A Day in the Life (2/?) - August 14, 2018

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This is my second installment in a series responding to Steve Jones’s (blog|twitter) #SQLCareer challenge. I decided to jot down most of what I did through the day, filling a page and a half in a Field Notes notebook with timestamps and short reminders of what happened. For more, check out the #SQLCareer hashtag on Twitter.


I’m one of two DBAs in my company, and my colleague is (still) on holiday on the opposite side of the planet so I’m juggling everything – on-call, regular operations, consults with developers, you name it. In production, we manage several thousand databases which sit behind about as many websites.

I chose to record this day because it’s a huge departure from the usual routine. In addition to our bi-monthly software release, we had a quarterly event. Let’s check it out. I recommend reading the first installment to get a handle on some of the tasks & terms I might throw around here.

My Day

03:45 - Alarm goes off. It’s early, way too early, and compounded by the fact that I got to bed late-ish last night. We had unexpected dinner guests yesterday but it’s friends who we haven’t seen in three years and they were in town for one day only, so we weren’t going to pass up the opportunity.

04:10 - Hop in the car to get to the office.

04:12 - Nearly hit a deer bounding across the road before I even get out of the neighborhood.

04:50 - Arrive at the office, grab an RxBar (thanks to Drew (blog|twitter) for tipping me off to them) and start getting set up for the deploy. This one’s pretty easy, I only have three changes I’m responsible for:

  • Push a small data change out to all the databases
  • Enable Read Committed Snapshot Isolation on one database
  • Put a clustered primary key on one table in the above database.

05:00 - Red Gate Multi-Script is all set up with the database list and I hit the Go button

05:05 - Multi-Script is done!

05:09 - Enable RCSI & create the clustered PK in that one database.

05:50 - Kick off a data change across a couple dozen databases (via cursor this time, not Multi-Script).

06:05 - Kick off another data change across a couple dozen databases (via cursor).

06:30 - Notice that my installed copy of Brent Ozar Unlimited’s First Responder Kit is out of date by a good 6 months. Refresh it in production with Install-DbaFirstResponderKit, but I’ve got a half-dozen test instances. Fortunately, they’re all registered with a Central Management Server so dbatools makes it even easier.

Get-DbaRegisteredServer -IncludeSelf -ServerInstance MYCMS | Install-DbaFirstResponderKit -Database master

06:48 - Into the queue. There’s a ticket or two that came in late Monday so I get to work on those.

07:15 - Breakfast has arrived! The company buys us a breakfast pizza and amazing donuts when we have software releases.

07:55 - Get to work trying to sort out an issue with a trigger on a critical table. My colleague and I have been ping-ponging this with our lead QA tester for a few weeks and I really want to get it finished as the trigger has been causing deadlocks.

08:45 - 09:50 - Bounce between the queue and the trigger a few times.

09:00 - Get word that one of the data changes I made earlier in the morning appears wrong. It turns out I did exactly what I was asked to do, but the original requestor transposed a couple digits when submitting the request. Fortunately, the changed records are easily identified and the request was otherwise well-documented, so I’m able to reverse my changes without restoring anything from a backup (my SOP is to make a backup immediately before any data change that isn’t trivial or logged in a history table).

09:20 - Pause to gawk at the crazy weather we’re getting. Not too bad in the city, but down in the Finger Lakes they’re getting rain measured in inches per hour and the flash flooding is intense.

09:50 - Break off to secure a spot in the common area for the quarterly presentation.

10:06 - Leave the presentation to address some blocking issues, and bring my laptop back with me so I can take care of others from there.

11:30 - The presentation is almost over and my ability to concentrate on the material is fading fast. I’ve been awake for 8 hours already after a short night’s sleep.

12:00 - Event wraps up and I take my chair back to my desk. Get registered for PASS Summit.

12:30 - Grab lunch. During the warmer months, the company brings a local food truck for lunch on the day we have this quarterly event but they don’t tell us what it is until the day of. Today’s truck - Tom Wahl’s and they’re dishing up Garbage Plates, a local delicacy. I get my once-every-five-years plate and dig in.

Lunchzilla Lunchzilla

12:43 - Get a note that the reports documenting one of my data changes from 6 hours ago aren’t correct. Either the requirements are unclear to me or my brain is completely fuzzed at this point due to the schedule. I decide to shelve it until Wednesday as I’ll only make things worse at this point. I know the data’s good, I just need to get it documented.

13:00 - Kick off a database copy and subsequent data change across a couple hundred databases (via cursor). We do this at least a dozen times a year to get things set up for our partners and internal users.

13:15 - Poke around at a few databases in search of remaining heap tables and start pondering when I can get that fixed.

13:53 - Roll up my sleeves and get back to working out why Minion CheckDB works fine on my test instances, but throws security exceptions in production. Sean (twitter) has been working with me for quite a while on this and I can’t thank him enough for it. We’ve narrowed it down to something related to how the commands executed via xp_cmdshell are authenticating to the instance. In this iteration, I’m throwing logging statements (writing to a table) around every call to xp_cmdshell in hopes that I can pinpoint where the error is happening and exactly why.

15:00 - Ordinarily on a release day I’m out of the office by 14:00 but there’s no one else to hold down the fort and I’m making progress on this CheckDB thing. I want to make some good progress and document it before I leave. In the past hour I’ve inserted all my logging into the process and gotten a test run with results logged! Still failing but I’ve got enough information to reproduce the issue outside the confines of xp_cmdshell and I’ve got some really good leads. I document my findings and ship them off to Sean.

15:15 - Just as I’m packing up my bags, a new ticket comes into the queue. It reads “if you have a chance, please run this today” but the deadline is Wednesday 9 AM. I talk to the submitter and tell him I can do it today if necessary, but would prefer Wednesday when my brain’s back online. He agrees to Wednesday.

15:20 - Head home.

16:05 - Arrive at home, say hi to the family. My wife tells me to go upstairs and take a nap. I feel guilty about it, but this is one of those difficult days as a production DBA, she’s very understanding, and I decide to compromise. I lay down in bed and watch most of The Dark Knight instead since it just got put on Netflix (I did try to nod off but it wasn’t happening).

18:00 - Back downstairs for dinner. As I’m still feeling the effects of lunchzilla, I skip the pasta and just have a couple meatballs.

19:00 - Pop into Slack real quick and notice that Friedrich Weinmann (blog|twitter) has a new release of PSFramework. I tripped over a few issues with the logging functions last week and it turned out he was already working on them, so I was awaiting this release. I’ll have to update the module and check it out sometime Wednesday.

19:45 - Get the kids set for wind-down time then bed, and start writing this.

22:00 - After proofreading this, I realize that my phone has been uncharacteristically quiet tonight. Personal emails, texts, work alerts - I’ve received very, very little since 16:30. It’s unnerving, to be honest. I’m considering logging into work just to make sure everything is OK. Although I can see websites are online, so my instance is up and running at least.


Today was quite different from a normal day or even a normal release day. Due to the odd schedule and sleep cycle, I feel like I had a lot more trouble focusing today than what I would consider a “tough” day, to the point where I’d call myself “scatterbrained” today. For a while my colleague & I segmented our days pretty well - before 10 AM and after 2 PM was considered “work the queue” time and the middle of the day was reserved for larger projects and emergencies. I think I need to get back to this model once she returns.

I didn’t accomplish everything I should have today, including a test run or two of my demo for PowerHour which I was going to do with Matt Cushing (blog|twitter). I’ll have to set something up with him later in the week. Wednesday is going to be very much a “write out a full task list and step through, driving each one to 100% completion before moving on” kind of day.