Week 1: Climb for Clean Air – It’s a start

Week 1 Plan:

Mon:  Rest

Tues: 30 mins cardio + strength training

Wed: Rest

Thu: 45 mins cardio

Fri:  Strength training

Sat:  Rest

Sun: 2 hours hike, 20lbs weight on the pack, low elevation gain

How it actually went down:

I suck.   Let me just start by saying that.   Yes, yes I know.  My slate is clean and I’m not comparing myself with my old-self.  Got it.  It still really irritates the world out of me.   I need to learn to be patient with myself and a be a little forgiving.


I started with a 10 minutes warm up on the treadmill, no incline, and just run at 4.0 mph.   Enough to get my juices flowing while I was listening Pump It from Black Eyed Pea.   Then I did my strength training.   I did dead lifts with 5lbs in each hand (which totally kicked my behind), Push Ups (a girly version of), Step ups and Lunges with 5lbs on each hand, Snow Shovelers with a 10lbs weight to simulate a shovel, Lateral Pull-downs with 40lbs, and Standing Calf Raises.   I did 10 reps of each exercise, 2 sets total.   My heart rate shot up to 172 (my max heart rate is 187, so that’s above my high zone) and I got a bit dizzy during dead lift.   Yes.  Out. Of. Shape.   I have to keep reminding myself that this is my baseline and I need to pace myself.

I ended the training day by doing 30 minutes of cardio on an elliptical machine, cross ramp at level 10, 8 on the resistance scale.   I had a hard time maintaining my heart rate within endurance zone (for me, it max out on 152) and I was going over all the time, but overall, I feel I did really well on the cardio.

Note:  I went to climber meeting.   It was nice to meet the other climbers and listen to Mark, our awesome trainer/guide for his tips/tricks.   Laura, our event coordinator, wanted me to share my stories of why I climb to remind everybody on why are we doing this since we can easily loose focus with all the training and equipment.   So I did.   It was pretty good.  Turns out, one of the gals in this years climb team was on the same 2005 climb team I was involved with before.  In 2005 she had a different summit day and rope team, but we shared many memories.  Small world.


Long Cardio day.   I decided to take it up a notch.   I put a couple 10lbs dumbbell’s inside my pack so I could add 20lbs to it and wore it through the workout.   I started walkmeter and streamed Vertical Limit on my iPad2 (what better movie to motivate me than this one, right) out of Netfix.  I started with a 10 minute warm up on a treadmill, set with 2% elevation grade for 2mph.  Then I upped the grade to 12% for 45 minutes.  Initially, I didn’t feel like I was doing anything – or at least my heart rate monitor seemed to fail to show me accurate results, so I bumped it up to a 15% grade and boy, was I wrong.   Note to self – check heart rate monitor and make sure it was working before your work out!  Goes to the point to check your gear before your climb.  Above 12k feet on the side of a mountain is no place to discover that your gear is faulty.  I was huffing and puffing on the 15% after only a few steps so I quickly brought it back down to 12% and stayed there.  Overall, I did quite all right.   After 5 minutes of cool down, my heart rate returned back to somewhat normal.


Started out with a ten minute run on the treadmill as a warm up and boy, did I get warm!  After the warm up I started the strength workout with a rear-foot-elevated squat hanging onto a 5lbs dumbbell in each hand.  Thanks to u-tube and an iPad in the gym or else I would have no idea how to actually do this.  I did okay on this, and was able to maintain my posture even though my heart rate quickly went to the roof.  I could feel every muscle of mine scream in pain, but I know I did this one okay.   Second one is a One-leg Deadlift and I have two-word for this.  I suck.  I can’t balance myself, let alone to go down with an extra 5lbs dumbbell in each hand.  Quickly, I got frustrated and was a little discouraged when I wasn’t able to do a complete set without stumbling all over the place.   Yes I know, patience… patience… patience.  It just the beginning.  Next one was One-arm Bent-over Rows.  I did these with 10lbs dumbbells and did okay, followed by an overhead press with the same pair of 10lbs weights while sitting on a balancing ball instead of weight bench or standing up.   Next one was a seated medicine-ball twist with a 4lbs medicine ball (yes, I know – baby medicine ball) and this one kicked my behind.  It just seems so easy, but oh-my-golly, this work my cores like no tomorrow.  Well, maybe like no rear-foot-elevated squat is supposed too.  I ended up the set with dumbbell shrugs hanging onto a 20lbs dumbbell in each hand.  I did 10 reps – 2 sets for each of the exercises and then went to work.


