May 182018
 

Chicago SQL Association logoIf you’ve been a SQL Saturday organizer for a few years, you might remember that prior to March of 2014, PASS handled much of the finances. All money collected from sponsors and meal fees went into a trust account managed by PASS which was earmarked for that specific event. Organizers then requested their funds from PASS.

I completely understand why PASS would want to get out of doing this. PASS handles a lot of things, and to be honest, playing the role of banker for events organized and managed by volunteers doesn’t need to be a part of that.

While I believe this was the right thing to do, it did create some additional headaches for organizers, particularly in terms of taxes depending on local laws. PASS is a not-for-profit organization and could collect this money without any tax liability. With PASS removed from the equation, event organizers now had to establish a PayPal account in their own name to collect funds for SQL Saturday, and they were also personally liable for any taxes on it.

The user group leadership in Chicago didn’t really like that idea, so we decided to incorporate as a not-for-profit ourselves, creating the Chicago SQL Association. Over the years, I’ve been contacted by several other user groups asking how we did this. I’m happy to help, and thought I would share here as well.

Choose A Mission and Scope

Any good project needs a mission and a scope, and the same goes for an organization. We decided our scope would be to support SQL Saturday Chicago, as well as the Chicago SQL Server User Group and the Chicago Suburban SQL Server User Group. Our mission, simply put, is education. We offer free knowledge about the Microsoft data platform to the public through user group meetings and our SQL Saturday event.

Seek Professional Assistance

Creating a corporation isn’t all that difficult. I have no doubt that we could have fumbled our way through it and ended up with a not-for-profit corporation on our own. What I was not so sure of was our ability to get this right the first time without making mistakes that might penalize us in the future. We looked into hiring an attorney to help us navigate this process, but it was going to end up costing thousands of dollars that the organization didn’t have.

One day it dawned on me to look into legal clinics at local law schools. These clinics, often free or available at little cost, offer law students the ability to gain practical experience while helping those who otherwise could not afford legal services. I reached out to the Bluhm Legal Clinic at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, and they got back to me very quickly. We were assigned three law students and a professor (also a lawyer) who helped us through the process from beginning to end.

After meeting with our legal team and discussing our goals, mission, and scope, they came to the conclusion that we should seek 501(c)(3) not-for-profit status. They drew up all the paperwork, and all we had to do was sign on the dotted lines and pay the required government filing fees. Within a matter of weeks we had a legitimate not-for-profit corporation, with zero sleep lost worrying that we made any mistakes.

After Incorporation

Now for the real work. As I said, creating a corporation is pretty easy. Maintaining it and keeping things legal is another matter entirely. It goes without saying, but, depending on your locale, you’ll probably have multiple required filings to keep your not-for-profit in compliance. Speaking for ourselves, each year we must file simplified taxes with the US Internal Revenue Service, register with the Illinois Secretary of State, and report our finances to the Illinois Attorney General.

We had done a pretty good job of bookkeeping before we incorporated, but now that we were official, it was required by law. We originally kept track of all our finances via shared spreadsheets. This worked decently well and cost us nothing, but come tax time reporting was a nightmare. Of course, there was plenty of commercial software out there for managing business finances, but none of it was cheap. This is where finding organizations that help not-for-profits is invaluable.

I highly recommend applying to TechSoup. TechSoup offers a variety of discounted (and free) technology products to not-for-profits. One of the many things they offer is a significant discount on QuickBooks small business accounting software. It makes the financial part of running a business incredibly simple, and it honestly saved us about 20 hours of work when it came time to do taxes and financial reporting this year.

You’ll also want to register with PayPal as a not-for-profit to get a discounted rate. This means that more of the money collected from sponsorships and meal fees will go into your bank account. Every little bit helps!

A Web Presence

You may want to look into setting up a domain, website, and/or email for your organization. For us, this was probably the most difficult part of the process. I was unable to find any way of obtaining a discounted or free web domain, but that wasn’t a huge problem as domains are rather inexpensive. Hosting a website and email, however, is another story.

