Dear 20 Year Old Me – T-SQL Tuesday #115

This month’s topic is being hosted by Mohammad Darab – thanks Mohammad!

Conclusion – not sure 20 year old me would have heeded my advice as I was still growing up and thought I knew everything. But here goes…

Dallas/Plano 1986-1989

After flunking out of college because I was partying too much I eventually ended up working at Discount Tire. (I worked for them for over six years, including working through college. I love the smell of tires in the morning. Smells like (maybe NSFW) Victory!)   The first store I worked at was off Avenue K. During a trip to SQL Saturday Dallas last year, I took a trip down memory lane. The Discount Tire store had re-located a block south but the old building was still there.

There is an old phrase which attempts to capture a sentiment that originated from a book by Thomas Wolfe – “You Can’t Go Home Again“. As time marches on our memories tend to fade and we remember with nostalgia things from our youth. Taking trips down memory lane has it pluses and minuses.

Changing tires in the Texas summer is back-breaking work. I can’t tell you the number of metal splinters, smashed knuckles, tires exploding in your face I survived.

After work, we would pitch in to buy beer and then hang-out super stinky, dirty and all and drink beer for a while. Myself and others were clearly under-age.

I remember one day our Manager (Dave) came out of the showroom and into the edge of the bays. Faked looking at some tires w/ tickets needing work. Used it as an excuse to cut a huge fart then go back into the showroom. OMG, we about died. We were already working on the edge of intense heat, sweat, concentration and safety and now this? He probably drank a lot of beer the night before…

I also remember another night we went out to a bar after work to play pool. I got smashed and he took me home. Dave was good people. Sometime ago I started to search out old friends, acquaintances, to either re-connect or just see how they ended up. Sadly, I saw that he died in 2014.

I bounced around to other stores as they rotated people around to see different management styles, volume of customers, etc. It was as this time I did something stupid that would affect and haunt me for the rest of my life. I drank too much at a party and committed a crime- I got a DWI. I wasn’t even 21. My boss and girlfriend posted bail and came to visit me in jail. You have no idea what it was like to call your parents to ask for help. One of the lowest points of my life.

It was at this time I was re-located to another store managed by a gentleman named Jim Fraley. He was a strong Christian and ran a tight ship. He saw how smart and skilled I was but couldn’t stand that I would show up to work hungover at times. He hated to see people waste their skills and talents. One day he said you are coming to church with us. Not like, hey, by the way, if you have time, would you like to come to church with us kinda thing. It was almost forced and I accepted. I knew that I wasn’t right with my life and wanted to make things better but couldn’t do it on my own. It was also at this time I began going back to school via Richland Community College after work (dear Lawd I smelled and had baked sweat on me; I didn’t have time to go home and take a shower; I hated it) and began the slow and long climb out of my own personal Hell.

During this time my girlfriend broke up with me (crazy as this sounds, we are friends on Facebook today and she has her own family and I have mine).

I have this thing about closure and hard edges. I went to one last party. I wanted to give things up and go out on one last fling. Partied hard and woke up in the back of my car- couldn’t afford to violate probation.

Done. Quit alcohol, smoking pot, cigarettes and whatever else.

When my friends heard I went clean, I got used for being a safe driver. Okay for a while but then I really resented it. I felt like I was being used by my “friends”.

In the months that followed, I spent less and less time with my biker friends and others.

Who Are Your Friends?

Realized I had surrounded myself with people who loved to party hard like I did.
When I quit partying hard, I was suddenly alone. Spent less and less time hanging out with my old friends, even though they were cool and didn’t mind I had gone clean. I missed getting invited to parties. Or showing up and jumping into the action. Realizing how stupid and ridiculous people behaved when you are straight but they were still trying to chemically blast off from reality.

30 Years

Today I can say I haven’t touched illegal drugs since 1989, 30 YEARS. I still have alcohol once in while. And yes, since pot is legal in my home state of Colorado I still haven’t touched it even though it is legal, but not at the federal level.


This was a hard post to write. I fear and don’t want any of my kids following in my footsteps and I hope and pray that they don’t.

Tom Roush once told me to write stories, even under the fear of someone (kids!) finding out about uncomfortable things about one’s past.

Get over it, he said. Write.

There are some gaps and omissions during this timeline but those will eventually be told later in some kind of memoir or autobiography or something.


