Category Archives: Personal

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.

Getting Tagged by the Software Developer Meme

There’s a “meme” going around the net. A meme, for those unfamiliar, is defined as a unit of cultural information, such as a practice or idea, that gets transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one person to another. On the web, a meme is a theme, usually a series of questions that get passed from one person to another. After one person answers, he tags one or more other folks. Well, I got tagged!

StatisticsIO, better known as Jason Massie, got me. To keep his link chain alive, this has now gone from: Denis Gobo > Andy Leonard > Frank La Vigne > Peter Brown > Chad Campbell > Dan Rigsby > Michael Eaton > Sarah Dutkiewicz > Jeff Blankenburg > Josh Holmes > Larry Clarkin > Jason Massie > Me! So without further ado…

How old were you when you first started programming?

12 or 13, it was on a TRS-80 Model 1.

How did you get started in programming?

My dad had written a Star Wars game programming in Basic on the TRS-80. I hacked it so I could beat my sister most of the time, and the rest was history.

What was your first language?

BASIC, of course.

What was the first real program you wrote?

As I recall, it was a character generator for Dungeons and Dragons back on the TRS-80. Involved a lot of random number generation and printing.

What languages have you used since you started programming?

In no particular order: BASIC, Pascal, Quick Basic, Visual Basic, COBOL, C, C++, C#, Delphi, Fortran, dBase, FoxPro, RPG III, a little assembler, probably some more I can’t recall. Working on learning Powershell and F# now.

What was your first professional programming gig?

I guess it depends. A friend of mine and I co-wrote an inventory system for someone who wanted to start a company. It was written using compiled BASIC 1.0, and the software and DOS had to fit on one floppy disk, then the inventory for the store had to fit on a second floppy. Unfortunately they went under before we could get paid. I then went on to write a dBase II system for a lawyer to organize some charity or other, that was the first system I actually got paid for.

If you knew then what you knew now, would you have started programming / DBAing?

Oh yes, love it! There’s something rather intoxicating about making the computer sing and dance to your whim.

If there one thing you learned along the way that you would tell new developers, what would it be?

Can’t decide on one, so there are two things I’d share. First, as much fun as coding is, never forget you are there to solve a problem. Ultimately it’s not about you but about the user experience. Don’t be afraid to subjugate your ego to the success of the project, ultimately it’ll pay.

Second, take time for the peripheral skills. Communications, business, etc. These will make you far more valuable as a professional developer than technical skills alone.

What’s the most fun you’ve ever had … programming?

Hmm, tough call. Believe it or not I used to work for a prophylactic factory. It was a lot of fun coding the interfaces between the machine that printed the serial number on each one, and the production database.

Either that or right after we got married I spent close to two years working from home. My wife would sometimes sit in my lap and snuggle up while I was able to reach around her and keep coding. Distracting perhaps, but the question was about fun not productivity!

Who are you calling out?

Hmm, let’s see, that’s a tough one since this meme’s been around a while. Let’s annoy…

MaggiePlusPlus

Rachel Appel

Amanda Launcher (AKA Pandamonial)

Jeff Barnes

Keith Elder

Chris Woodruff

Glen Gordon

Shawn Wildermuth

Michael Neel (ViNull)

Dougal Campbell

Paul Waters

Wow, looks like there are still some victims developers left after all…