We applied to Microsoft’s nonprofit program with the thought that we would meet their criteria in that we are offering free educational opportunities to the public, and furthermore, those opportunities center around Microsoft products. Sounds like a shoo-in, right? Yeah, not so much. Microsoft did not agree and hence we were rejected.

We then tried Google’s nonprofit program, which accepted us. We’re grateful they did, as we can now host association-related email at our own domain, and are working on a website. The irony is not lost on me that Google is helping us educate people about the Microsoft data platform while Microsoft had no interest in doing so.

Other Tips

Your organization will need some sort of bank account. Be sure to shop around at multiple banks to see what they offer not-for-profits, and what their fees are. If you have a local credit union, don’t forget to check them out as well. We ended up going with a credit union and pay no fees at all for our banking.

Get liability insurance. If your organization is running a SQL Saturday, chances are your venue may already require insurance, but even if they don’t, a policy is never a bad idea to have. We found a company that specializes in insuring activities like user groups, and it costs much less than we thought it would.

Looking Back

I’m very grateful we were able to incorporate the Chicago SQL Association as a not-for-profit. Not only have we seen financial benefits, but we have also become more organized as a result of having a corporation to maintain. PASS no longer handling the financial end of SQL Saturday events may have been a short-term annoyance, but it was just the push we needed to get this ball rolling and I’m very glad we did!

Feb 152018
 

I am extremely fortunate to have been named a Friend of Redgate for a fifth year!

If you’re not familiar with the Friends of Redgate program, we work with the Redgate development and product teams to provide feedback on existing products, new tools, and feature enhancements. You can also find us doing things like speaking at events, writing articles on Redgate tools, and participating on the Redgate forums.

Redgate is a wonderful organization to be associated with. Not only do they make great tools and publish some very helpful books, but they’re also extremely community-oriented. They sponsor many functions such as user group meetings and SQL Saturdays, and also put on their own events, such as SQL in the City Streamed. These events used to be on-premises, but now they’re in the cloud and you can attend from anywhere! The next SQL in the City Streamed is taking place on Wednesday, 28 February. If that sounds awesome to you, you can find out more here!

Thank you so much, Redgate. I’m looking forward to another great year!

Sep 072017
 

by @WidowPage

I’ve made red wine bacon before and it’s become one of my favorites.  It’s not something you would eat for breakfast, but it goes so well into many recipes.  Here’s my list:

Grilled Peach and Bacon Salad

Spaghetti with Beef and Bacon

Chicken Bacon Flatbread

Mushroom Bacon Casserole

It’s also great in stews and coq au vin and it’s amazing in beef bourguignon.

One other thing: Until you get a chance to try bacon that isn’t mass-produced, you don’t realize how much flavor real bacon has.  Producers like Oscar Meyer inject their bacon with water because they sell it by the pound.  Water is a cheap way for them to bring their bacon up to the weight on the package.  When you taste bacon that hasn’t been watered down, your taste buds will be surprised.

So let’s go.  I found this recipe here.  For every pound of pork belly, you will need:

1 1/2 tsp Morton’s kosher salt
1/2 tsp curing salt #1 (sometimes called Pink salt #1 or Prague salt #1)
1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp of brown sugar
2 tbsp of garlic powder
1/2 cups red wine (don’t use expensive wine)

I adjusted my recipe to the size of my pork belly and I was short on the Kosher salt so I substituted some of the Himalayan salt.  See my post on salts as you do NOT want to make substitutions for the curing salt.

Put all of that into a plastic bag.  Make sure you double bag it because it will inevitably leak in your fridge.

And that’s all you gotta do.  Put it in your fridge and then flip it over daily so the cure gets a chance to soak into the belly.