Live frugal. Invest and save your money. Go fly a kite. Work hard but take time to smell the roses. Be OK with not having everything figured out before you can figure it out. Choose to spend more time in books than with questionable friends. Pray more. Read The Bible and ask questions of fellow believers. Get a computer!

My lunch routine was to go home, make some Macaroni and Cheese, then eat Blue Bell Ice Cream. Rinse and repeat.

Night time was either Whataburger or a flavor of Hamburger Helper (I liked Cheeseburger) and more Blue Bell Ice Cream. I somehow managed to survive.

Today, and now you know, the rest of the story. Paul Harvey.

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Virtual Reality Mind Palaces Using Oculus Quest

Oculus Quest Arrives – FINALLY!!!

This last week saw the consumer launch of the Oculus Quest ($399 US). I received mine and after playing RoboRecall and TiltBrush, I successfully side-loaded (I’m already a registered developer, it is free to become one and so activating Developer mode was already available to me) one of my picture galleries; my 25th Wedding Anniversary.

I was pleasantly surprised that all of the work I have done teaching myself Unreal Engine and figuring out how to deploy to first GearVR then Oculus Go, it was all coming together. However, both GearVR and Oculus Go are 3DOF (degree of freedom) headsets. Meaning that using a Bluetooth game pad controller, one can only move around using ONLY the game pad controller, you can swivel your head to change your view but movement has to come from the controller itself. More about something radically different in a moment.

The ‘Quest is a true 6DOF wireless headset. It is configured using a phone app. So not only does one get to move your head, you can also move with your feet and the scene will react accordingly.

Now I already have the original CV1 Rift and so for the moment I’m not interested in buying the new Rift S. It is a wired 6DOF desktop rig and movement with your feet is extremely limited and it uses a Guardian system to define your play area. If you go outside the area, the screen will go dim- this is by design for safety.

Enter Stage Left – A New Discovery

While I was eagerly awaiting my ‘Quest delivery, via Twitter I stumbled across an interesting video. It shows someone who temporarily DISABLED the Guardian system on the ‘Quest and was able to walk around using his feet in a video game! Here is the video– it is in French but there are English subtitles.

So on my first outing under a cloudy sky to try this at a local grassy park, I didn’t know how to disable the Guardian system at first so I just tried to define an extremely large play area. It didn’t work. So I had to do some searches and eventually figured out how to disable it.

Once I did, I tried again. It was a near religious experience for me! I put away the controllers and I found myself walking around inside of my art gallery, using JUST my feet, hearing the birds and feeling a gentle breeze blowing. Magical!

I have some family members who are extremely sensitive to motion sickness. Having them look at my previous creations was unsettling at times.

HOWEVER! We tried again using the ‘Quest outside of my home on the sidewalk and guess what? NO MOTION SICKNESS! Because the scene is moving exactly with your feet.

My church has an indoor gym the size of a basketball court. I tried it out there and it works! Although I have realized that I built it for VR and not a hybrid IRL (in real life)/VR so I need to work on the dimensions a bit. I was able to walk down an entire row using the entire length of the court but only three rows across as my gallery is pretty wide. So three out of five rows isn’t bad 🙂

“Danger Will Robinson, Danger!”

The Oculus manual clearly states that you can damage the sensors/camera and the ‘Quest is intended for inside use only- outside use is Prohibited. With that said, if one tries this outside, it would need to be a under a solid overcast sky or before sunrise or after sunset else one could damage the headset and/or void the warranty.

Also when you turn off the Guardian system, it is to be temporary and you must turn it back on. In fact, I found out that even with it the ‘Quest powered on and switching between users, the Guardian system can come back on automatically. So heads-up.

One more thing- Oculus may decide at any time the remove the ability to disable the Guardian system so this new thing that I’m excited about might come to a screeching halt at any time 😦

Enter Stage Left – Mind Palaces Using Virtual Reality

For those of you who don’t know what a mind palace is, here is a link.

In the past, I have built some small mind palaces using Unreal Engine for my own purposes. These have always been fixed seated experiences.

Now, if one is careful, one can create mind palaces that one can walk around in. This is a huge development. The key trick in using mind palaces is to use a physical location that one knows extremely well. Using a video game takes away from some of the physical spatial navigation aspects.

But not anymore. Mapping VR to a physical space allows one to be completely immersed. This is different than AR (augmented reality). While AR can be used to build mind palaces, those are very expensive headsets (like HoloLen2) and generally not available to the general public.

