Getting Healthy With Tech

Introduction

Over the last few months, I’ve been working hard to get healthier. I’m diabetic, with high blood pressure, and overweight (like a lot of people in IT). So, I’ve been working hard to change that.

I’m also a tech nerd and a data guy. I’ve been using tech to track my progress, examine many critical metrics, and trend these over time.

I thought others may benefit from what I’ve done in this area over the last few months, and thought I’d share the tech and apps I’ve been using here.

Apple Watch

I use multiple platforms for my daily work, including Windows and Linux, but in my opinion it’s Apple who has health tech really nailed down. My Apple Watch is my first tool for tracking my health.

With it, I can track my exercises. Every day, no excuses, I do a minimum of thirty minutes of exercise although as I’ve progressed it’s turned into forty or more. I have an indoor exercise bike for rainy days, or on a nice day head to the great outdoors for a swift walk.

When I walk, I use walking / hiking poles to give my arms a bit of a workout. On days where I do my indoor bike, I do some weightlifting with some handheld barbells to work my arms.

My watch tracks the length of my workout, how many calories I burned, what the weather was like, and if I walk what path did I take, and what elevation change was included in my route.

In addition, it also tracks my blood oxygen level, heart rate, and has an ECG function. It also tracks my sleep to see how much rest I’m getting at night. The watch also has a cool little mindfulness app, which helps me calm down and focus.

Finally, it provides reminders to stand up every hour. Like a lot of IT people, when I get seated in front of my PC I get really focused and lose track of time. Suddenly 3 hours can go by. Then when I stand up my bad back has gone stiff, and my arthritic hips let me know they aren’t happy.

The reminder to stand every hour has really made a difference. Getting up and moving around hourly really helps eliminate those stiff and sore times.

Apple iPhone / iPad

The information in my watch feeds back to the Fitness and Health apps on my iPhone. Here I can review my information from the watch, combined with data from my other apps and tools, more of which I’ll cover momentarily.

As you can see, the fitness app gives me a nice dashboard of my progress. Today I did a 2.03-mile walk. My total exercise time for today was 50 minutes. Note that if I had done multiple exercise activities, for example 30 minutes on my bike and 10 minutes of weights, it would combine that time.

It also shows my total calories burned, along with my target for today. So far, I’ve done 440 of 600 calories for my day today. The fitness app helps you calculate your target, but you can override it. In addition, it will prompt you to increase it over time based on your past workouts.

For example, when I first started my goal was 520 calories. It then increased to 560, and now to 600. I’m sure in the near future I’ll be prompted to increase it further, although as I mentioned I can change this whenever I feel I’m ready.

Finally, it also shows how many times I’ve stood today, with a goal of standing up at least once during an hour, for 12 hours in the day.

The circles show your progress in a quick graphical format. Once the circle is closed you’ve completed your goal for the day, although it will continue the circle beyond the target. This makes it easy to challenge yourself to meet your goal.

Some refer to this as the “gameification” of exercise. Turning exercise into a game, much like trying to get a high score in a video game. While intellectually I understand what is going on, it’s still a fun challenge to meet these goals and very satisfying to see those circles close.

Beyond the software built into my Apple devices, there are some other devices and applications I use.

Basic App Requirements

Before I list the apps and devices, I wanted to list a few of my basic requirements in selecting health apps. You may not have these same requirements, so you may find other apps that work better for you.

First, the app must work on both iPad and iPhone, with bonus points if there is an associated app for the Apple Watch. I like to do my monitoring of data on the iPad (which has a nice big screen my old eyes can see) but be able to register things like taking my meds on my iPhone, which is generally handy.

Next, the app needed to sync between the iPad / iPhone. I found many good apps, but very few that had the ability to synchronize their information between devices.

Finally, it needs to be easy to use. My wife is also tracking her health, but while smart she’s not a technical person so it has to be good for an average user, and not just tech nerds like me.

