of view of a business user and an IT professional. He has stories about his experiences working on both sides of the table: as a subject matter expert (SME) and a project manager and business analyst. He knows what works in getting resources from the business budget, how to get quality time with a SME, and what DEFINITELY not to say if you need the business organization to do something to make your projects better.
You need to hear what he has to share. Go vote now. I’ll wait until you come back…..
I was invited to submit spotlight sessions due to good feedback scores for both my 24 Hours of PASS and my session at last year’s Summit. For the summit invite I could submit any session, so I submitted my favourite one, Database Design Contentious Issues. I have been giving this presentation for almost 15 years and guess what? We are all still a contentious bunch of data professionals.
Database Design Contentious Issues – The Debate 
Session Category: Spotlight Session (90 minutes, Invitation only)
Session Track: Application and Database Development
Speaker(s): Karen Lopez
A highly interactive and popular session where attendees evaluate the options and best practices of common and advanced design issues, such as:
* Natural vs. Surrogate keys,
* Varchar(1) and other Varying datatypes,
* Identity Properties,
* Naming Standards: Useful or Crazy?,
* NULL vs. NOT NULL,
This is a physical interactive, irreverent and funny approach to topics we data professionals work with every day.
Bring your votes, your contentions, and your opinions. They will be rewarded.
(This is the fun presentation with all the sticky notes and voting)
Session Category: Spotlight Session (90 minutes, Invitation only)
Session Track: Application and Database Development
Speaker(s): Karen Lopez
What’s going on in your physical data models and databases? Who actually decides what goes into the database design? How do you choose your primary keys? How do you implement them? Are GUIDs bad, good or "it depends"? Are your datatypes the right ones for the data? How can you measure the cost, benefits and risks of any design recommendation? Are there universally good design practices? Universally bad design practices?
In this presentation we discuss five physical database design mistakes that cost you dearly: performance snags, development delays, bugs, and professional respect. Data professionals are often tasked to prepare physical data models, yet these skills usually overlap those of other team members and this overlap can lead to contention, confusion, and complacency.
In this presentation, you’ll learn about the five blunders, how to find them as well as many tips on how to avoid them. You learn how to talk about and defend your design recommendations and how to ensure that you have the information to demonstrate they are the right designs for your project.
Bring your armor, snark and humor. Blunders can be fun no matter how bad they are.
Because that last session was invited as being one of the top presenters at the March 2011 24Hours of PASS, I have a guaranteed spot on the summit. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me. Of course, the Database Design Contentious Issues presentation is my absolute favourite presentation to give, I’d love to have it picked. It’s also the only presentation I have that MUST be given in person – not webinar friendly. A tough but very happy spot to be in.
The first is of the retraction of the Rotating Service Structure (RSS) that surrounds the shuttle while it is being prepared for launch. This happened about noon on 15 May 2011, the day before the launch. We tweet up-ers were taken by buses courtesy of the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Visitor Complex to just outside Pad 39A where Endeavour activities were finishing up prior the launch. I took a screen shot of Google Maps on my phone to show the location near where we viewed the retraction.
I was able to get a bazillion pictures, as the retraction takes about 30 minutes. We all stood there in the Florida sunshine, watching people do their work while the RSS slowly rotated away from the orbiter.
In addition to using real cameras, I also gave Video Girl Barbie a chance to do her own filming with her embedded video camera. Her camera produces low quality recordings, but I find what she does produce to be of decent quality. First up is the retraction video taken on 15 May just outside Pad 39A.
For some more context, this is my photo of Endeavour. That’s how close we where.
The next morning we arrived at KSC just after 3AM. It was especially nice to see the orbiter all lit up. We definitely weren’t as close this time, but being 3.1 miles away meant that we were the closest non-staff viewers of the launch.
Video Girl did a great job filming the launch. You may want to crank up your speakers to get the full effect of the rumbling launch sound.
I have a bunch of pictures to share, and a few draft blog posts hanging around that you’ll see over the next few weeks. I’ll try to spread them out a bit so that you aren’t inundated with all my #spacebrain content all at once.
I haven’t blogged yet about my NASA Tweetup experiences, for the most part because I’m worried about coming across as too emotional about the entire experience. As I previously posted, I’m attending a special NASA program that brings 150 Twitter users from around the world to Kennedy Space Center to watch the launch of the Shuttle Endeavour on her last mission, STS-134. I started this post hoping to keep it as a short overview. It’s not.
