Jan 222013
 

Where can you find deep dish pizza, questionable politics, amazing architecture and a great SQL Saturday all in one stop? Sweet Home Chicago! The organizing committee in the windy city has been hard at work, and SQL Saturday #211: Chicago 2013 is open for registration.

This year the event will be taking place on Saturday April 13, 2013. DeVry University’s Addison Campus is once again graciously allowing us to use their awesome facility. We’re all looking forward to a great day of free SQL Server training, networking, and #SQLFamily in Chicagoland. Please join us!

As in past years, the event itself is free, but there is a $10.00 charge to cover the cost of lunch. This year’s meal offering has yet to be determined, but Portillo’s was a hit last year and leaves us with big shoes to fill!

The call for speakers is open! Submit an abstract or two! Have you always wanted to present at a SQL Saturday but have been waiting for a sign to do so? Consider this your sign.
PASS BA Conference Logo

B.A. Lovers Unite!

If your first thought was B. A. Baracus of the A-Team, you’re not alone. I’m talking about a different B.A., but I’m sure Mr. T. pities the fool that doesn’t come to his hometown of Chicago a few days early and attend the first-ever PASS Business Analytics Conference! It’s taking place April 10-12 2013, immediately before our SQL Saturday.

SQL in the land of beer and cheese

The weekend before Chicago’s SQL Saturday our neighbors to the North will be hosting one of their own. Consider heading to Madison, WI on Saturday April 6 for SQL Saturday #206. I had a blast there last year and am looking forward to it again!

As you can see, we have plenty going on in the upper midwest April 6-13. Please consider joining us for one or more of these great opportunities to get your learn on. I hope to see you there!

May 302012
 

SQL Saturday #119, our third one in Chicago, was a total blast. This was only my second time on the organizing committee, but I’ve yet to hear anything negative about the event. From my perspective, everything went incredibly smoothly!

SQL Saturdays are a learning experience for all involved – not just the attendees. Rather than give my usual play-by-play of the weekend, I thought I would share the things I learned and how I’ll make it even more amazing next year:

  • I am not a good predictor of coffee consumption. Full disclosure: I’m also not a coffee drinker. I ordered 25 boxes of coffee (1 box = 10 cups), 15 of regular and 10 decaf. We ended up with about 8 left over, of which 7 were decaf. I’ll try to order a few less next year so there’s less waste.
  • Those in attendance were much more interested in roast beef sandwiches than mostaccioli or salad.  That’s not to say they didn’t get eaten, but we ended up with a ton left over. It’s obviously better to have too much food as opposed to too little, but I’d probably order slightly less of them next time if we ended up going with Portillo’s again.
  • Portillo’s Catering is amazing. They were a pleasure to work with and I wouldn’t hesitate to order from them again. Their crew was at the event on time as promised and had everything set up and ready to go very quickly.
  • Running a food truck is a rough business. Last year’s caterer, Mr. Meatyballs, was every bit as timely and efficient as Portillo’s above, however he no longer operates a truck. Running a food truck is hard work, but it’s especially difficult in Chicago, where city ordinances are incredibly unfriendly towards them. Chef Foss wrote an excellent blog post describing what it was like running the Meatyballs Mobile, and why he ultimately scrapped the idea for a sit-down restaurant instead. I applaud his openness and wish him every success in this endeavor.
  • Small sessions can be a good thing. My talk on data compression was during the first timeslot of the day, which I was sharing with some heavy hitters. I ended up with only about 10 people in my room when it came time to start at 9:15, which had me feeling pretty down. About halfway through I realized that this was actually a very good thing – everyone present was genuinely interested in data compression and many were planning on implementing it in the near future. I got some excellent questions and was able to answer all of them, as well as start a few discussions that went a bit deeper than my slide deck covered. It always feels great to fill a room, but it’s even better to know you were able to help everyone that was present.
  • Student Labs were a great success! We tried something new this year and worked with DeVry University to offer some lab classes to their students. This is the second time DeVry has donated the use of their facility, and we were happy to be able to give something back. I wasn’t able to attend these sessions, but the blog posts of those who did are very positive!
  • Mark Vaillancourt (blog | @MarkVSQL) does a great Gilbert Gottfried impression. as witnessed at the after-party.
  • Unicorn masks can get pretty freaky!

Unicorn Mask

Thanks again to everyone for their hard work:

  • The organizing committee for putting it all together: Ted Krueger (blog | @onpnt), Bill Lescher (@blescher), Aaron Lowe (blog | @vendoran), Wendy Pastrick (blog | @wendy_dance), Rich Rousseau (blog | @zigzag219), and myself.
  • The speakers, who gave their time and knowledge to make our schedule awesome.
  • The attendees, without whom there would be no reason to have an event.
  • And last but certainly not least, our sponsors. Without their financial support, none of this could have happened.

I hope to see everyone again next year!

May 032012
 

Chicago’s third annual SQL Saturday will soon be upon us, and as food and beverage coordinator it’s my job to obsess over what’s on the menu.

SQL Saturday food offerings seem to have evolved over time. The first few I attended offered pizza, which is of course a great way to feed a large number of people. While very cost-effective, pizza is also not all that exciting. This did not go unnoticed; it seems there was a shift to more local food specialties that aren’t pizza. Lately I’ve seen more local offerings like amazing barbecue in Kansas City and excellent bratwurst in Wisconsin.

BeefThis year I’m happy to announce that lunch for SQL Saturday Chicago will be Portillo’s! We’ll have Italian Beef sandwiches, Mostaccioli, and Grilled Veggie Sandwiches for those who have requested a vegetarian option. Be sure to bring your appetite!

Also if you haven’t already seen, our schedule has been posted! We have some excellent speakers lined up. Now is a great time to start thinking about what sessions you’d like to attend.