Omron Blood Pressure Monitor

To keep track of my blood pressure I use a monitor from a company called Omron. They have multiple devices, mine has Bluetooth and allows for two users, which is nice as you can share with your spouse / significant other / pesky relative that won’t leave.

My model is the BP7350, but there are a range of models that support this functionality. In the Apple Appstore they have a corresponding Omron Connect app. It’s pretty simple, you take your BP on the machine, then open the app and it syncs that reading to the iPhone.

As you can see it displays my readings for today. I can tap the History button on the bottom to see my readings over time. Should my meter and phone not automatically synchronize, I can tap the Sync button in the upper right corner to have the two sync.

If you tap the + button, it brings up an additional menu. Tap on Profile, then App Settings and it will let you copy your readings into the Apple Health App.

Blood Glucose

Being diabetic it’s important to monitor my blood glucose (aka blood sugar) every day. For that, I use the OneTouch Verio Flex meter. While this meter is not in my insurance company’s “approved” list, it was only $26 (US). The test strips run about $22 (US) for thirty, about a month’s supply.

Both of these I happily pay out of pocket for the convenience of easily tracking my readings. There is a corresponding OneTouch app for the iPhone, it pairs with the meter over Bluetooth. I just take my reading and it automatically syncs to my phone.

As you can see it forms a two-way link to the Apple Health and Fitness apps. It copies my daily reading into Apple Health and reads in my workouts from Fitness. It also looks for and warns about negative trends.

And yes, before someone points it out, I know my sugars are way too high. Late last year we found out my previous meds had quit working. The doctor’s office says it happens sometimes. So, my doctor and I are working with different medications to see what is most effective for me. It’s still a work in progress.

I mentioned it is a two-way link, the app also writes my glucose numbers into my Apple Health app.

Weight Tracking

As you might expect as part of getting healthier, I wanted to lose weight. Thus, I needed an effective way to track it. Ideally, I wanted to be able to just step on a scale, and it be recorded in an app.

I already used some Wyze cameras, since I had the app already it was an easy choice to select the Wyze scale.

In addition to weight, it also has other measurements such as BMI. One tip, don’t step off the scale too soon. Let it read your weight in, then wait a second. It will then calculate its other measurements. At that point you can step off, and the readings will show up in the Wyze app.

On the screen that displays your weight, you can go into the settings (gear icon in the upper right) and turn on data sharing with third party apps, like Apple Health. At $33 (US) this was a no brainer purchase.

Hydration

Staying hydrated is important for good health. Especially for diabetics, as it helps keep the sugars flushed from your system.

Note, don’t take anything here as medical advice, I’m not a doctor, I’m just sharing what mine told me. Your situation may vary, so be sure to consult your own physician.

To track my hydration, and to get reminders that it is time to drink, I selected an app called WaterMinder. It has iPhone and iPad apps as well as an app for the Apple Watch. You enter basic data like your age, height, weight, and it calculates how much water you should take in.

To be honest this is the one failing I found with the app, the number it creates is about half of what every other site I found said I should be getting. For me it said 80 ounces a day, so I just doubled that, and overrode the goal to 160 ounces a day. Again, be sure to do your own research and discuss the proper fluid intake goals with your own doctor.

As you can see, the app provides a cute little graphic showing your intake for the day. So far, I’ve taken in 100.8 oz, or 63% of my goal. To add data, you can tap the + button and quick pick a water cup amount. Alternatively, you can tap the icon to the right of it, and it brings up a menu with various kinds of liquids and lets you type in how many ounces.

That’s one of the things I really like about this app. If you, for example, drink milk, it calculates how much water is in the milk then adds just that amount of water to your hydration total.

The app will sync between devices, but it’s not always automatic. You can force it though, although I didn’t see it documented. Just tap the + button, then tap outside it, and it will force a sync.

You can also share your readings with another user of the WaterMinder. I share mine with my wife, and she shares hers with me. We can see how much water the other one has ingested and encourage each other.