Pre-Tweetup – Level Green
The launch was originally scheduled for mid-April, then that was moved to 29 April due to a traffic jam in space. No worries. I arrived here in Florida on 26 April. Wednesday I picked up my credentials and then went over to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex to add to my space brain, the term I’ve been using for being inundated with science about space exploration. I also met up with my house mates of Venus House for the first time.
Thursday – Level Orange
Thursday we headed over to Kennedy Space Center (KSC) to get settled in the Tweetup Tent (affectionately referred to as the twent). I new we were going to be close to the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building, but I had no idea we’d be parking right next to it. That was just awe-inspiring. There we met our fellow Tweetup attendees. We started with the obligatory “everybody introduce yourselves, tell us where you are from and something interesting about you”. Crap. Interesting? Okay, I’ll say that I’m a…well, let’s wait to see what everyone else says. I was sitting on the far end, near the air conditioners. They started on the other side. As people stood up to say who they were I sat there stunned by the number of accomplishments and backgrounds. Quick…what the hell can I say that is interesting? Somehow “I like data” just didn’t seem to be that interesting with this group. Attendees came from all walks of life: 3 -time Jeopardy champion, Internet company founders, Twitter staff, rocket scientists, TV and film stars, musicians, pilots, journalists…well, you can read what most said about themselves at http://nasatweet.com/wiki/STS134_Fun_facts …but I think that most people were a bit too humble about their interesting things. So I finally settled on “I’m a former national spokesperson for Women in IT. I help encourage girls to take more science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)” That seemed to go over well, with this crowd being STEM friendly. I mentioned that I had brought the technical Barbies with me to enjoy the launch, too. I was already starting to have the overwhelming feeling that this Tweetup was going to be something like I’ve never experienced before. Emotions were at Alert Level Orange by that point.
We did a tour of the KSC property, including the inside of the VAB. There we got to see Atlantis being prepped for her last voyage soon after Endeavour’s trip. Did I tell you we got to go inside? That’s insane. There aren’t normal tours for going inside the VAB. I guess to other people it’s just where they work. For me it was just amazing. I need to find another word. Someone find me a thesaurus.
Thursday was a full program of speakers from NASA, including astronauts and staff. More on that later. We were supposed to go out near the pad to watch the retraction, but freaky storm weather cancelled that. My first disappointment. Emotions still at Level Orange, but barely.
Friday – Level Red
On Friday we headed back over to KSC ready to experience an opportunity of a lifetime — to see the launch from just over 3 miles away. To put this in perspective, if you were 400 yards from the launch the heat and flame would kill you. If you were 800 yards from the launch, the sound would kill you. So 3 miles is close. It’s as close as non-workers can get. Emotion Levels were Reddish Orange, sort of like a tequila sunrise. I set up my tripod to reserve a space. Right next to a tripod from an international camera crew. My tripod looked sad next to theirs, but it was setup and ready to go. More exciting program inside the twent happened, and I’ll post pictures of that in a later post.
Every presenter over the two days spoke of the emotion and the feeling of awe of what they did for a living. It was all about STEM, but overall the most blow-me-away thoughts were about humanity, peace, the meaning of life, and…emotions. As each person spoke, I could see the passion they had about the work they did; they were changing the world and they loved every minute of it.
Sadly, as Rob blogged, the launch was scrubbed about noon on Friday due to a mechanical failure. We were terribly disappointed, but all of us understood that safety first is the key phrase. We watched the Astronaut Van drive slowly past, it made an unexpected turn into the VAB drive. We were hoping that it was just making a special drive by of the special observation area, but it wasn’t to be. I was interviewed by NPR’s All Things Considered about this disappointment. I found out that interview made it to the air because people all over the US started tweeting that they heard me on their drives home from work. How wonderful is that?
I have to say that seeing that Astro Van take a turn when it wasn’t supposed to was heartbreaking. It wasn’t a crushing blow because I was by then riding a full RED ALERT emotionally already. I had experienced so many amazing things up to then it didn’t matter. The launch would happen when Endeavour was ready for it to happen.
Later in the afternoon President Obama arrived, even though the launch had been scrubbed, to meet the astronauts and their families. We were able to wave to him as he waved back at us, a bunch of Twitter Space-crazed photographers.
And then there was more: NASA Tweetup attendee Chris Cardinal proposed to attendee Nina Tallman, right in front of the Countdown Clock. As a fellow geek, that was so amazing to see. My emotions were now just going crazy. I took a bazillion pictures.
