Books I'm Reading (or About to Read)

Since leaving the classroom and returning to the world of software development, I've tried to spend at least an hour a day reading about the changes that have taken place in technology since 2010. In July I started to dedicate my in-bed-before-sleep time to this task, and it's resulted in a lot of books being read and a bunch of new skills being acquired or refined. While it's impossible for any one person to know everything about a given subject, it should not be impossible for one person to know a healthy amount about a number of different subjects. This has certainly been the case with me while I learn more about data modelling, database design, and data warehousing. In fact, looking back at the technical books I've read in the last six months, it's easy to see that the vast majority are all related to databases in one way or another, and the four I have dedicated for January, February, and March are all on SQL Server.

I think I may have a little bit of a database fetish.

SQL Server Books

Last week I finished Stacia Varga's Developing SQL Data Models exam reference and I'm currently going through Victor Isakov's Administering a SQL Database Infrastructure reference in preparation for an upcoming Microsoft certification exam. On deck is Jose Chinchilla's Implementing a SQL Data Warehouse as data warehousing is a topic that has recently piqued my interest. Randolph's SQL Server 2017 Administration Inside Out is expected to be released by the end of next month, and I'll likely set aside some additional time to ingest the wisdom contained in the book. There's just so much to learn and explore!

A few people have asked why I read so much. They want to know specifically why I read so many technical books. When I think about it, though, the answer is not so cut and dry. Sure, I'd like to learn more about these tools so that I can make better use of the technology, but this isn't the only reason. Buried deep in the curiosity is the desire to discover what I do not yet know. As Bart Simpson so eloquently said to Mrs. Lovejoy all those years ago, "what you don't know could fill a warehouse."

It's true. We generally do not know what we do not know, and it's because of this ignorance that incomplete or inefficient decisions can be made to solve problems that other, smarter people may have resolved years before. Not a day goes by where I don't learn something new about the tools I use, and I hope this does not change anytime soon.

There's a certain excitement that comes from reading about an interesting feature or function, then trying it out and thinking about how it might be used to solve a real problem elsewhere. Back in November, I said that 10C would switch from MySQL to SQL Server just because I wanted to gain some experience with the platform on Linux. The conversion was finished mid-December, and nobody has reported any issues with the service since the switch. It was, by all accounts, one of the smoothest migrations of 10C I've ever performed. Learning more about SQL Server will (hopefully) allow me to do even more with the database going forward. More than this, I'd like to better understand how complex business problems could be solved with better use of this powerful tool.

While 10C is a personal project that I take very seriously and put a lot of care into, there is simply not enough "hard" work for me to do with the database. Businesses, however, ask a lot of tough questions. Depending on the quality of those questions, businesses may ask the question again and again in the form of reports. Being able to build the SQL queries to quickly and accurately return the answers is certainly a worthy place to use the skills I'm working so hard to acquire.

The North Wall

Today the family made a trek to where our new home will be built to see how much has been done in the month since we paid for the land. I had thought the foundation would have been poured by now but, as the photo below shows, I was clearly mistaken. What we did see, however, was that the preliminary work for the small fence on the north and northwest sides of the property has been completed, as well as the underground piping that will be used for water, gas, and drainage.

The North Wall

There isn't much to look at just yet but, as the land goes from being a barren plot with pipes to a proper home, I'll post updates to share the progress. If all goes according to plan, the building will be up and pass inspection by March 31st, meaning we can technically move in on April 1st. Given that the last two weeks of March and first two weeks of April are the most expensive times to move, we'll likely opt to move between mid-to-late April ... almost 7 years to the day after moving to the apartment we currently call home.

December 2017 Review

At the beginning of December I wrote a short little post that looked at the rising popularity of monthly reviews as a way for people to set and — hopefully — reach realistic short-term goals. At the bottom of the post were a few of my own goals, and so now it's time to see how well I did against my own objectives.

ToDo List

Under "Creativity & Hobbies", I laid out the following objectives:

  • write 10 blog posts
  • publish 5 podcasts (probably Doubtfully Daily Matigo shows)
  • read 2 technical books and 1 fiction novel

By the end of the month I had written 11 blog posts, published zero podcasts, finished one technical book and made it through about 80% of another plus a recently published Star Trek novel. Not great, but not bad, either. With regards to the podcasts, that's something that I've actually started to do since January 1, and the daily publication of episodes is going swimmingly thus far.

