Recently Paul Randal (Blog
) blogged "What three events brought you here?"
He tagged other SQL Server professionals to share the same information. Several others did including 2 people that really inspired me to write my own blog post - Ted Krueger
) and Jeremiah Peschka
This is likely to get long and pretty heavy. Sorry in advance. 8)
An Accidental Life. An Incidental Life? A Miraculous Life?
Consider some facts about the recent tragedy of the earthquake in Haiti. The earthquake lasted seven seconds. Seven seconds of destruction, devastation, and death. If a person near Port-Au-Prince was inside a building during these seven seconds they are most likely one of three things: dead, hurt, or very very lucky. If a person was outside during these seven seconds odds are that they are alive. It is difficult for me to wrap my head around how arbitrary this seems - Inside equals dead or hurt. Outside equals alive. The accidental nature of life makes it seem both incidental and miraculous. An individual human being is a tiny insignificant speck of dust in both time and space compared to the universe while at the same time during his or her short existence is probably the object in the known universe with the lowest entropy/least amount of chaos (conversely with the greatest order or the most complex system). How is this seeming paradox possible? Is everything already planned out? Or is everything just pure random chance? Does it really matter? I am not a big fan of the idea of destiny or fate or things being preordained. I prefer the idea of free will and that I have some degree of control (even if slight) over my future. Am I kidding myself?
The Haiti tragedy also reminded me of an episode of Charlie Rose with Auschwitz survivor and author Elie Wiesel
(I attempted to quickly find exact episode but haven't yet). In the interview Wiesel talked about the tragedy of the Nazi Holocaust and the millions of Jews killed. The loss of all that humanity is a great sadness. That it was caused by man's evil makes it worse. Wiesel talked about an added dimension that sometimes gets forgotten in the tragedy - the extraordinary loss of human potential. Within the millions that were slaughtered or their descendants was there another Mozart, Shakespeare, or Einstein? We will never know. In the Haiti tragedy it is unclear how many tens of thousands of people perished (possible as many as or more than 200,000). This loss of humanity combined with the unknowable loss of human potential should give pause to all and reason for self-reflection. As should all loss of life whether by accident, violence, or disease. Whether if just one person or millions.
Event #1 - Actually a Series of Events: Some Family History
I am named after my great grandfather, Stephen Horn. At some point an "e" was added to our surname. He was in his 20s when the Civil War broke out. He and his brothers lived in Virginia. The old homeplace was less than 2 miles from the Kentucky border. They joined the Confederate Army. If they had lived just a few miles to the north or west they would have likely joined the Union army. They didn't own any slaves. They were just poor dirt farmers and joining up to fight in the war was just what you did. Thankfully my family wasn't one of those where one brother joined the Union army while another joined the Confederate army. That happened with great frequency with families on both sides of the border between the Union and Confederate states. My great grandfather joined the Virginia 51st Infantry Regiment and fought in several battles throughout West Virginia and Virginia. The Virginia 51st fought directly alongside the cadets of VMI (Virginia Military Institute) at the Battle of New Market
. It is believed that my great grandfather Stephen was at this battle. Shortly after the Battle of New Market, my great grandfather was captured by the Union army and sent to a Prisoner of War camp on the Delaware peninsula. He spent the last year and a half of the Civil War in a POW camp. When Lee surrendered at Appomattox and the war ended, Stephen was released and he walked back across the state of Virginia to his home. He returned to farming and also became a teacher. He started a family and had a son when he was almost 50, my grandfather.