Most of us stayed in the twent, listening to ad hoc program presentations, chatting about everything that had been happening so far, and talking about making extended travel arrangements. We looked forward to a launch in the next 48 hours. All was fine.
Saturday – SQLSaturday
When the scrub was announced, Kendal van Dyke (twitter and another former NASATweetup attendee) reminded me there was a SQLSaturday happening in Jacksonville. I caught a ride with him and two other great SQL community members Bradley Ball (twitter) and Dan Taylor( twitter). So I got to spend time with the rocking SQL Community at the last minute. What a great opportunity. For the ride back we were all really tired and we had great gut-busting laughs, the kind that are hilarious if you are tired, entirely stoked from being with a great community and punchy from getting only a couple of hours of sleep. Thanks, guys, for taking care of me and the Technical Barbies. Oh, and for letting me be part of your SQLRoadtrip.
Now – Back to Tequila Red Orange
I have many photos and blog posts to share and am struggling with how to not overly spam this blog with them. I have lots of potential blog posts that talk about data, project management, decisions, and costs, benefits and risks. But my main concern is that I’m still GUSHING with emotions and I don’t think my posts will come across as anything but completely insane. I’ve been struggling with this post, trying not to fill it with #FTW #AWESOMESAUCE #ZOMG and 10,000 exclamation points. Did I tell you have pictures?
I so wish I could have taken every single girl that I talk to about taking more science, technology, math and engineering along with me to see an hear just how freaking rewarding STEM careers are. I’d show them how these careers change the world and make lives better. I’d show them the fabulous role models, how much fun they have, and how being in a community of insanely smart people can make every minute count.
As I am putting the finishing touches on this, NASA just announced that the current date (more about that coming, too) will be pushed back again. I was doing okay travel-wise because I was already planning on being in Orlando for SQLRally on this Saturday. Staying over a few extra days was cheaper and easier, so that’s what I’m doing. As of right now, it will be later and not 10 May as last announced. You know what? I’m still at EMOTION LEVEL RED…ish. All things considered.
Image by nasa hq photo via Flickr
A Right Turn Instead Of A Left Turn
Some time ago, Karen and I put our names in to attend the #NASATweetup scheduled for the last launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-134). Karen was chosen and went down last week and had a fabulous experience, but with less than 3 hours to go until the launch it got scrubbed. Throughout that morning they had already worked on a problem with a regulator and had made up for lost time caused by a storm the previous day and it all looked good for a launch. I was watching the tweets and through NASA TV saw the astronauts in the Astro Van heading to the launch pad when they turned right to go back instead of left and we found out the launch was scrubbed. As of right now, a new launch date has not been set as they work on the problem and determine when the next eligible target launch date can be.
But We’re Going To Disappoint All These People
The launch delay got me thinking about how decisions like that get made especially so close to the deadline and how we could apply this thinking to our own projects. Think about it, the President was on his way, there were numerous dignitaries, 150 #NASATweetup attendees, and an estimated 700,000 others there to watch this historic launch of the last shuttle flight of Endeavour. Can you imagine having to be the one that has to say “not today”? Have you ever been on a project when the executives are there saying “Let’s just go ahead and implement it and we’ll fix it later”?
Your Decision Making Process Is Key And Must Be In Writing
While most of us don’t deal with projects with the same risk factors as NASA does we still have to deal with problems and risk, but how we deal with it is key. As Karen detailed in her post #NASATweetup – It’s a GO! Readiness Reviews and Your Projects this all works when you have everything documented beforehand and you have a formal process for this. In essence, you have algorithms and decision trees that you follow that make sure that you make the right choice and don’t let human emotion and behaviour get in the way. Don’t get me wrong, this was not an immediate decision and I’m sure it was not an easy decision. But if you have all of your options and decision trees, policies and procedures mapped out ahead of time then the decision is based on those written policies and not subject to human emotion.
In the announcement of the delay Shuttle Launch Director, Mike Leinbach, stated:
Today, the orbiter is not ready to fly…we will not fly before we’re ready.
This was not a decision taken lightly, but after thoroughly evaluating the problem and determining if it could be fixed prior to launch or if it was more serious. But with such a short time to launch they had to make a firm decision, so they did. In my mind, this takes a lot of integrity and strength to be able to stand up and say that they can’t launch.
So the next time you have a problem on one of your projects think about this: WWND – What Would NASA Do? Better yet, when you start a project, write down all the possible scenarios, risks and decisions and a have a formal process so you can follow it when you need to.
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