The app also has a nice history feature. It will show your trend over time, but for a given day it will also show you each individual entry. That way you can track exactly what you’d consumed that day.

Medication

Many people, as they get older, take one or more medications. Even younger, healthier folks tend to take one or more vitamins. As such, it’s important to have a way to track not just what medications you take but to remind you when it is time to take them.

I spent a lot of time trying a multitude of apps to find one that met my requirements. I finally found one called EveryDose.

EveryDose is simple to use. You enter in all your medications. Built in there is a list of valid medications, so as you begin to type you can then pick your medication from the list. Should your medication not be in the list, no problem you can elect to add it anyway.

You also enter the strength of the pill, for example 50 mg, then the dose, 1 pill, 2, 1.5 pills, etc. Like the medications, you can enter a custom value as well.

As part of the data entry, you can select a time of day to take the medication, as well as a frequency (as needed, once a day, once a week, etc.).

Note I’ve blurred out my prescription meds, but you can also enter your vitamins into the app to track them. When the reminder alert goes off, you can tell the app you took the meds on time, just now, or enter a specific date/time.

If you need to, you can go down the list and pick the meds you took individually. This is handy should you run out of a particular pill that day.

You can export your list of meds so you can easily share with your doctor or pharmacist, plus great logging so you can see which meds you have taken on what days.

The one thing it lacked was integration into Apple Health. I’d love to see it enter my vitamins and such into those areas in Apple Health. But its other features were enough to make me go with it.

Exporting Health Data

You can take your health data to the next level by exporting it. Once exported, you can add it to your own database, or most importantly share it with your health care provider.

To do that well, I found an excellent app called Health Auto Export. This is a multicomponent application. There is one app that runs on the iPhone itself. This app provides some simple reporting, but its main purpose is to run in the background and update your personal database. This data can then be used by the Health Auto Export iPad app, as well as their app that runs on MacOS.

The primary purpose is to export your health data to a variety of formats such as CSV. You can bring this into Excel or Numbers, then slice and dice to provide your doctor with just the information they need.

It also has a nice dashboard which you can customize. Here’s an example of mine:

This gives me an easy-to-use dashboard I can view on my Mac or my iPads. I can drill down, using the menu on the left, to get more details, along with trends displayed over various charts and graphs.

As I mentioned, the most important functionality for me is the ability to export data. This has allowed me to share with my doctor, which helps him adjust my medication and track my health.

Conclusion

As I work to improve my health, I’ve explored a variety of apps and tools to track my progress. I wanted to share what I’ve found so far in case you, too, are seeing to improve your health.

I said this earlier in the post but want to reiterate: I am not a medical professional, and I am not offering medical advice. Please consult your physician before embarking on any healthcare, such as exercise, hydration, medication, and the like.

For me this is a journey, a work in progress. It’s possible, even likely, that as time goes by, I will find other apps and devices to improve my health.

If you have suggestions, perhaps you’ve found a better app or device, then by all means share them in the comments so we can all get healthier. My slogan has become:

Exercise, hydrate, medicate, every day! No excuses. Be a monster!

ArcaneCode

Happy New Year – Now Go Make Your Bed

Happy New Year!

As we start this new year, I wanted to share a piece of advice that I’ve followed for the last few years, which has helped my mental state.

Make your bed.

Every day.

I know, it sounds simple, but it makes a surprising difference.

First off, you start the day with a “win”. You look at your neatly made bed and get a feeling that you’ve already accomplished something for the day. It puts you in the attitude that you are ready to tackle the next thing.

Now flip it. You are coming to bed after a long day. If you leave your bed unmade, you see a chaotic mess. The sheets are rumpled, it looks like a choppy ocean wave. It does not, to me anyway, look at all inviting.

If your bed was made though, it reminds you of a calm, tranquil lake. Soft, smooth, ready to relax in.

I also make my sheets fun by having a variety of colors. Over time I’d purchase a set with some extra pillowcases from my local big box store. I selected colors I could mix and match. Black, White, Blue, Green, Red, and Brown.

