Monday, November 21, 2011

My PASS 2011 Experience - Part 3 - The Meat and Potatos of PASS

My PASS 2011 Experience - Wednesday - now things really start getting interesting.

Registration for PASS was an uber-simple process.  I stepped up to the table, reported my name, and within 60 seconds was walking away with my badge (just in case I forgot my name), ribbons (for the badge), and a backpack full of all sorts of geeky goodies (including some promotional material, a lanyard for the badge, a decent pen, and SQL Server Denali 2012 CTP).  I wish the backpack had a small pocket on the front or side (for smaller items and/or boarding passes), but otherwise I absolutely love it (I use it every day to haul my stuff to and from work).

My only hiccup was the ribbons.  I had three ribbons and I wasn't quite sure just what to do with them.  One ribbon indicated I was a First Timer, and the other two were for each of the pre-con sessions I was attending.  It took me a minute (and a question to someone who had done this before) to realize that the ribbons needed to be stacked vertically at the bottom of the badge.  Once that was figured out, I was on my way.  Little did I realize just how much fun people have with these ribbons.  Rob Farley (Blog - @Rob_Farley on Twitter) must have 20 ribbons hanging off his badge.  Kudos to the vendors that offered ribbons for your badge.  A pretty good range of ribbons were available from a few vendors including ribbons that promoted a specific brand or product to ribbons that were just silly or humorous.  I grabbed one from Quest that said "DBA Daddy" (it was quite fitting considering the fact that my daughter lost her first tooth while I was at PASS).

Wednesday, October 12th. 
I headed down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast just after 7am and ran into Thomas LaRock (Website/Blog - @SQLRockstar on Twitter).  He graciously invited me to join him for breakfast.  With him were Tim Ford (Website/Blog@SQLAgentMan on Twitter) and Andy Leonard (Blog@AndyLeonard on Twitter).  I was excited and humbled to be able to hang out with these giants in the SQL community.  I would quickly realize that this was the norm.  The SQL community is all about just that, community.  If you see someone that you look up to in the SQL community, reach out and say "Hi!"  Chances are, you'll wind up having a meaningful conversation and possibly even share a meal with them.  The conversation took an interesting twist at one point when they mentioned that Brad McGehee (@BradMcGehee on Twitter) had a really sweet announcement he was going to make for RedGate at 10:05am.  I made a mental note to be in the vendor hall @ the RedGate booth at that time to find out what all the excitement was about.

The keynote presentation started off with a bang, but quickly fizzled.  The Microsoft announcement that SQL Server Denali would be officially known as SQL Server 2012 was met with thunderous applause.  The concept of big data on Windows (specifically Hadoop) was pretty cool, but the excitement was quickly extinguished by Microsoft's marketing department's use of Excel and text too small for anyone to be able read.  Relating big data to selling frozen yogurt to High School "kids" didn't help (I don't know of anyone in High School who likes to be called or treated like a "kid").  The excitement of the presenters was not felt by the audience and each subsequent "amazing" announcement was met with ever diminishing rounds of polite golf claps.  However, there was one thing that kept me from falling into a deep coma.  Twitter.  Twitter was ablaze with comments on the presentation.  There were a few unprofessional comments made, but overall the stream during the keynote very humorously pointed out the failings of the presentation.  While everyone around me was nodding off, I had to stifle my laughter.

After the keynote I made my way to the vendor hall to catch the big announcement from RedGate.  No WAY!  They're going to send a DBA into space!  Wow, what a chance of a lifetime.  I have since completed all the questions and submitted my bid to be the first DBA in space.  YAY!

I then made my way to a really interesting session "SQL Server Storage Engine - Under the Hood: How SQL Performs I/O" presented by Thomas Grohser (Blog - @TGrohser on Twitter).  BTW, sorry I was late for your session Tom, I was snagging some of the freeze dried ice cream from Red Gate. Tom's session covered detailed explanation of SQL Server I/O and where to look for bottlenecks (I've used this information multiple times at work since PASS).  I found this session to be very insightful and Tom is an excellent speaker.

After lunch I purchased the SQL Server MVP Deep Dives 2 book and then made my way through the book signing line where all the MVP authors signed it.  It was a really cool experience to be able to meet all the people that poured their hearts out to contribute not only to this book, but to the SQL community.

I blew off the afternoon sessions to spend time in the vendor hall.  I made my way around to most of the vendor booths and signed up for a whole host of different vendor prizes.  I've never won any prizes from the many vendor drawings I've participated in the past, but I'll never win anything if I don't enter the contests in the first place.  I felt like a kid in a candy store in the vendor hall.  I spent a good amount of time in Dell's booth looking at blade servers.  I also spent at least an hour in EMC's booth talking about our SAN and they interviewed me for a video blog (my segment starts @ 3:40).  

At 4:30 pm I left the vendor hall and made my way to Brent Ozar's session: BLITZ! The SQL - More One Hour SQL Server Takeovers.  I've already commented on Brent and his sessions before.  This presentation was no different.  He knows his stuff and is passionate about it.  When work isn't completely insane, I try to regularly attend the free Brent Ozar PLF Technology Tuesday Triage web presentations.  BTW, the PLF is short for the other three wonderful folks in his consulting group.  Jeremiah Peschka, Kendra Little, and Tim Ford round out the ranks @ Brent Ozar PLF.  I met the whole crew at PASS and I gotta say, they're some of the best in the business.

Wednesday evening was the Exhibitor Reception in the vendor hall.  The food was fancy, but about the only thing I really liked was the calamari.  I probably would have liked a cheese tray and crackers better, but the food really didn't matter, I was there to spend time with the vendors.  And I did.  Again, kid in a candy store.

I was on the phone with my wife as I left the convention center after the vendor event.  Suddenly, I saw an old college friend that I hadn't seen in 12 years (he used to work as a programmer right next to my wife in the Data Processing department at college).  We chatted a bit and agreed to catch up the next day.  That was just too cool!

Back at the hotel I decided I was really hungry, so I decided to head over to Sullivan's Steakhouse across Union Street from the hotel.  I sat down and ordered a nice dry aged 14 oz NY Strip steak.  My waiter asked me if I was a Star Trek fan and pointed out someone just down the bar from me.  Once I was able to get a clear view of his face I realized it was Jonathan Frakes (Commander Riker from Star Trek: The Next Generation - @jonathansfrakes on Twitter).  My waiter indicated that he wasn't sure and that he wasn't allowed to ask.  I responded that he might not be allowed to ask, but there was nothing stopping me.  I wandered over, introduced myself and very politely asked him if he was Jonathan Frakes (obviously he was) and said I was a big fan.  He's working on a new SciFi series and was in town to work with the Seattle Symphony as they were playing the score for the series.  I kept my conversation with him brief as I didn't want to pester him.  He was very nice and he even made it a point to ask my name at the end of our conversation.  Very cool!

At this point I was exhausted and headed back to the hotel to crash for the night.  What a day!  And that was only Wednesday!

Next time I hope to wrap up coverage of the conference and provide some follow-up thoughts.

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