Me at the top of Little Si.

I decided to go to Little Si Mountain.   With a 1,576 ft summit and a 1,100ft elevation gain, about 2.3miles one-way, I thought this would be a good Sunday afternoon hike.   I packed 25lbs of weight in my backpack.  It’s all water weight so I can rid them at the top to preserve my knee on the descent.    It was raining and I was slightly cold so I put my fleece vest and wear my hard shell on top of my inside layer.   I started music on my iPhone, started my Walkmeter and off I went.    For those who never been to Little Si – the first 10 minutes is like a wake up call.  It was steep, really steep and rocky trail.   My heart got a good work out right off the bat but then the trail was really flat.  I did really well and pace myself until about an hour when I thought we were in the last switchback.   I noticed the trail became a really steep again and my heart rate went to the roof.  I had to slow down and finally stopped for a minute to take a sip of water.   I got really frustrated since I had a hard time getting my heart rate stabilized and had to walk really slow.  All in all – I think I did okay.   Note to self:  Put gaiter on.  The trail was wet and muddy and I had no gaiter on me.   Good thing was the rain wasn’t really bad and I was able to keep my socks dry.  Every hiker know that wet socks are hiker worst nightmare.   I got up there in 1:15 mins.   Not to shabby, I think.  And no, I am not comparing this with  my old-self.   Let me say it again.  Not too shabby for someone who just started training this week.     At the top, it was cold and windy so we only stay for 10 minutes or so and head back down.   We got down in 1:05mins with no weight on my backpack.

Fundraising Note:

I sent out my fundraising email out this week to all of my contacts.   Big shout out to Brent Ozar (Blog | Twitter) for announcing it out on Twitter and Facebook for me AND generously donate to my cause as well to Robert Davis (Blog | Twitter) for including the link to my fundraising page on his slide deck during his presentation on SQL Saturday 68 at Olympia and asked everybody to support my cause.     Because of you guys, I raise total $375.00 this week alone.   From the bottom of my heart, thank YOU!

Update:  Jen McCown started a ‘Get Hawt Friday’ (read her post here) and it’s a way to post your progress and make it accountable to public (just like what I did here).   So here’s my contribution for Get Hawt Friday#001. It’s a summary from my week 1 (I publish mine every Sunday, so I will link that to your series on Friday).    Love the idea!



Open Box DBA

Keyboard - golden key Success

Success is Key

There are some (maybe “alot”) of perceptions that DBA’s work in a silo, or a black box. There are a lot of folks that don’t really know what exactly we do, well, until something goes wrong that is.   Then, all of a sudden, we suddenly have the spotlight on us, and a big red X in our back.  But when we work hard to be proactive and make everything “just work” (that is really possible, you know) somehow others question what we really do on daily basis.  Yes, it is true, you have done your work, the systems will alert you before the customers call and things are so quiet, that the people around you can’t help but wonder, what does that DBA do?  Careful, because when that happens it isn’t far from: hey our numbers are down and we need to make some cuts.  That DBA, they don’t really do a lot, maybe we can afford to let them go…  it is true, it can happen just because you not only do your job, you do your job well. Well, only if you forget how to show your real value; the bonus they got when they hired you and might not have even known it.

Here are a few tips to make yourself, your team, more visible to others:

1.  Make an effort to know your customers and educate them about what you do.  Keep in mind, your customers may be more diverse than you realize at first.

Some of your obvious customers:  The folks that develop and/or install applications that use SQL servers; people that use (users) the applications that the developers have made that use SQL servers; and the members of the group that administer the core systems your SQL server runs on, including network and storage.

Some not so obvious or customer “joins”:  Your peers, your boss, your bosses boss, and anyone that knows someone/anyone in a category above that may also know your peers/boss/bosses boss.