I also picked up some fleece covers to act as my bed spread in colors that complement the sheets. White, Red, Blue, Brown, and Gray. This lets me setup combos like Green and Gray, Black and Red, Black and White, Blue and White (as you can see in the photo at the top), you name it I have lots of fun combos that keep my bedroom looking fresh and different, just with combining sheets and blankets.

Again, I realize this sounds like an extremely simple thing. However, it’s a piece of advice I’ve seen many experts give so I decided to try it, and by golly it does make a difference in my outlook on the day.

Habits are interesting things, once you get them started it annoys you mentally when you skip them. Only rarely have I not made my bed, and that was usually because I was sick and in it. The other few times it was because I overslept and had to run out the door. Those times as soon as I got home I made it because it was mentally annoying me.

You can now build on this habit to improve other areas of your life. Perhaps putting your car keys in a specific spot so you don’t lose them, brushing your teeth, allocating time to update your blog, and more.

Try it, if nothing else you’ll have a nice neat bed.

Arcane 2011 Year in Review

Seems most folks I know are doing “Year in Review” posts for their blogs. Not wanting to miss a chance to do a blatant rip-off I thought I’d jump on the band wagon.

My MVP Award was renewed for 2011. This award is something I’m both proud and humbled to receive, especially in the SQL community. MVPs in general are a very helpful, friendly bunch, and the SQL especially so. I really like the new #SQLFamily hashtag that’s being used on Twitter. Aside from my family, I think becoming an MVP is the thing I’m most proud of in my life.

I was quite happy when my second co-authored book, SQL Server MVP Deep Dives Vol II came out. All proceeds went to charity, it felt great to help out both the children in Operation Smile and the SQL community.

I’ve continued my public speaking, being allowed to present at places such as the New York City Code Camp, SQL Rally in Orlando, and one of my favorites CodeStock.

I produced quite a bit of new training content for Pluralsight, to positive reviews. I’m glad this relationship is continuing, teaching is the best way to learn new things and I’ve learned a great deal, and hopefully helped a few others.

The most exciting news of my year though was going to work for Pragmatic Works! You could have knocked me over with a feather when, at the MVP Summit last year, Brian Knight (I should say THE Brian Knight) looks at me and says “So, you looking for a job?” When someone of Brian’s caliber asks if you want a job, you don’t say no.

Coming to work at Pragmatic Works was a great career move for me. We currently have five (yes, FIVE) MVPs working here. That’s a huge percentage considering the size of our company. And there’s quite a few of our guys that are working hard in the community, and I see an MVP award in their future. 

In addition to the regular consulting you might expect I’ve also gotten to do a lot of training. I love doing training, its so gratifying to share knowledge, guide students, see that look of “ah-ha” on their faces when it all clicks for them. I think that has been my favorite part of the job so far.

As a company Pragmatic Works is doing very well, entering into several new, exciting partnerships. Plus, they keep increasing our benefits! In a time when other companies are cutting costs, they have given us three new benefits!

With this level of technical expertise, it keeps me challenged. It also inspires me toward even more professional achievements.

On the home front, I now have a teenager living in my home. My sweet little baby girl turned 13 this year! Holy cow, how did that happen? I mean, last time I checked I was only 17 myself. And her sister is not far behind.

They had a great year, we home school and they got involved in a science program at Auburn University where they learn scientific techniques. They did some forensic investigations, and are now learning how to do proper experiments, clearly defining the various steps. They get all this brain power from their teacher / mother, my wife is the real brains in the family.

They also took up new extra curricular activities. My youngest, Anna, learned to ice skate and even did her first skating show just before Christmas. My older daughter, Raven, now plays the guitar and has given her first recital. My home office is under her bedroom, and I often get to enjoy the sounds of her practicing over my head.