I’ll freely admit it is very time consuming to learn how to use a video game engine. And how to import pictures, 3D objects, lighting, navigation, etc.

I will also say that I am not a game designer by trade but I did manage to teach myself everything to this point on my own using videos, books and on-line courses. If I can do it, then anybody can do it.

In Conclusion

Not everyone needs or wants to build mind palaces using virtual reality and being able to walk around inside of them using your feet and looking all around a digitally created world. I get that.

I also get that using VR for those who are into mind palaces, this is a game changer, no pun intended.

Now that the cat is out of the bag, the genie is out of the bottle, (insert other trite colloquialisms here, haha) I plan on doing a lot more with mind palaces both indoor and outdoor.


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PROJECT SQLImaginarium – 1 Year Update


This is a post for T-SQL Tuesday #114 – Puzzle Party and is being hosted by @MattMcgiffen. Thanks Matthew!

TLDR; I have only moved the needle a little bit. If I’m being open and honest, not much interest has been expressed about this project. Using virtual reality (VR) to explain technical topics at times feels like a hammer in search of nails. But it works for me so I’m sticking with it and will continue to build on it.

Back Story

My post from one year ago:

I still believe in my key points in that post. Some of the tech has changed and I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Oculus Quest.


My skills using Unreal Engine 4 (UE4) and VR have improved since last year. Note that I don’t use UE4 for a living- this is all in my spare time. No one is paying me to build this and I have other personal projects all vying for my time. The good news is that I have come up with a plethora of new ideas on how to solve certain problems that I didn’t have a clue about last year! And there have been some interesting new technologies which are soon to be available.

Pixel Streaming

One of the perennial challenges in video game distribution is just that- how does one easily get their game into the hands of its customers? And how to get it installed, does it meet certain prerequisites, etc.

I just so happen to be giving a presentation tonight at the Denver/Boulder Unreal Engine Group on this very topic: pixel streaming.

Key takeaway? NO SOFTWARE TO INSTALL!!! The caveat though is it might not support a really high frame rate. And you must be using a modern 64-bit browser. Here is a link to a company called FURIOOS. So what they do is spin up and tear-down a virtual machine w/ GPU PER SESSION. And it works on all devices including mobile. So if I can get a hold of a decent Azure vm with a NVIDIA GPU which supports NVENC then I might be able to play around with it.

If the set-up runs locally on a machine, then one could be a tour guide and have everyone see what you are wanting them to see. Very interesting possibilities! It will require a very high machine- think new laptop with RTX card or a desktop with a new RTX card. Something I do not have yet 🙂

Oculus Quest – No Guardian System

One should have the guardian system ON. Turning it off can lead to injuries. But as this video shows (in French but has English subtitles), one can literally walk around inside of a video game. So yes, I’m thinking about how this could be used to let people walk around and explore SQLImaginarium.

Call to Action

As I mentioned in my post from last year, I need ideas please. Use the hashtag #SQLImaginarium on Twitter to post if you have something to share. My dream is for this to eventually be a community project to help people learn and explore about our data platform.


–Todd Kleinhans

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Follow-up to T-SQL Tuesday #113 – What Do YOU Use Databases For?

Wow, we had a variety of responses to the April 2019 topic of “What Do YOU Use Databases For?

I think the overall response to the question and the theme is both mixed and varied.

I have been struggling with the personal use of databases for a long time. Things I wish would have been easier but seems to just get more complicated over time. Ever heard of GDPR? Although we think we have absolute control and access to data about ourselves, we really do not. The right to be forgotten is NOT the same as having access to all of the data about ourselves in all of the systems before they disappear. Sometimes companies will delete your data about you before you ask.

Case in point: Microsoft HealthVault. It is going to die. And your data? Deleted.

Tell me- if your personal physician or other health care practitioner wanted to access your HealthVault records 20 years into the future, how would they do it? After the service has long been terminated and your digital data destroyed? They cannot. Did you pull out your data before the service was terminated and put it someplace else?

Do you know who is responsible for digital data about you? It is the same answer as to who is responsible for your own data career.


We are like a Stranger Living in a Strange Land (Yes, I am tainted by Heavy Metal. It is a part of me. And no, I am NOT ashamed.

