A Day in the Life (3/?) - September 13, 2018

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This is my third 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 chose to record this day because I was working from home as my car was in the shop and I thought I might get some bigger things done without the distractions of being in the office. But as Mike Tyson famously said, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.

I recommend reading the first and second installments to get a handle on some of the tasks & terms I might throw around here.

My Day

06:00 - Alarm goes off but I’m already half-awake.

07:00 - Drive my son to school. This year he’s on a much earlier schedule than last year, and while I can’t walk him to school due to the distance and he can take the bus, driving him gives us some time to talk one-to-one and it gets me out the door and into the office earlier to boot. Earlier to work means I leave earlier, giving me more time to spend with my family in the late afternoon/evening.

07:30 - Return home, make a better breakfast for myself than Honey Nut Cheerios. Today it’s scrambled eggs with guacamole. If you haven’t tried it, you’re missing out.

08:00 - Set up camp in our “spare bedroom” which is trying to be a home office now.

08:10 - Log into the VPN and plug in the dongle for the wireless mouse. Windows spends far too long spinning on installing the driver and for the time being I use the built-in trackpad.

08:15 - Finish RDPing into my desktop and discover that SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) has been restarted due to an update of some kind 45 minutes prior. Spend a bit of time recovering unsaved files and then saving them elsewhere.

08:20 - Give up on the mouse working, tell Windows to stop trying to install the drivers.

08:23 - For reasons I can’t explain, mouse starts working. Decide to take advantage of the interruption to my usual SSMS workflow and install the latest version 17.9. I haven’t seen reports of it blowing anything up in the week or so since it was released.

08:30 - Are we ready to work? I think so. Hop into the queue and take my morning cruise through email and SentryOne to review everything that ran overnight.

08:35 - The VPN seems to be really sensitive to other users of my home WiFi (my wife works from home regularly) so I use this as an excuse to hook up the 5-port switch that arrived from Amazon a couple days prior. We’ve got an ethernet drop in the room but it’s occupied by the VoIP box hooked up to our printer/scanner/fax machine. Yeah, a fax machine. She needs it for her job. But we’re out of electrical outlets in this corner of the room. Rummage around and find an unused power strip in the closet. It’s got 4 always on outlets plus 4 on a timer, and due to the size of the wall-warts for the VoIP box and switch, I need to use both sides. Spend more time than I care to admit figuring out how to program the timer (whose brilliant idea was this thing?). After achieving victory over both electricity and Ethernet, I reconnected my VPN after disconnecting from WiFi and got a more stable connection.

08:54 - Pull some data together for a product owner to document the conditions that caused one of their tools to trigger a half-dozen alerts from SentryOne. Turns out that if you attempt to back up the one database to the same filename in four separate processes simultaneously, three of them will get blocked!

09:03 - Get food for my daughter. I forgot to mention earlier that she was staying home from school due to illness.

09:10 - Back to the queue.

09:30 - Call into our weekly meeting for an upgrade project. Struggle to hear anything due to abysmal acoustics in the meeting room. They can hear every click of my mechanical keyboard over the phone.

10:00 - Pull some reports (Excel files) for the business side of the house. We need a couple years worth of data and our web-based reporting system can’t handle that volume so I have a PowerShell script that breaks it up into chunks and runs the stored procedure directly. I spent a bunch of time arguing with the script as I was trying to “improve” it from the previous iteration instead of just using what has worked in the past.

12:00 - Break off to sit in on the PASS Professional Development Virtual Group presentation “Talk Tech To Me - Improving Your Technical Presentation Skills” by Alexander Arvidsson (blog|twitter).

13:15 - Make lunch

13:35 - Back to the reports I was working on in the morning. Ends up being a half-dozen Excel files, each in the neighborhood of 100MB, and approaching the limits of Excel’s capacity.

14:00 - Pick up my car from the shop.

14:30 - Resume work on another report. I had completed 90% of this one the previous day at work, but one calculation was twisting my brain. As written, the requirements are a little fuzzy and I keep flipping between two possible interpretations of them. I decide to commit to one interpretation and get my head around how to code for it.

16:00 - Check where we are with MinionWare’s CheckDB. I rolled it out about 6 weeks ago and it’s been working mostly OK, but I’m still working out some issues specific to my environment. Discuss with one of our sysadmins when we’ll install some firmware updates for our servers in the coming weeks.

16:10 - Learn that I picked the wrong interpretation of the requirements for the afternoon report and I need to flip it around. Spend quite a while working that out and validating. Whiteboard it out around a doodle of my daughter’s (can’t erase that!).

17:21 - Realize that I need to get the non-production copy of Minion CheckDB in sync with production. Rather than move individual objects (I’ve been working with Sean for about 2 months on debugging some issues and I don’t have a 100% standard version), I do a backup & restore of the database to the test server. Since production is SQL Server 2008 R2 and test is 2016, I update the compatibility level and rebuild indexes, then decide to compress a couple tables as a test before doing the same in production just to keep things from getting too huge.

17:38 - Receive a text from my neighbor about a snake that’s standing between him and his grill in the backyard. It’s a long story. It should be noted that there are only three species of venomous snakes that call New York home, and none of them live in our neighborhood.

18:00 - Done for the day. Time to get the kids fed while my wife has the cat at the vet getting an unplanned checkup.


While I was working straight through the day, I didn’t really feel like I accomplished much. Usually on a remote work day I can start early and finish a little late, and still end up spending more time “at home” because I’ve eliminated the commute, but thanks to my hardware distractions to start the day, that wasn’t happening.

I finished off two sizable report requests and took care of a few pieces of administrivia, but that’s about it. Quantity vs. quality, I guess? Getting Minion CheckDB updated in my test environment seems to have put an end to the alerts it was triggering, which doesn’t impact others but it’s good for my quality of life.

While we do have a “home office” space, it’s not set up in a way that’s comfortable for me to work. The desk is all wrong, I only have the built-in display on the laptop, it needs a ceiling fan to help circulate air better, and the whiteboard is in an inconvenient place. If I were to be working regularly from home, this day’s experience pretty much seals what I already was feeling - that I need to build out a good workspace in the basement that fits me for both ergonomics and working style. That’s not a small or inexpensive undertaking, so I don’t see it happening in the near future. We have a lot of cleaning, planning and building to make that a reality and the only thing I know for sure is desk I’ll be getting.