And of course, last but not least, I have to give a special shout out to my lovely wife of 15 years, Ammie. She has been very supportive of my career, even though with the new work related travel it has meant more work for her. I know I’m very lucky to have a wife this supportive. Thanks sweetheart!

With that, another year bites the dust. 2012 is shaping up to be an exciting year. Assuming of course the world doesn’t end. But if it did, I suppose that would be exciting too, so either way it’s a win, excitement wise.

The Pragmatic Arcane Coder

I wanted to let everyone know some exciting news. Starting March 21st I’ll be going to work at Pragmatic Works! Pragmatic Works has a great variety of tools for SQL Server Business Intelligence, training videos, books, as well as a thriving consulting division.

While I’ll miss my friends over at Comframe I’m very excited to be joining one of the premier BI consulting firms in the US. This promises opportunities for even more speaking engagements, as well as multiple outlets for content creation.

Here’s to a Pragmatic future!

Arcane Fun Fridays–Music to Code By

I love music, it’s great to listen to when I read or program. I do find music with a lot of lyrics distracting when I’m trying to concentrate, thus action/adventure soundtracks are one of my favorite genera’s. Some surprisingly good music can be found from video game soundtracks. I thought I’d share a few of my favorites with you.

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Call of Duty – Modern Warfare 2 – This is an awesome score. I love the game, and love the music even more. It’s fast paced and will really keep your energy flowing.

 

 

 

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Call of Duty – Black Ops – Another great game, and another great soundtrack.

 

 

 

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Army of Two – After finding the Call of Duty soundtracks, I began to explore the soundtracks from other video games. This is the first one that I thought was in the same class as the Call of Duty games. Good stuff.

SQL Saturday 29 Birmingham

We just finished up our SQL Saturday here in Birmingham Alabama. It was number 29 in the list of SQL Saturdays. First off let me cover some supporting material for the two sessions I gave. The first was an introduction to Microsoft’s new self service BI tool, PowerPivot. Attendees can download my slides here: PowerPivot Slides  You can also see all my posts so far on PowerPivot at https://arcanecode.com/category/powerpivot/ or by picking PowerPivot from the drop down over on the right side of this blog.

My second session of the day was an introduction to SSIS. Step by step instructions, the sample project, and the slide deck can all be found on my Code Gallery site. At the end we got a bit rushed for time, hopefully some of your questions can be answered from some of my past posts on SSIS. If not feel free to send me an e-mail (rcain at comframe.com or arcanecode at gmail.com) and I’ll see what I can do to help.

Attendees of both sessions may also find my Introduction to Data Warehousing/Business Intelligence slide deck helpful to clarify some BI terminology.

In my roles as speaker, volunteer, and event planner I had little time to take pictures, but I did grab a few at the very end of the day, I thought I’d share them here:

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Some lucky winners of books looking over the remaining stack to pick out their prize.

John Baldwin, our fearless leader is in the grey shirt all the way on the right.

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Obligatory crowd shot. Dividers broke this big room down to 4 rooms where we had our sessions.

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One more crowd shot, showing some of the higher end swag including a Wii, a Garmin GPS, multiple

copies of Office and Windows 7, and two copies of the SQL Server MVP Deep Dives book I coauthored.

My role in event planning was acting as the speaker coordinator. Finding quality people willing to travel to Birmingham, on their own time and expense,  to give presentations. Thanks to Sven Aelterman, Kevin Boles, Louis Davidson, Janis Griffin, Kevin Grohoske, Geoff Hiten, Rodney Landrum, Vincent Mayfield, Aaron Nelson, Barry Ralston, Joe Webb and Jim Wooley. It was their presentations that helped us draw the big crowd we did.

Speaking of the crowd, much thanks to all of you who attended. The folks in my sessions were very attentive, asked many good questions, and kept the discussion lively and interesting. I’m glad all of you came and hope to see you all next year.