Digital records are easily created, changed, and deleted. We are living in a so-called enlightened and evolved age compared to the luddites who embraced physical paper records of data. A short time ago, I posted via Twitter my concerns about Wills and Testaments in this digital age and how often do people perform DR tests to access to our digital records, especially after we die…

We believe we have access and control to all of the data collected about ourselves but we do not.

In an intentional manner, this month’s T-SQL Tuesday topic was just that- when we choose to create databases for ourselves, but what do we do or use it for and why? How do we back it up?

The crazy part is that for the ubiquitous SQL Server .bak file we now have to worry about having access to the versions of the software to restore it. Today I can open up .pdf files from over twenty years ago. Can one do that with .bak files?


I have to restore the .bak to an old version of SQL Server, then back it up again using a relatively newer but compatible version, then restore it again using a newer version of the software, rinse and repeat until I can see the data in the latest version of SQL Server. Cumbersome to say the least.

Believe me when I say there are non-technical people who don’t want to have to fiddle around with ANY of this stuff- they just want it to work and have some kind of guarantee that some time in the distant future their digital files will be able to be successfully opened and used by people they want to be able to open and use the files.

We use databases all of the time and dare I say it? (Dare, Dare!!!) Databases use US. Ever wonder how when you click on something at work and then you start seeing ads for things on your personal devices? Hm…

For example, why would you build a database schema and then both build and populate data via a UI when one could simple use an existing service to track your finances or fitness data? Several of the responses to this month’s post seem to echo that sentiment- why build when you can buy? However some folks do it anyway (like me) as a learning experience much like I did with our VHS collection. People are willing to pay good money to make pain go away quickly and efficiently. They don’t want things to drag out over time. Instant gratification to a problem via an app or existing solution trumps wasting time (!) building something from scratch. But alas, like the demise of Microsoft HealthVault, is one willing to sacrifice inputting today’s data into a system that could both die and not be able to extract one’s data out of it sometime in the future?

I keep going back to both the book and the project MyLifeBits. It rings a deep chord with me. I imagine it will continue to do so. We should be able to have access to ALL of our own personal digital data and decide what happens to it over time. When we control the data ourselves via our own schemas and systems, that becomes fairly straight-forward and yet is time-consuming. But when we outsource that data and storage we relinquish control and trust and hope it will be available to us or loved ones sometime in the future.

Without further ado, here are my observations and comments on this month’s T-SQL Tuesday topic:

Jeff Mlakar (@jmlakar | b)

Jeff talks about the skills we need to stay sharp by being able to easily spin up a virtual machine and jump right in. (On a side note, I got an e-mail just yesterday thanking me for creating a document to build a virtual lab for the 70-462 (SQL2012) exam. Time flies). There is a lot of value in understanding the entire stack in a personal application. It is just enough complexity to wrap your brain around but not too complex that one feels overwhelmed. Building and re-building hones our skills and provides insights into troubleshooting. Keeping an eye on income and expenses via spreadsheets is smart but ideally still need to maintain security and keep it backed up somewhere out of the home. He ends by learning to play with data by importing and manipulating large datasets. Thanks Jeff!

Kenneth Fisher (@sqlstudent144  | b)

Kenneth reveals he likes designing and building crossword puzzles using SQL Server. Awesome! More than one person on this topic has referred to ERD(s). (BTW, whenever I am at a client and before I start poking around with DMV(s), I like to restore a backup of a database and create an ERD. It provides a way to visually see tables and relationships. It also can show lack of relationships. NOTE!!! This can take a while using Database Diagrams in SSMS. One observation over the years- the tables with the most number of constraint connections to them are some of the most used tables in queries. Which tables, indexes and queries to tune first? The ones which are used the most.) The entire Head First series from O’Reilly has crossword puzzles at the end of every chapter. It is part of their metacognitive strategy to writing these books. It is a great way to re-enforce concepts and gets you thinking about things in a fun way. Now I’m thinking about how to build a 3D crossword puzzle in virtual reality so one could walk/fly around it. I like word art and shadows. Thanks Kenneth!

Kevin Chant (@kevchant  | b)

Kevin discusses the future of smartphone apps hitting databases in the cloud. Anybody with a smartphone is constantly generating CRUD queries. Ever think about how many queries are run by you in a 24 hour period via any and all apps? And the growth of data stored in the cloud is going to continue to grow. Thanks Kevin!