With family, I had the following goals:

  • spend 8 days this month "computer free"
  • get Christmas stuff sent to family in Canada by the 6th

The 8 days without using the computer was easy, as there were 11 days last month where my notebook was left in the work bag. Sending stuff to Canada by the 6th was a bit too optimistic, but stuff was sent last month and should have been received in Southern Ontario by now.

For work, there were two LMS-related items:

  • finish development of v4.2 updates
  • begin work on documentation of v4.2

I received the last of the data I needed from a couple of departments on December 30th and, with this data, I can now begin the 8-day process of building the necessary functionality. Suffice it to day, I have not yet completed the 4.2 updates and am quite a bit overdue. As for documentation, I have begun work on it. The process will take several weeks, so it's not even close to being complete.

So there we go. Not a particularly successful month despite everything that was done. With this in mind, January's goals will be much less ambitious.

Creativity & Hobbies

  • write 10 blog posts
  • publish an episode of DDM every day this month
  • read 1 technical book and 1 fiction novel

Family

  • spend 4 days this month "computer free"
  • bake something new

Work

  • complete the core 4.2 updates
  • prepare the 4.3 "Portal" demo to knock some socks off in Tokyo on the 16th

This shouldn't be too hard to meet. The challenge will be the 4 computer-free days, as there's a lot to get done.

Nozomi's Back!

The title is a bit misleading because Nozomi only spent one night at the vet this past week. What I mean to say is that Nozomi is back to normal. After 53 hours, she finally went poo, and it was a normal one. Her appetite has been quite ferocious as of late, and she's drinking a normal amount of water. While it's probably premature to celebrate, it certainly feels like the puppy is back to her normal self.

Nozomi will remain "under observation" for the next day and, so long as everything's good to go, she'll get her first walk in a week around lunchtime tomorrow. I'm sure there are all sorts of scents and smells that she's just itching to go an explore.

Nozomi During Happier Times

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The camera will certainly get a workout during tomorrow's little trek ...

Doubtful Returns

It's been over a year since I last appeared on a published English podcast, and it's high time that changed. Doubtfully Daily Matigo has been relaunched, complete with it's dedicated site and RSS feed for people who haven't already grown sick of my voice. The show is still a bit too new to appear in the Apple podcast directory, but you can expect to find it there at some point in the near future, too.

2018 is going to be the year I take back some of my time and actually work on creative projects that benefit me, rather than a corporation that is suffering from a severe case of middle-management-itis1. Hopefully this will also encourage me to start a technical podcast as well, where I discuss either MySQL specifically — as I can't find any MySQL podcasts online — or databases in general.


  1. Silly political games and fiefdoms amongst middle managers who are where they are because there's nowhere else to go but out, and they know it.

An Update on Nozomi

The last few days have been pretty hard on Nozomi. After spending the night at the vet's, she came home and almost instantly crawled into bed, coming out only when her stomach is cramping up, when she needs the bathroom, or when I coax her out to try and take some medicine or eat some food. Last night she had quite a lot of blood in her stool, so another trip to the vet was in order today. In addition to 75cc of medicine delivered through an IV, she was given three needles: two for her bleeding and one for her pain.

Hopefully this will be the last time she sees the vet for at least four months.

I would like to think that she's making a slow recovery, though she still has zero appetite and won't take her medicine. To make matters worse, she barely drinks any water. There's a selection of foods around her in the event she wants to try something, such as jelly, bread, and some expensive kibbles from the vet. Her water dish has also been moved right close to her bed so that she doesn't need to traverse a chilly floor to get a drink. Unfortunately this is all I can really do for her.

Last year at this time she was likely fast asleep on my lap. The same could be said about the year before, the year before that, and every year since 2010. There's still time for some lap-naps, and I'll gladly make space for her when she's feeling better.

Missing My Puppy

Last night was pretty rough for Nozomi, my one-of-a-kind mini dachshund. Around 8:30pm she started vomiting, bringing up her dinner from a few hours beforehand, then later her breakfast from the morning. She had some trouble with the bathroom and pooped in the house where we don't like to see such things, and then she made things worse by walking around with goop in her paws. Typically when this sort of thing happens, I don't get upset with her as it's clearly a health-related issue. First I put her in her bathroom area in case she needed to evacuate more stuff from either end. Then I cleaned the floor, using boiling water to get the bulk of the mess and following up with disinfectant to ensure it was all clean afterwards1. Then I brought Nozomi to the bathroom for a quick shower. All in all it was half an hour's worth of work, and this is typically the end of the trouble.