I also would be remiss if I didn’t thank all of our sponsors. Without their donations we would not have been able to put on the event. Microsoft, Teksouth, Bit Wizards, Confio, Redgate, Attunity, Telerik, Intellinet, CozyRoc, Wrox, TekSystems and O’Reilly Publishing and to the SQL PASS organization.

I should also give personal note of thanks to my employer COMFRAME, for putting up with my extended lunches and letting me juggle my schedule to run errands and do other planning activities and presentation prep time.

Finally a few last thanks and kudos are definitely in order. The first should go to Vito Amato and his merry band of volunteers. They kept everyone in cold drinks, helped the speakers with their needs, answered attendees questions, checked folks in at the door, and in general did everything that needed to be done to keep the event running smoothly.

A big thanks and congratulations to John Baldwin, our fearless leader, and his right hand man Morgan Smith for taking the leadership to plan and organize the event. They worked long and hard to make the event the success it was.

If you want to keep the fun and education continuing, we’d love to have you join us at our monthly user group meetings, http://www.steelcitysql.org/. Thanks for a great SQL Saturday, and I can’t wait for next year’s!

SQL Server MVPs Help War Child International

SQL Server MVP Deep Divers CoverI’m proud to announce the new book SQL Server MVP Deep Dives has been released. You can find out more, as well as place your pre-order for the book at http://www.sqlservermvpdeepdives.com

I am proud for several reasons. First, I am a contributing author. If you look at Chapter 13, Full Text Searching, you’ll find my name, Robert C. Cain. This is my first work in print, and it was a great experience. I got a lot of great advice from the editors, fellow MVPs. It was also good as I got to do some editing myself. (To keep down costs we edited each others chapters.) In addition I got to work with the great folks at Manning and working through their publication process.

But I’m even more proud because all proceeds from the book go to War Child International. War Child International is a federation of charities devoted to helping children in war torn countries. They not only meet the basic needs of the kids, but work to give a message of peace, so when they grow up the cycle of violence will be broken.

The official book launch will take place at the PASS Summit, Nov. 2 to 5 in Seattle Washington. Manning promises to have plenty of the books in the Summit bookstore. Many of the MVPs, including myself, will be there and be glad to sign books for those interested.

To make the most of your donation though, placing your order at http://www.sqlservermvpdeepdives.com will get the most money to War Child. If you order now, you can access the early online version, and a printed copy will be mailed to you. This is a great chance to gain a tremendous amount of knowledge and help a worthy cause at the same time. Plus there is an added bonus for those attending the PASS Summit, if you buy now you can read chapters on line, and be prepared to ask questions of the authors at the summit!

 

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How can you help?  Obviously, start by buying a copy of the book. Then let your fellow SQL Server and Developer geeks know about this effort. Urge them to buy a copy, get your company to buy several for the company library. Or do like I will, and buy several copies to give to friends. Finally, you can take the direct approach. Go directly to the War Child site and make a donation today.

Happenings in Arcane’s World

I just wanted to take a second to pop my head up and say “Hi!” It’s been a busy few weeks for your humble Arcane Coder. Last week I finished my technical edits for my book chapter for the upcoming “SQL Server MVP Deep Dives” book. My chapter will focus on Full Text Searching.

I then worked on getting ready for the upcoming BSDA LINQ Bootcamp event, which takes place at the end of July. If you’d like to attend this two day, free event see the notice at http://altechevents.com/2009/07/13/bsda-presents-linq-bootcamp/ or you can use the short url of http://tinyurl.com/bsdalinq. Please pass it along to all your friends.

To add to my fun I recently got a new laptop, an Acer Aspire 8730. You may recall lightening hit our house last year and fried many of our computers. Our insurance finally came through and this was the model I selected to replace a fried desktop system. So far I’ve been quite pleased with it, the 18.4 inch screen has been very nice for development. I’ve also been impressed with the battery live, have gotten close to 3 hours which isn’t bad for something this huge. We’ve nick named it “The Beast”. I’ve been busy getting all the software installed and configured.