Tracy Boggiano (@TracyBoggiano | b)

Tracy shares she has a sports card collection database with over 50,000 cards! That’s cool. I’m curious how the pricing gets updated and captured- can you see the delta(s) of price changes over time? And is it a manual process or automatic? Interesting. It is encouraging to see people getting into databases at a very young age and being able to create something useful for themselves! She also captures fitness data. I’ve seen many people wearing fitness trackers over the years. Most smartphones also have some kind of default fitness app which uses the phones accelerometer too. Being able to quantify your health helps to keep one mindful about your current and future health goals. As the saying goes, if you can quantify it, you can measure it. Thanks Tracy!

Reitse Eskens (@2meterDBA | b)

Reitse talks about volunteering in speedskating. And the challenges of having to sync two applications for the data. Getting Windows Updates during a race, ARGH. (In the past I used to help out with Cub Scouts and AWANA Pinewood Derby races (sensor on release and on finish line) and different kinds of races. Generally each car will race once down each lane. So the software figures out how to organize all the racers. It had a Microsoft Access database back-end on a laptop). People are storing more and more personal data in the cloud but I think each individual needs to decide what works best for them. I am uploading a ton of .zip files of photos to my OneDrive and it….is…slow… And I like your tractor analogy too. Thanks Reitse!

Jason Brimhall (@sqlrnnr  | b)

Jason echoes others in use of personal databases to trace fitness and finances. I really like the idea of dreaming up small things to try and test and do all over again. His link to Steve’s post is spot on- I would add this applies to speakers in the data community as well. Do you know how hard it is to convince people to present? Our community is filled with a lot of really smart and experienced people but a lot of them have no interest in public speaking. They are either not comfortable with it or don’t see any benefit. To be blunt: if we are not learning something new, we are slowly dying in our craft. He ends with a call to use automation (including inside a database) to sustain your work and I would add your sanity. I’m still slugging through a Python book called Automate the Boring Stuff With Python as a way to a) force myself to learn a new language and b) learn something besides T-SQL to do useful work. Thanks Jason!

Eugene M (@SQLGene | b)

Eugene has played A LOT of games. Games always have been a social experience played with others. He does show something that is prevalent in ALL data-entry systems- quality and time to perform data-entry. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve see free-form fields used in applications and then people wonder where did we get all of this dirty data from? Can we clean it up without breaking things??? I like how they play video games together too and that is important. And if kids are in anybody’s future, I would advise ALL of you to play both board and video games together. It creates some of the best memories one will have for life. Thanks Eugene!

Andy Levy (@ALevyInROC | b)

Andy is into geocaching using GPS devices wherever he goes. (NOTE!!! My twenty year old Magellan GPS stopped working on April 6th. It is now a museum piece). If I had to find a fake pinecone and money was no object, I might spring for a FLIR for my phone. Hiding in plain sight, I love it. You should see the number of caches he has found and some of the metrics, wow! I want to get back into it but need to be aware of rattlesnakes where I live. More ERD diagrams like some of the other posts but this time from reverse engineering a SQLite database and then doing some PowerShell ETL into SQL Server. This is great practice for those considering getting into IoT devices too. Great stuff and a great excuse to get outside and out from behind our computers. Thanks Andy!

Nate Johnson (@natethedba | b)

Nate makes the case that he’ll get his hands dirty when he needs to but for simple things like an inventory list, just use a simple tool to get the job done in a short amount of time like Google Sheets. There seems to be an ever-present pressure to try to be on the latest versions or playing around with the latest technology for SQL Server. Personally I still owe a review for a Linux on SQL Server book that I’ll get around to probably by summer. I work in a Windows shop and all my home systems are Windows. But I do want to learn about Linux and containers especially after I’ve seen Bob Ward present on them. Magic! Just not a super priority for me right now. Physical to virtual machines is the first step before learning how to migrate to the cloud. Thanks Nate!

Lisa Griffin Bohm (@LisaGB_sql | b)

Lisa started using databases to help plan her first wedding! It is a lot stuff to track and you don’t want to risk hurting people’s feelings by forgetting something. Saving money by doing it yourself when it makes sense is smart. At least for address labels for Christmas cards, I have used Word’s mail merge program and Avery labels. More and more people just want to keep things simple like using Trello. Thanks Lisa!