Here’s one example.  If your DB team is involved in code reviews for the developer teams before production changes are made, especially if you have a go/no go influence, when you are sending your feedback, don’t just say – “this code is bad; go rewrite this.”  Instead, help your customer understand why you’re pushing back by making an effort to help educate them on your decision.   I know, they are developers, they are supposed to know how to write a good code but hey, they are probably under a deadline, just need to make something work, and had no idea the global impact of their individual change.  Given infinite resources and time, they could probably have written it better.  But just like you, they don’t have that luxury.  Instead, you have the opportunity to train and coach your developers by sharing your knowledge and experience.  Partner with them, the effort you make here will go a long way to show your value and as a bonus, the next time the developer is working on a similar project, they will already come to you with code you know is pretty good because you coached them. How you communicate your feedback to them and make your points also equally important.  You should not be afraid to share with them your sources including sending them a blog post or including an example on how to write said query/code.   If you give them enough information to take action on and learn from without boiling the ocean by telling them to go read a book, they will see you as a huge value as opposed to being pain-in-the-you-know-what DBA who like to just criticize their work.  Time you invest in your developers here will reward you in the future and paint you as a positive DBA.  Don’t be surprised if you try this and they first are suspicious (to cover for their shock) and then transition to acceptance and finally will start coming to you for advice.  Talk about value!

2.  Automate your repeatable processes.  Document and publish them in the place that others can access easily.

Ok, automating the repeatable processes is pretty straightforward (right?)  But once you have automated it, document it.  First so you don’t have to reinvent it when it comes up again, but as equally important, to share with others.  If you document something that your going to share with others, you will probably do it a little different (better?) than you would if your were writing notes to yourself.  And since your writing this to benefit someone else, it makes sense to put it someplace where your audience can find it.  That blog your so proud of probably is easily findable and that is a good thing, right?

Here is one example.  Say you have QA or Development environments that need data from your production environment.   You probably hear this quite often, especially if a new project is spooling up or reaching a milestone (hint, hint) ‘can you refresh my environment with prod data please?’ Because this was happening a lot, you had taken the time to exercise your crafty PowerShell or T-SQL magic and built a script that you could do this for you.  You tweaked it, tuned it, and were actually impressed by your own ability to make it work really well.  Every chance you got for a performance improvement or more automation, you took it.

Heck, it was your baby and you probably bragged about it in-between SQL Saturday sessions about how you made the thing scrub production data so only test data was transferred, the logins we synchronized and mapped to the appropriate test accounts, there was error checking and alerting built in if anything went awry.  Wow, you even realized that by running this auto-magic process, you were validating and testing you production backup, copy, restore process all while supporting the QA or Developer teams.  On the surface, your customer loves you because they have fresh data to test for every iteration they may ever need, on demand, when they need it. Maybe they can even do it themselves with the push of a button and you just get the report and put a check mark in your SarBox list that back-ups have been tested. You lean back in your chair, with a satisfied look on your face, knowing that you really are that good.

Hey, hey, before you put your feet up on the desk and wait for you nomination to the IT choice awards, your not done yet.  Why?  Because only YOU know what you did and how good it really is, no matter how many bragging sidebars you win at PASS, your not helping yourself unless your customers know what you did.  Before your feet approach the top of your desk, take the time to document what you did with the intention of showing people, who may not be as good as you, what it takes.  Your scripts and paths to them are good things, but they are not the only things.  Some of the folks that benefit from your work and what you did to make it happen are more inclined to understand a flow chart or diagram of your processes.  English may be widely spoken, but pictures still are more universally accepted and understood.  Simple flowcharts are an amazing communications mechanism to help other understand what it is that you really built for them and how it works.  Show of, but don’t became too enamored by your own work, let someone else do that for you.  Keep in mind that you should publish them on the place that your customer can access, like your team SharePoint page (if you have any), or just a simple document that you distribute that among your team and your customers.  Be open to going through it and ideas, comment, and even criticism, from those that view it.   In the end, the learning you gain and the doors that it opens will help ensure your known for not just building the button, but remembered for being open to and helping everyone understand what the button “is”.  Helping your customers know what you do is a good thing.