Pre-Cons
If you’re looking to extend your weekend a bit, we have two excellent pre-cons lined up for Friday, May 18:

These pre-cons are priced at $99 each and can be booked by emailing sqlsaturday119@sqlsaturday.com.

We’re looking forward to another wonderful event! Can’t wait to see you there in two weeks!

Apr 242012
 

This past weekend I was very fortunate to be able to attend and speak at SQL Saturday #118 in Madison, Wisconsin. This was a top-notch event; all the hard work and planning that went into it really showed in how smoothly things ran.

My trip began around noon on Friday, which was a great decision because I hit no traffic at all on the way up there. I checked into the Crowne Plaza Madison and ended up with a little time to kill before heading out to help set things up. The hotel was excellent, featuring a pool and free wi-fi that was surprisingly fast. I’ve been gouged at other hotels for a much slower connection!

SQLCowA large group of volunteers converged on the venue around 4pm Friday to help with setup, stuff goodie bags, and make sure everything was ready to go. So many showed up that things got done significantly faster than planned, meaning more downtime before the speaker dinner started. Downtime’s never a bad thing at these events though – we all hung out at Ale Asylum, a brew pub with some very tasty beer!

The speaker dinner was held at Benvenuto’s Italian Grill, where much merriment was had, along with some excellent Italian food. Afterwards a lot of us headed back to the hotel bar before turning in for the night.

Doors opened for registration at 7:00 the next morning. The event was held at Madison Area Technical College, which was a terrific venue. There was excellent classroom space featuring large projector screens, plenty of desk space for laptops, and most rooms had tiered seating to help with visibility. The hallways were wide and there was plenty of open spaces to mingle and network with others. Much like the hotel, it also featured some impressively fast wi-fi.

My session, where I talked about data compression, was at 8:00 am – the first timeslot of the day. This was fine with me as I am very much a morning person. Not only was I awake and ready to go, but I had a pretty lively crowd of attendees that were eager to get the day started as well. My presentation filled the 75 minute timeslot perfectly, with enough time for some great questions afterwards.

Lunch was a delicious Wisconsin picnic featuring bratwurst, hamburgers, baked beans, potato salad, and cookies for dessert. To facilitate conversation on specific topics, this was a “Cows of a Spot” lunch, where speakers were assigned to specific tables marked with topics and attendees could come with their questions. I manned a table on performance and had some great conversations with those who stopped by.

The sessions themselves appeared very well-organized, and those I attended personally were of excellent quality. I was particularly impressed by how room monitors were assigned to each room and evaluation forms were given to speakers immediately following their session. Of all the SQL Saturdays I’ve spoken at this was the first time I’ve gotten to see my evaluations. I can remember one where the evaluation forms got lost before we got them, and another where it wasn’t communicated that speakers had to come pick them up so they were thrown out instead. Giving the forms to the speaker immediately following the session eliminated any confusion and made sure the evals got in the right hands as quickly as possible.

After a full day of training, closing ceremonies and the highly anticipated raffle drawings took place. There were some great prizes, including many books, Amazon Kindles, and even a HP Mini! The after party was held at Wilson’s Sports Bar across town. Unfortunately I don’t have a whole lot to say about this, as I left for home shortly after it started. I’m sure an amazing time was had by all, and you’ll be able to find blog posts by others who stayed.

All in all I thought this was an excellent event. While it was the first SQL Saturday in Wisconsin, it sure felt like it was put on by a bunch of seasoned pros. Many thanks to the organizing team, which consisted of Jes Borland (blog | @grrl_geek), Ted Krueger (blog | @onpnt), Gina Meronek (@equerystrian), Leonard Murphy (blog | @phonetictalk), and the MADPASS Board: Tim Benninghoff (blog), Matt Cherwin (@control_group), Tony Sebion (@tonysebion), and Steve Novoselac (blog | @scaleovenstove). Also a huge thanks to the sponsors – without their support it wouldn’t have been possible.

Mar 222011
 

After months of planning, SQL Saturday #67 is finally upon us! While this is the 3rd SQL Saturday I’ll be attending, it’s the first one I’ve had a hand in planning. It’s been a real pleasure to be part of such an awesome team putting it all together along with:
– Wendy Pastrick (blog | twitter)
– Norman Kelm (blog | twitter)
– Ted Krueger (blog | twitter)
– Bill Lescher (twitter)
– Rich Rousseau (twitter)
– Aaron Lowe (blog | twitter)
– Jes Borland (blog | twitter)

Schedule

We have an amazing schedule put together with over 40 great sessions! I personally am having trouble deciding which sessions to attend should I have the time, and I doubt I’m the only one with that predicament. I’m honored to say that one of my topics was also selected, so I’ll be talking about Backups and Recovery In-Depth at 4pm.

Networking

The attendee list also has an amazing number of bloggers/tweeters/authors of note, some of which I haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting in person. SQL Saturdays are always wonderful opportunities for networking. (I’m also hoping I can get a few more of my books signed!)

Food

MeatyballsPlanning the menu for lunch was my primary responsibility, and while lunch was not free this year I am excited that we can provide something a little more interesting than pizza. Lunch is being catered by Chef Philip Foss of The Meatyballs Mobile. After moving on from Lockwood at The Palmer House, Chef Foss took his food to the road in the form of most excellent gourmet meatball sandwiches. He’ll have several varieties to choose from (including vegetarian for those who requested them).

For those who work in downtown Chicago, you can keep track of The Meatyballs Mobile on twitter: @FossFoodTrucks – locations are tweeted throughout the day. If you’d like to learn a little more, check out this video on ChicagoNow (also below).

It’ll be a great event! Hope to see you there Saturday!