I’m also looking forward to attending DevLink next month. This three day geek fest looks to be an awesome event, and a steal for the price. If you see me there be sure to say hi!

I’ve got an interesting series of posts lined up for this coming week, hopefully there will be something useful for everyone!

Thank You

I found out today Microsoft renewed my MVP award for the 2009-2010 year. I am grateful that my efforts to serve the community were recognized. I’m grateful to Microsoft for caring enough about the community to have setup a program to recognize and more importantly enable those who server.

I am also grateful to you, the readers and my friends in the technical community for allowing me in, for reading my blog, and letting me speak at various community events. Your support, encouragement and friendship have been invaluable.

Finally and most importantly I need to thank my lovely wife and two beautiful daughters. They have endured a lot of evenings of me getting home late after an event, or seeing me face down over a hot laptop working on some new presentation or blog post. Without their love and support none of my efforts would have been possible.

Cancer Sucks

Rarely do I post something personal here, but something is bothering me and I have to get it out. This week a good friend, one of my ham radio buddies, Charles /  N4DKE passed away from cancer. I’ve known Charles for almost 10 years, a relatively brief time compared to the many other friendships he had. He was one of my ham “Elmers”. In ham radio lingo an “Elmer” is someone who acts as a mentor.

Charles always had a great story to tell, or joke, or some neat gadget or gizmo to show off. He often gave presentations at ham club and always made them interesting. He was one of those people who knew everybody. During introductions he’d always just say “Ya’ll know who I am.” And everyone did, too.

What made this suck so bad was Charles was only 57 years old. 57. That’s young. During the visitation Wednesday evening all I could keep thinking was “This sucks, we shouldn’t have to be here.” In a way I feel robbed, there were so many more great stories of his to hear, jokes to swap, or gadgets to see. And now we won’t because this insidious disease called cancer took my friend long before he should have gone.

To all my ham, internet, computer friends and family, please, make sure to get check ups. Guys, get your prostates checked, ladies get your mammograms. I want to be able to share in your stories for a long time to come.

Reflections on SQL Saturday 7

Whew. It’s finally over. It was a lot of work but well worth it. This was the fourth SQL Saturday I have participated in as a speaker, but the first I helped to organize. Our club president John did the bulk of the work along with his right hand man Morgan. They did an outstanding job with fund raising and organization, and I was proud to be able to contribute what help I could.

Speaking of sponsors I want to take a moment to thank each of them for their support. Without them the event would not have been possible. Their economic aid allowed us to make the event free to all of the attendees, feed everyone lunch, and give out some cool swag at the end of the day. Microsoft, Teksouth, Dasher Technologies, Confio Software,  PASS, End To End Training, JumpstartTV, Redgate, InformIT, CTS, WebBasics, Telerik, TEK Systems, Matrix, and SQL Server Magazine all helped to make this a great event and I want to thank all of them for their support. Also a special additional shout out to Confio for stepping up at the last moment and sponsoring the speakers dinner, and to the folks at Richards BBQ and Grill for working with us to work the dinner event into their schedule (and for a tasty meal).

We had an outstanding group of volunteers as well, helping out the attendees and speakers and keeping everything running smoothly. They took care of handing out food, registration, plus each room had two volunteers to make sure we ended our sessions on time and make sure the speakers had water. An event of this size would not have been possible without their dedicated work. Special thanks to the volunteers in the room during my presentation, Guy and Don, for keeping me on track and make sure everything ran smoothly.

I think my favorite part of the day was during lunch, I got to participate in a speakers panel. The speakers in each track gathered at the front of their track room during lunch to take questions from the audience. I was part of the BI track and the audience did a good job of throwing questions at us and letting the group discuss and give feedback. It was a lot of fun, I’d love to do it again.

We also had some lively banter in the speakers lounge right before lunch. There was an interesting discussion on GUIDs as primary keys in a table. Perhaps the fact I found that interesting should tell you how geeky I am, when I tried to explain to my wife her eyes sort of glazed over and she said “yes dear” a few times. Sort  of the same look I give her when she starts going on about her latest trip to the sewing store.