Sep 042017
 

Thank you so much for sticking with me and following along on this process.  I’m really enjoying this project and I would especially like to thank Bob for allowing me to use his blog.

So let’s cure this piggy’s belly! I’ve cut it up into smaller pieces so we can try a couple of different cures.  I’m using a recipe out of Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’s Charcuterie.  I love this book and even if you aren’t even going to cure meat, it’s great reading.  I also recommend their Whiskey-Glazed Smoked Chicken and their Smoked Scallops.  I’ve also made their chorizo and someday I will try their Canadian Bacon recipe.


As I posted yesterday, the first ingredient in any cure is the pink salt or Prague powder.  But then you get to add ingredients on top of that depending on the flavors you like.  Ruhlman’s recipe calls for the following ingredients per 5 lbs of pork belly:

  • 1/4 cup Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons curing salt #1
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup

A word about the maple syrup.  The Crown maple syrup was on sale at the grocery store and I’m a sucker for bourbon barrel-aged products.  I don’t drink bourbon, but I love the flavor.  And this stuff is nectar.  If you get a chance to snag a bottle, do it. It’s not that much more expensive than ordinary maple syrup (which already costs a fortune).

My pork belly weights about 7 1/2 pounds so I adjusted accordingly.

These pork bellies came with the skin still attached.  You can slice it off now, but  I’ve found its easier to cut it off after it is cooked.

Mix all the ingredients and then slather on the belly.  Rub it in so it comes into contact with as much the surface as possible.

Then the belly goes into a plastic bag for the next week to 10 days.  I stock up on the 2-gallon plastic bags when they go on sale and use painter’s tape for notes.  Since I’ll be doing 4 more cures, it helps distinguish the different recipes once they go into my fridge.  Tomorrow, I’ll show you a recipe for pepper bacon.

Sep 012017
 

by @WidowPage

Yesterday as I muddled through a data reconciliation, my oldest daughter texted me “Your meat is here”.  My daughters aren’t really that interested in my bacon curing projects but they knew I had been waiting for 100 lbs of pork belly to arrive on my front porch.  My youngest even obliged me with a picture.  I couldn’t get home for another 3 hours and there was no way the girls would be able to carry that much weight into the house.  All I could do it count the minutes until I could get home and dig into the boxes.

I’ve worked for Morningstar for almost 11 years.  During that time, I’ve learned so much about markets, trading and economics.  Morningstar was founded in Chicago which, at one time, boasted of being the hog butcher to the world.  Frozen pork bellies were traded as a commodity on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange under the symbol PB (electronic symbol GPB) starting in 1961. There’s more info about commodity trading here.

 

3 of the pork bellies

If you are interested in following pork commodity information, Urner Barry Pork tweets a lot of market information under the handle of @UBpork.  Did you know there were $17.554 million of pork bellies in cold storage in July?  That sounds like a lot to me but this number signals an industry-wide shortage.  Urner Barry has the details which, even for a hobby baconista, are really fascinating.  They also cover egg, seafood and beef market trends.

Once I got home, I broke into the boxes and hauled the 4 frozen bellies into the houses individually.  Factory farm-raised hog bellies run around 18 lbs.  These bellies, raised on smaller farms with a little more care, ranged from 20-30 lbs apiece.  This was the biggest one (pictured to the right…underneath it is my 6-burner stovetop…just for reference) after I cut it up .  Once it was sliced into 4 pieces, the smallest piece weighed 7.3 lbs.

1 pork belly cut into 4 pieces

When these 4 pieces thaw, the next step is to apply a cure and let them sit for a week to 10 days.  I cut the belly up because over the next four posts, I am going to show you how to prep the following:

  • Maple-Cured Bacon
  • Red Wine-Cured Bacon (throwing in an experiment with port wine on this one)
  • Bourbon & Brown Sugar Bacon
  • Black Pepper Bacon

Stay with me folks.  If you like bacon, I hope these next few posts will convince you to start making your own.