Michelle Haarhues (@mhaarhues | b)

Michelle is an avid runner and loves to go on destination runs! While some apps do a great job of tracking runs, they don’t have an easy way to add additional things like destinations to see or store advice about items like health stats or run suggestions by friends. Moving from a spreadsheet to a database is not always easy. A training partner database has a nice ring to it. Being able to combine vacationing and running sounds like a great way to stay in shape and keep learning databases. Thanks Michelle!

BonzaOwl (@BonzaOwl | b)

Codename “BonzaOwl” needed to track vegan-friendly items electronically like in a database. When one is passionate about the data it takes on a certain level of importance. Being able to track food choices is critical for several people I know; there were some kids in my son’s Boy Scout Troop years ago that had peanut allergies. No joke- he could have an allergic reaction to something that got cross-contaminated and if we were in the back-country on a camping trip, professional medical aid might not be easily available even with an EpiPen handy. It is great to see people creating databases for themselves for product choices like this. Thanks BonzaOwl!

Rob Farley (@rob_farley | b)

Rob makes the astute observation that for a majority of his clients and personal needs, it is better to buy than to build a solution when you can afford it. Even smartphone apps have come a long way- it seems like there is an app for everything if you know what one is looking for. He has been in the data industry a long time and values both his own and his client’s time. Thanks Rob!

Steve Jones (@way0utwest | b)

And last but certainly not least, Steve talks about work in progress items across different fields like bucket lists, speaking events, and fitness data. Even SQL Saturday stuff! It seems like writing a lot of T-SQL to do data-entry is cumbersome from many of the posts. While I haven’t used Microsoft Access in ages, I do hear a bit of a resurgence in its use for simple client/server applications like hitting a SQL Database in the cloud. Steve and I have chatted about the MyLifeBits Microsoft Research project in the past and dealing with many disparate sources of data today for personal use is all over the place. Structured and unstructured data lives in many different places- and some of those places go out of business!

In Summary

I wanted to thank Steve for letting me host. This was my first time hosting. And Thank You everyone! Your participation has given me some great insights and ideas. –Todd


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T-SQL Tuesday #113 – What Do YOU Use Databases For?


This month’s T-SQL Tuesday is about what do YOU use databases for in your personal life that you are willing to share?

We work with data all day and sometimes all night long. When we turn off work, some of us continue to use data and databases to enhance our professional growth and learning. I know on some days the last thing I want to look at after work is- another screen full of data. Kinda of like how some auto mechanics have poorly running cars. How can that be? Because they work on cars all day long and they are tired of working on cars- including their own.

But I’m curious- outside of work and learning, what do you personally use databases for? Tracking books you have, recipes, collections, etc? While it can be said using databases for personal use could be either overkill or a hammer in search of nails on the other hand, it is exactly what they are for- storing data.

Years ago I challenged my daughter- I would give her $100 to go through a book about databases, sit her in front of SQL Server Developer Edition, and we would build a database to track our VHS collection. (VHS, heh, yes I’m old. Now get off my lawn).

We used a book called The Manga Guide to Databases.


It was great except they used the non-ANSI syntax for joins…


We whiteboarded and created a simple database.

The experiment was a ton of typing. And linking to the movies in Wikipedia. And then capturing some information about personal family events based on date. BTW, she is now a film student in college.

More than twenty years ago I was into FileMaker Pro working for a defense contractor. We needed a way to store many pictures about launch site equipment. It was my first time trying to figure out: a) how to store pictures in a database b) how to store metadata about the pictures and c) how to search and retrieve the pictures. There was no auto-tagging, object recognition or any sophisticated technology to help me out. So I used what tools I knew about. The project was a success but took way more time than I would have liked.

I am into pictures and have been looking at ways to store and retrieve them for quite some time. Some things work and some things don’t work so well. On 06Apr19, I will be presenting in Colorado Springs, Colorado for SQL Saturday on Storing Images in a Database – Tips and Techniques.

As I learn more about Python I’ll be able to do more sophisticated things. Like the kind of things I couldn’t do twenty years ago. One of them I want to tackle is how to extract text out of images. Ever see people taking pictures during a presentation with their smartphones? Or see code in a YouTube video? How do you get the text of the code out? Most people I think would say they just re-type it. But what if you could use software to do that for you? So I’m fiddling with Python-tesseract.

So what do you use databases for in your personal life that you are willing to share? Blog about it. I’m curious to see the range of uses and even if you don’t use databases for personal stuff, what do you see as the future of organizing personal data?