3.  Quarterly Report, before and after.

Before you are all thinking that I’m going bananas on you, please hear me out.   We DBA’s love performance tuning.   We like to keep making things perform better and faster, and if your shop is one of the shops that have a short iteration deployment cycle like, say, every two weeks – things are changing constantly.  This means, new code is introduced quite often and, if your data also changes a lot, you will have a never-ending performance-tuning task on your hands.   It’s fun and exciting but how do we make others see the difference?   Those 300,000 reads that now changed to 90 reads – how is that translate to the upper management?  They won’t see it the way you do, and this is why it’s important for you to do some sort of quarterly report.   Every beginning of quarter, capture a baseline of your database performance.   Erin Stellato (Blog | Twitter) has excellent resources and a strategy for how to use them here.  If you don’t have third party tools to build repository for you, I suggest you follow her suggestion and invest in building your own.   Then at the end of the next quarter, capture another baseline and so you have something to it compare with.  Bam!  You show improvement, well that is the goal, and even if you show the opposite, that can trigger actions for the next quarter with justification.  Oh, and maybe a review of the change management process, but that is a different story.  Oh, and some may think that creating a fancy graph is a waste of time, I would highly encourage you to spend to the time to learn how to turn your columns of data into a “fancy graph or pie chart.”  Why?  Take a look at an executives schedule in Outlook this week.  Do you see a lot of time open in there?  Probably not, it is far easier to quickly grasp what a graph or pie chart is trying to convey than it is to run through a laundry list of numbers and listen to you verbally explain what it means.  Again, the time you take to put a little extra effort in it will pay off.

Speak your customer’s language and you will not just be heard, you will be understood.  Speak techno gibberish to the wrong group, and you might as well offer to configure your execs VCR (iPad) while you’re at it.  It is an investment in yourself; just like reading this blog is an investment of your time in an effort to improve.  I hope that my sharing was worth your investment.

Make yourself, your team, visible; it will reward itself back to you, your career, and your customers


Secret to be a successful DBA


When you just start your career as a DBA, there’s a few things that I think are very fundamental to have so you can be a successful one.   This goes for pretty much every profession actually, but I’m focusing this post for DBAs, because, well, that’s what I’ve been doing in the last ten plus years.   I’m not talking about mastering T-SQL or being a PowerShell Guru or even knowing about SQL and Index Internals here, no I’m talking about basic, fundamental skills that will make you become a successful DBA.   Don’t get me wrong, those other skills will make you very successful (and are critical to get you through an interview or two) but there are some skills that are overlooked and can put you ahead of the competition.

1.  Know how to ask the right question

I mentioned this on yesterday MemeMonday post.    How many times have you heard your customer say ‘the web site/program abc is slow‘ ? One of the fundamental troubleshooting skill is the elimination process.  You need to be able to ask the right question to eliminate the area that is not the problem so you isolate the real issue.  Done well, and you may find out the problem isn’t even the SQL box, but that is a different post.

2.  Know where to get help

You don’t know everything about SQL Server.  I don’t think anybody does.  SQL Server is a huuuuge product that has many components in it and there will be a moment that you will face a challenge.  To know where to get help is one of the most important skills to have.   Sure, there’s tons of books out there and internet full with information but knowing where to get the help that you need is important.    One of the most helpful ways is to leveraging twitter #sqlhelp hashtag.   Brent Ozar (Blog | Twitter) have a whole section about Twitter here to get you started and he blogged about how to use the hashtag here.

3.  Know how to communicate to your customer

It never gets old, but you hear it all the time about the DBA versus Developer battle.    My developer is driving me crazy.   My developer is giving me attitude.  I can go on and on.  Having worked the other side of the fence in my past, I know the Developers have the same versions of the conversation about the DBA.    Well, let me start by saying as a DBA – your developer IS your customer. Sometimes an extra effort on your part by ensuring the good relationship between DBA and your customer can take you an extra mile.

4.  Status Report.  Top 3 things

Weekly one-on-one’s with your manager are important.   You need to solicit feedback and get some help to prioritize your tasks.  On top of that, what I personally find is very useful is to have a short status report.  I called it my Top 3 Things.   It contains the top three things that I did for the week before, top three things that I didn’t get to do, and the top three things that I want to do for the next week. For me, it’s extremely useful to keep me on track on the things that I have on my plate and to keep my manager informed on what I am doing, and things that I didn’t get to do because other things took precedence.   And those things come so handy during review time!

5.  Free Training – Teach Yourself!

There’s so many resources available to you, free.  Now, you have to actually make the time to get those information and utilize those free resources.   For those who are lucky enough that your company has a budget to send you to cool training like SQL Cruise, SQL PASS or SQL Immersion – congratulations, but there are many of us that can only live vicariously through twitter during those events.   My suggestion to you, make the time to train yourself.   Block a time on your calendar to read blog post or watch some webcast daily. If you can’t block a whole hour, block a half hour.  However you can manage your time within your 8 hour day, but make the time.   If there’s SQL Saturday within your driving distance, pack your car for a road trip and make the time to attend.   Those are free resources for you to advance yourself.   It’s yours to grab, but you have to come and get it.

