OT Book: On the Origin of Species – Charles Darwin

Given my interest in science, I'm ashamed to say that I've only just got around to reading Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life". What prompted me to read it this time was watching two episodes of "The Genius of Charles Darwin" while flying across to the U.S. It's an excellent documentary by Richard Dawkins. Dawkins can see overbearing at times but in this series, he's measured, accurate and inspiring. In the documentary, he showed one of his most prized possessions: a first edition copy of this book.

The best ideas always seem to have three common attributes:

  • They appear totally obvious once someone else points them out
  • They are deceptively simple
  • It's hard to comprehend why someone hadn't noticed them before

The ideas described in this book are an amazing example of these qualities.

I have not the slightest doubt that in the future, this will be still regarded as a stunningly influential book and will have started the biggest change in human thinking.

Recommended! (Actually Required Reading!)

Book: SQL Server MVP Deep Dives – Launch at PASS Summit USA

This is no ordinary book. Paul Nielsen took up Bill Gates' challenge at a recent MVP summit to do something notable to give back to the community. He organised a large group of SQL Server MVPs to create a unique book and worked with Manning to get it published. The money made on the book was to go directly to a charity and the charity chosen was WarChild.

I had the privilege (along with Kalen Delaney, Adam Machanic, Kimberley Tripp and Paul Randall) to be one of the editors on this book but the magic contribution has come from the 53 SQL Server MVPs involved with the book.

The book will be launched at the US PASS Summit on Thursday next week. I can't wait for it to be out and I'm really looking forward to seeing so many of the MVPs at that launch event. I know that many of you like to get your books signed by the authors. Buying a copy of the book at the summit is your best chance of having it signed by as many of the MVPs that wrote it as possible. Don't miss this chance.


Kevin Kline's Travel Meme

Our buddy Kevin Kline has started a travel meme to provide ideas for people travelling to PASS, given many don't travel very often. He's after some good solid travel tips. I'm one of the people he called out so here are a few that come to mind immediately:

1. Delays and mishaps occur. If you don't allow enough time between flight connections, etc. then you are asking for problems, regardless of what the airline says. For example, I *never* allow an international to domestic connection through Los Angeles of less than three hours and prefer four hours. The further you're travelling from, the more you can get delayed. Airlines will let you book a two hour connection there. Don't do it. If you're feeling frustrated with delays, get over it.

2. Given you'll be spending time in the airports or on planes as per point #1, don't waste your time. Take something to read. You'll have long periods where you can't use anything electronic.

3. If there are problems, don't take it out on the counter staff. Doing that can only hurt your chances. My favorite story on this was about a guy standing in line watching another guy in front of him yelling at the lady behind the baggage counter. The whole time she was smiling and being pleasant. When it came his turn, the guy said "I don't know how you do it. How can you keep your composure like that?". She smiled again and said "I just keep focussing my mind on that fact that tomorrow he'll be in Denver and his bag will be in Boston".

4. It's tempting while sitting in a flight at cruising level to undo your seatbelt. Don't do that unless you need to go to the restroom or when you take a bit of a walk around the plane. When the airlines warn you to keep your seatbelt loosely fastened while seated, they aren't kidding. Just loosen it a bit.

5. Try to avoid checked luggage but if you're doing so, make sure your baggage is small enough and light enough to be accepted. I see countless arguments where passengers have oversized carry-on baggage. This has increased markedly since some airlines have started charging for checked baggage.

6. If you are travelling with your partner, split your luggage between his/her checked baggage and your own. This will increase your chance of having *some* baggage at the other end. Reasonable connection times will also help with this. See point #1.

7. Don't lock your baggage if travelling through a US port. The TSA will simply cut your locks off or your bags open. I've had them do this when it wasn't even locked and it wasn't obvious to them how to open the bag. (Make sure it's obvious or get another bag).

8. Noise-cancelling headsets are a gift from Heaven. Get some. Don't whinge about the baby crying behind or near you. Clearly the kid doesn't want to be there either and has no idea why his/her ears are suddenly so sore.

9. If going to a conference, take a flat soft bag inside your checked bag. You can then go with one bag and come back with two, with all the swag you got at the conference.

10. If travelling internationally, I try to get into the right timezone a bit before I leave home. Most importantly though, when you arrive, no matter how tired you are, try to stay awake till evening at your destination. You have much more chance of adjusting quickly and avoid severe jetlag.

I'm sure that more will come to mind but this should be a start.

SQL Down Under show transcripts now coming online

I've had quite a few requests from people for some form of searchability for the content in the SQL Down Under shows. We've looked into having show transcripts posted and after a few false starts, I'm pleased to announce that they are starting to come online now in the "Previous Shows" section at: http://www.sqldownunder.com

While not perfect, they certainly can help. If you are reading them and find any glaring errors, please just let us know and we'll fix them. We're working backwards through the shows and the first three transcripts are available now.



Book: Beginning Spatial with SQL server 2008: Alastair Aitchison

I missed out on getting a copy of this book when Ed Katibah (aka Spatial Ed) was giving them out at his spatial session at a recent conference but I made a mental note to buy a copy and read it. I've finally got to do so.

This is a truly excellent book. I think the title belies the contents. I hadn't been in a hurry to read it as I thought it would just be a "beginner" level book on using spatial data in SQL Server 2008. How wrong I was. This book covers so much of what you need to know to make effective use of spatial data. It spends time on explaining spatial concepts, proceeds to describe the data types and later thoroughly covers all the methods offered by the types. But the real bonus is the in depth coverage of how to use the spatial types in a practical way. Alastair spends time covering geocoding data, building a SQLCLR-based function for geocoding, building procs to return data, building a web handler to offer spatial feeds, building mashups with both GoogleMaps and VirtualEarth using the feeds, etc.

I've been running spatial conference and training sessions all over the world and really wasn't expecting to see much new material in the book but reading the book has given me so many new ideas on how I could use the spatial types in better ways. This book is highly practical and should be on the shelf of anyone working with spatial data in SQL Server 2008.

 Highly recommended!


SQL Down Under show 44 – Simon Sabin – Full text indexing, learning MDX and thoughts on technical book writing

I've been slow to get shows out this year but am pleased to announce that show 44 with guest SQL Server MVP Simon Sabin is now available for download from www.sqldownunder.com.

In this show, Simon discusses full text indexing in SQL Server plus some thoughts on learning MDX and on technical book writing.


Plan Caching Whitepaper for SQL Server 2008

Gail from the documentation team told me today that the Plan Caching whitepaper I've been working on for SQL Server 2008 is now available at: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee343986.aspx

Thanks so much to my colleagues Andy Kelly, Itzik Ben-Gan and Eladio Rincion, and Microsoft team members Adam Prout, Campbell Fraser and Xin Zhang for tech-reviewing it.

It's an update of the whitepaper "Batch compilation, Recompilation and Plan Caching Issues in SQL Server 2005" by Arun Marathe, targeted at SQL Server 2008.