All Good Things Must Come to an End

T-SQL Tuesday has the following rules:

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T-SQL Tuesday #112 “A New Cookie Jar”


This month’s T-SQL Tuesday is being hosted by @SOZDBA. Thanks Shane! BTW, T-SQL Tuesday builds upon the work of Adam Machanic and the continuing selfless efforts of Steve Jones. Thank guys!

My response to what is my reserve of strength as proposed in his post: “Dipping into your Cookie jar”

Too Many Links!!!

Guilty as charged. This topic activated A LOT of memories and thoughts for me. The benefits of getting older…


Some definitions:
Bagfries (a term from software development. Exhausted but finding some bagfries.)

Running on fumes

A cool documentary from the .dot com era about working under pressure doing software development:

Code Rush

And if I could only see the future…

Styx – Crystal Ball

Yngwie J. Malmsteen – Crystal Ball

And one of my heroes (fictional!) – Rocky Balboa
Rocky Balboa Speech – Motivation

And I like how his elderly (!) trainer Mickey felt the need to keep on living by just watching Rocky train and fight so hard- it gave him hope.

Rocky Balboa – Motivational/Inspirational Speech To Son

Mental Visualization

Challenge is to see yourself doing it right, then you do it right. When it is done and when people are at their peak, it can account for up to nearly 25% physical training time. Meaning that is can help offset training time but not replace it. Being able to recall memories or knowing that you have overcome something hard in the past gives one fuel to press on. Nothing lasts forever…

Two books I like:

The Mental Athlete

10-Minute Toughness

Now, all of these have to do with physical fitness. Using mental models to improve physical performance and looking into one’s past for examples.

What about sitting in front of a computer all day? Use these techniques to increase your typing speed, sure, but how can these models be used to make you a better data professional?

“…So tell me about a time when you had an accomplishment that can keep you going.”

Okay, one more motivational video.

The Matrix Reloaded – Morpheus Speech

I loved The Matrix series, still do. And The Animatrix was really good too.

Now that affordable virtual reality (VR) is here, how can we build a new type of cookie jar? A new set of experiences we can fall back on when the going gets tough and we have no more bag fries or gas in the tank to keep going? When it seems like all hope is lost and we just can’t fight anymore?

A song from my youth. On the track from the movie Heavy Metal: Blue Oyster Cult – Veteran of the Psychic Wars:

This is where our future is heading. People facing outside battles and inside battles too. Scars on the inside. Nothing left to fight with after a long battle. Beyond exhausted and no resources to draw upon and no backups are anywhere in sight. Spent and all alone.

Now enter human likeness avatars. Of ourselves. Or something completely different. Which can be programmed to do the thing we want to be able to visualize ourselves being able to do well under extreme circumstances.

This clip is from SIGGRAPH last year. I have no idea what holds in store this year but I can’t wait to see what is revealed at The Game Developer Conference (GDC) next week as this kind of stuff is just going to get better and more affordable.

The actor Andy Serkis (from Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and others) was digitally scanned and then rigged using software. Watch how digital Andy starts out as Osiris Black first then morphs into his digital self while reciting Shakespeare.

And a longer look at the tech & demoes. Remember this is ALL done in Unreal Engine 4!

So! Now just imagine an avatar of you (either real-life or something you can identify with) practicing the thing you want to get better at. Once the memories are deeply formed one will be able to re-call them in the midst of trials and tribulations. And make it easier to visualize success. This capability is probably a few years away but it is getting closer every day.

The cookie jar to dip into based on either our own successes in the real world or being able to jump into VR and see intensely memorable scenes based on what we are trying to do is going to be a new realm of human achievement. It will be new, scary as hell at times but it is coming.

How about an aged version of you, using a corpus of your voice sampled into artificial intelligence (AI) learning models (, giving you advice today? Would you listen to your future self? How would that affect your behavior today? Or someone else important to you?

My existing cookie jar is knowing I have overcome problems and I trust my intuition, creativity, imagination, wisdom and experience. I have succeeded where others have failed, but not all of the time- I am still learning and growing.

My future cookie jar will continue along those lines but I am interested in a digital version of myself in a new way- using avatars to assist with mental visualization.


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T-SQL Tuesday #111 “My Why”


This month’s T-SQL Tuesday is being hosted by @AndyLeonard. Thanks Andy!

My response to the question, “What is your Why? Why do you do what you do?”