For my grandfather a hunting rifle was a constant companion. My father tells stories that he was a very good shot and very good in the woods and as a tracker - a real-life Daniel Boone. When World War I started my grandfather joined the US Army and became a sniper. He fought in France in the trenches against the Germans. My grandfather was supposed to be pretty nasty and fearless. I don't know if the stories my father used to tell me are true (probably half-truths) but think Brad Pitt in Legends of the Fall. My father did say that my grandfather respected the Germans - the French? Not so much. My grandfather survived the war and came back home to Virginia and started a family. My father was born in 1928 when my grandfather was in his 40s. My father turned seventeen in 1945 and missed World War II. What if he had been born a year or two earlier like some of my mother's brothers one who flew over 100 B-25 missions out of Burma (the other two in training ready to be shipped out to South Pacific for invasion of Japan)? My father eventually spent time during the Korean War in the Army stateside. I was born when my father was almost 40.
It all just seems so accidental. How did my great grandfather survive numerous battles? How did he survive POW camp? How did my grandfather survive France? How did my father luck out and completely miss World War II? Why did he luck out and not get shipped to Korea? Do all these seemingly random events "culminate" in "Me"? I don't know about my fellow SQL Server professionals but compared to previous generations I sometimes feel like a big wuss. I sit on my ass, stare at a computer screen and play with a keyboard and mouse. I don't think I am the culmination of anything. Fortunately I only feel this way sometimes. But it still all seems very accidental. And not the least bit miraculous.
Event #2: Back To Work and Adding Value Day One
I have written about the following before here
. My mother died of breast cancer in 2004. My father started to have problems - dementia probably Alzheimer's. In early summer 2004 I went back home to Virginia to help him. I didn't work for 3.5 years. When I did go back to work as an ASP.NET developer (ha!) I found that the one area that I could immediately add value to my new employer was on the SQL Server side. Pretty much everything else I knew about application development had changed. But SQL Server, SQL, Transact-SQL, tables, rows, columns, SELECTs, INSERTs, UPDATEs, DELETEs, Stored Procedures, and Views - pretty much was the same. I wasn't completely worthless. It was like riding a bike. This core stuff was the same 10 years ago and will be the same 10, 20, 50 years from now (sorry NoSQL, Value Pair, Object DB people - while your ideas have merit - the Relational Database Management System and hopefully SQL Server will be the data storage and retrieval solution for today, tomorrow, and the foreseeable future). I am deeply cynical about the software development industry's never-ending chase for the silver bullet - whether it be a new language, a new API, a new methodology, a new whatever. There. Is. No. Silver. Bullet. I don't want to stop new ideas and innovation. I think ASP.NET MVC is brilliant. I think ORMs like LINQ to SQL are too. jQuery is fantastic. But why does there have to be 18 billion ways to do the same thing? And why create yet another new and "better" way to do the same thing? I believe at some point businesses and developers are going to say enough is enough - innovation for innovation's sake is not what we value most. What we value most is delivering solutions to our customers - we want our knowledge/skills/experience to persist for longer - we want technologies to become more well-baked rather than be replaced by the new. For me personally, narrowing my focus to SQL Server development is how I am making my knowledge/skills/experience "persist". The fact that I could come back after 3.5 years and add value on day one to my new employer in the SQL Server realm, convinces me of this. I won't stop learning (heck, I start a 15 day SQL Server MCITP Bootcamp admin & dev in a couple of days) but what I know today about RDBMSes and SQL will apply tomorrow, 5 years from now, 25 years from now. That fact that I love SQL Server and Transact-SQL helped me make the decision too!
Event #3: Getting Involved in SQL Server Community
I lost my ASP.NET/C# job at the end of September. I have been out of work since then. I started blogging and Twittering to possibly help with my job search - it has turned into much more. In the short time that I have been involved in the SQL Server community I have been blown away by the kindness, caring, sharing, consideration, and friendships that surround and make up the community. The screenshot below contains a short Twitter discussion that spoke to me - maybe at the time I was feeling alone in a room with no one else other than my dog Blue. People like Andy Leonard (Blog
) are inspiring, especially with posts like this
. The SQL Server community has convinced me to focus my career on SQL Server development.
Thanks for reading my novel. Hopefully didn't bore you completely! And as I said before I start a Bootcamp in a couple of days. Twitter and blogging will be curtailed. Wish me luck!