It was great to see a lot of old friends again. Andy Warren, Kevin Boles, Chris Eargle, Stuart Ainsworth all came from out of town to speak at the event and it was great to hang out with them. I also met a lot of new folks who I hope will soon become “old friends”.

Finally my thanks would not be complete without giving a special thanks to my sweet wife and darling daughters, who put up with me being on the go with this and other community events.

Thanks!

Inspiration in New Places

Michael Arrington did an interesting post on TechCrunch Saturday. Essentially he recommends putting down the business books and reading Sci-Fi as inspiration for new technologies. Seeing what others have dreamed of as a way to come up with new and innovative solutions.

It’s an interesting concept, looking to new places for inspiration to solve problems. I’m wondering what new ideas can be derived by rereading some of these classics with an eye not just for entertainment, but inspiration. I think it’s time to dig out my copy of The Foundation Trilogy and The Caves of Steel.

N4SGJ, SK

My n4sgjgrandmother, Pearl, better known to her HAM radio friends as N4SGJ passed away a few hours ago. In ham radio language, she became a Silent Key, or SK for short.

I was lucky enough to have known all of my grandparents, and have had great relationships with all of them. My mothers parents passed away in the late 90’s, however my grandfather John, KI4SH (Pearl’s husband) lived until last October of 2007. Earlier this year my grandmother had a bout with cancer, but had whipped it, although early it looks like she passed away from a case of heart failure.

Pearl was an avid sewer, she especially enjoyed quilting. My kids each have a quilt she made for them, and I still have the quilt she made for me as a teenager (camouflage with a blue back, very manly!). She always got a kick though out of the fact my kids “borrowed” it from me and use it as a snuggle blanket, refusing to give it back.

She was also quite active in the ham radio community, having served as club secretary and been involved with several hamfests. I think one of the things I’ll miss though is her caramel popcorn. Every year she would make a big batch of home made caramel popcorn and give it out as gifts to all the family. I feel a bit sad, knowing this batch I have now will be the last I’ll get to enjoy, but I also feel privileged to have had her in my life as long as I did.

Ted Neward goes well with cheesy stuffed burritos

I had quite the adventure last week getting to DevLink. Enroute Thursday night part of the electrical system in my old pickup decided to implode, leaving me stranded on the side of the interstate. I got it towed and had to wait for a friend to come get me (thanks Ben!). The closest place to wait was the Mexican Phone Company (aka Taco Bell). I claimed the booth with the wall outlet, setup my laptop, and settled in for 3 hours of waiting. Naturally there was no wi-fi to be found.

Always looking for opportunities to be productive, I worked on editing a Camtasia video I had recorded recently at a Bug.Net meeting. After a bit I decided to take a break and eat. While munching on a cheesy stuffed burrito I watched some videos I had downloaded from the InformIT site. In the first video Ted Neward talked about functional coding and touches on F#, in the second he dives deeper into F#. Once the videos and my cheesy stuffed burritos were done I returned to editing.

So the next day I got my wife’s van out of the shop (transmission had gone out leaving CodeStock – these conferences are getting expensive!) hopped in and took off once again for DevLink, this time making it just in time to see the last session of the day – none other than a presentation by Ted Neward and Amanda Laucher on F#. And I’ll be dog gone if Ted wasn’t wearing the exact same t-shirt he had one while filming the videos I’d watched. Made the experience that much more surreal. Either that or the cheesy stuffed burritos were haunting me, one of the two.

I did at least get one whole day in at DevLink, still well worth going to. And I’m not just saying that because I won a copy of Vista Ultimate and Master Chiefs decapitated head. Oh and if you are looking to learn a little more on F#, Ted’s got a great article in the Sept/Oct 2008 issue of Code Magazine called F# 101. Good reading.

All in all, despite the vehicular issues DevLink was still a good value and I plan to make it an annual trip.