I am a Christian. And I am unashamed.

I am also not a perfect example of a Christian. I am broken and imperfect. I fail and struggle every day about my faith. I sin, again and again and fall short of the Glory of God. But I keep working on it. Infinite Grace and Love and Mercy beyond my understanding. In ways that are visible and invisible. And I am forgiven. Everyday.

The Christian faith is not a once and done kinda thing. Just like decisions every day have consequences and repercussions, so too does an investment in whatever one calls the Bank of Faith.

My Why?

God, Family, Country.
Christian. Conservative.

My relationship with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, is something real and that I believe in every second of my life. Above all else. Period. Does that make my life perfect and beautiful?


Far from it.

In fact, just the opposite.

If you have recently chosen to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior or have in the past, it will suck to be you (!). You will NOT be flying underneath the radar of spiritual attack. Sadly in fact, you just became a visible beacon for attack. Well, that is not something people want today! “I want to believe what I want to in my own little personalized, safe, self-created echo chamber without consequences, or pain or suffering!”

If one wants to play it safe, just let your defenses down, go with the flow, don’t fight against the tide, just believe in whatever brands/* isms/truth worldviews, etc. and not rock the boat, then the choice about faith is simple:

Do nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

Just let other forces in society push against the sails of your own ship. Surely they/groupthink knows what is best for you! If one has to do something, see what everybody else is doing first. Just give the people what they want and all will be great? Um, right?


My Why?

I believe in lifting up those willing to help themselves. And to try to help those too who can’t help themselves. I have volunteered A LOT over the years. Unpaid. Unappreciated at times. Host meetings no one shows up at. But still putting your best face forward and doing it anyway not knowing what will become of it. Loss of time/money/effort and questioning if it is even worth it. And in hindsight, sometimes you get to see how you changed a life. That recently happened to me at our Denver SQL Server User Group meeting and it totally blew me away because it was completely unexpected.

My Why?

Because I genuinely love people in the same boat as me. No matter what circle that happens to be (SQL, start-ups, VR, Unreal Engine, pick a tech), I want to see people succeed and do well. If that drags me along, then so be it.

I once heard Zig Ziglar once say, “You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.”

At this stage of my life, I have had to deal with a lot of death. Death of family, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances. Murder, suicide, cancer, car accidents, heart attack, overdose, surgery, old age- the list goes on. Processing the emotions and thoughts is unique in each case and no, I am not looking forward to dealing with other deaths but I know it is coming. And it will come again and again, even unto my own death, at some point I hope and pray sometime into the far future. There is still so much work I want to do for many years to come.

My Why?

Because I don’t care about what people think about me (!). Sometimes I write hand-written notes and post them- some are even prayers on my part and I don’t know at times how they will be received. Will I offend somebody with my prayer for them? It is a risk I take and I do it anyway.

My faith is a integral part of me. I don’t proselytize at work but if someone starts a conversation about my faith I’ll talk to them. What you see is what you get. I don’t have a separate faith life apart from my work life. It is one and the same.

I know some people are going to drop me from social media like a lead balloon. I get it. It is expected. It breaks my heart to hear people in our SQL Family openly say stuff like, “I’m doing just fine without God”.

I have been told, that when I get to Heaven I will be surprised at the following: people who are there who I thought wouldn’t be there and those who are conspicuous by their absence- people who I thought would surely be there but who are not.

My Why?

Going back to Death. I have zero qualms or cares at this point in my life about sharing my faith. I have seen TOO MANY people I love die without knowing Jesus.

BTW, SQL Saturday Denver has been hosted a couple of times in the past at my home church. Do you know how many brochures, conversions, etc. I pushed on the people attending SQL Saturday?

Zero. Big Fat Zero. Because I believe in living the best life I can by example and let the Holy Spirit do the rest. If you ask me about Jesus, I will tell you. And pray for you.

My Why?

Money. Economic resources. If I ever become stupid rich, there is a ton of things I will do with my money. The cause of food, water, clothing, shelter here and abroad. So many people don’t know me that well. I believe God has blessed me with technical skills and creativity and imagination. I have a lot more to share for another time…

So part of My Why is to make money so I can give and spend it on things I believe in.

Two books that have helped shaped some of my recent thinking over the past several years about charities: When Helping Hurts and Toxic Charity.

My Why?

Because I am able, I can and I want to.

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