These “secrets” are a small sample of what is out there.  Invest in your career, and your career will reward you.


Week 0: Climb For Clean Air – Baselining

I wasn’t going to write anything from the previous week since I didn’t really have a plan.  Sorta.  Just spur of the moment and a commitment to do the climb but when I really thought about it, I actually did have (somewhat of a plan)

Monday:  Rest
Tuesday:  Cardio, 30 minutes
Wednesday:  Cardio, 30 minutes
Thursday:  Cardio, 30 minutes
Friday:  Rest
Saturday:  Rest
Sunday:   Short Hike

The actual:

Just a bit background here to get everybody in the same page.   I. am. out. of . shape.  There.  I said it.   I am starting fresh and not comparing myself to my old-self who summited Mt. Rainier 6 years ago.   I haven’t been in the gym for a very long time and the last time I was out hiking, well, let just say, it’s been way too long.


I was at the gym at 6am.   Hopped on elliptical machine for 30 minutes.  Resistance 6, Incline 6.  I stayed on 80% of Max HR (or tried to) but needed to slow down since I was panting a lot.  People, this is what happens when you are back in the gym for the first time in.. err.. years?


Back at the gym at 6am.  I was at the elliptical machine again for another 30 minutes for same resistance and incline, which is still 6.  Still struggled with trying to be in the endurance zone.   Oh.  To be noted, I watched the entire video of Brent Ozar (blog | twitter) on Wait Stats on my iPad the entire time I was doing my exercise.  Not sure why I picked that one.  Maybe the topic.  Or the Richard Simmons.  Or the leg.  Either one, it worked.  30 minutes gone by just like that.


I was dilly-dally and didn’t get to the gym until 7am.   Decided on stair climbing machine for 30 minutes, resistance 4.  This one get my heart rate going like no tomorrow and I had a hard time keeping it in the zone.   I can’t even focus on any video or music since I was panting too much.   Definitely needed some performance tuning on this area


Hiking, Everyone?

It was a cold day and I was one nudge away from just keeping my behind at the couch but I wasn’t going to be the one that said it first.   So after I scrambled around and tried to dig out the hiking gear from the bin, we drove to Rattlesnake Ledge Trail.

It was cold, so I had 4 layers on me.  I had my sleeveless underneath my long-sleeve hiking shirt, soft jacket plus a hard shell.  Yes.  I went all out.   Result.  Overheated Yanni.   Not good.

I paced myself really well for the first 30 minutes which exactly at the end of the second switchback of the trail, then I started to feel my heartbeat was beating a wee bit faster than I want it to be.   I slowed down a bit, tried to get my breathing under control and kept on walking.   We got to the top of the ledge within 57 minutes.

Things to noted:

1.  I didn’t strap my backpack correctly.  I’m paying for it now since my shoulder is kinda achy
2.  My right boot lace wasn’t tie properly.  Yes, that’s right.  My ankle is paying for it now
3.  I wasn’t stopping at all to take a sip of water, even when I knew I needed one.
4.  My pace was too fast for the first 30 minutes which cause me to have to slow down in the second 30 minutes.


I gathered some baselining (borrowing this term from Erin Stellato (blog | twitter) post about baselining and performance tuning for my training to find out that I have a lot of tuning to do.  My statistics are out of date, my index need some serious tuning, and my query need some serious rewrite.   Good grief, this is going to be a lot of work!  Maybe I should hire a consultant to climb the mountain for me?

I have exciting week ahead me.   Stay tuned for the next update.


MemeMonday: 11 words…

Thomas LaRock (blog | twitter), has challenged us to write eleven word blog post, called Meme Monday and since Mike Reigler (blog | twitter), Dev Nambi (blog | twitter) and Kendra Little (blog |twitter) tagged me this morning, here’s mine:

Asking the right question is a secret of a successful DBA

I will have separate blog post this week talking about this very subject, but for today — 11 words will just have to be it.

With this, I’m tagging three people:

1.  Dianne McNurlan (Blog | Twitter)

2.  Crys Manson (Blog | Twitter)

3.  John Robel (Blog | Twitter)

This is fun!