However, Nozomi was really ill yesterday. More than I realized.

Around 10:30pm she vomited again on the freshly-scrubbed floor, though not as much as before. Once more, I cleaned the floor and made sure she was okay.

Then at 1:15am she woke me up with that sound she makes as she's trying to throw up. I managed to move some of the newspaper I put on the ground to catch whatever Nozomi was going to eject. This time, though, it was darker than usual. Either she had eaten disintegrated rubber, which would have been unlikely, or she had blood in her stomach.

At 2:00am she threw up again. This time there was no mistake about the blood.

Reiko called some of the vets in a 30 minute radius, but they were all closed for the winter holidays. 24-hour service is available for humans every day of the year. Non-human members of the household sometimes have to get by without this luxury. Doing what people do in such a situation, I quickly looked online for possible causes and remedies. Most people suggesting keeping her away from food and water for a minimum of six hours and seeing a vet immediately.

Not much help.

Fortunately, Nozomi managed to get some sleep around 3:00 and was snoring up a storm until six when I got up to give the boy a bottle of milk. By 9:00 she seemed to be back to normal, but without an appetite. Not willing to take chances, though, Reiko drove the puppy to a nearby vet who then ran a battery of tests on her, but not before Nozomi made yet another mess on the examination table.

Poor Nozomi. She's such a patient, gentle soul. Why does she have to feel this agony? Why does she have to bear it in silence?

The vet determined that, in addition to being a little overweight, Nozomi's gallbladder and intestines have a strange shape to them and may be infected. The cause was likely the combination of stress from being more isolated since a new member joined the family, as a lot of the time I used to spend with her is now going to the boy, and the rapidly changing temperature. While we do have heat and insulation in our apartment, temperature fluctuations outside can have a dramatic effect on the indoor temperature as well.

Nozomi's been put on some pretty potent medication to try and help her fight whatever's inside, and she'll also be spending at least the next night at the vet's for observation. A doctor will be there all night to keep an eye on her and a few other patients. Hopefully she can come home tomorrow; I miss her, and I worry for her.

I miss hearing her claws on the floor as she walks from place to place. I miss the way she stares at me and communicates her needs. I miss the way she is always so cheerful and optimistic. I worry that this problem might lead to something bigger ...

As selfish as it may sound, I am not willing to lose Nozomi to eternity just yet. She's just seven and a half, so there are still a lot of good years remaining. When she's able, I want her to come home and recover in the comfort of her own bed which is very close to mine. I want her to feel relaxed and wanted. I want her to know that while my time is certainly a lot more constrained, I will always make time to take care of her and that she is special.

Maybe the way I feel is silly. Some would laugh and say that "Nozomi is a dog", as though being a species other than human makes her inferior and disposable. Some would say it's not good to be too attached to pets because of their much shorter lifespans. But regardless of what others might think, Nozomi is more than just a dog. She's more than just a pet. She is, in all seriousness, my best friend ... and I miss her.


  1. I generally walk barefoot in my home and, even with socks, I don't want to track any germs around the house where the boy can get them

First Christmas

Today was the boy's first Christmas, a day that will likely get progressively louder in the coming years. As he does not yet have a firm grasp on language, customs, or presents, the morning was quite confusing for him. That said, he knew something was up when there were items in bright-red wrapping close enough to his bed that he could grab them. Usually things are put just out of arm's reach so that his curiosity does not involve a quick repair of a remote control, USB mouse, or an entire computer. All in all, he received four gifts this year, but has (so far) only opened two: a Mickey Mouse plushie, and a water-based colouring pad with stamps. He doesn't yet understand how to colour or use stamps, but he did enjoy Mickey.

Reading a Christmas Card Together

For a long time I've not been particularly interested in Christmas as the holiday has lost most of its original meaning to become little more than the epitome of commercialism. Watching Charlie Brown Christmas, it's interesting that people were complaining about this back in the 1960's as well. However, since becoming a parent, I look forward to these little celebrations as it's a chance to relive my long-forgotten introduction to the customs and traditions that make up culture. Perhaps my son will also lose interest in this winter holiday at some point in his teens, asking for nothing more than to sleep in until noon. Perhaps he'll always look forward to it because of the freedom one has with eating as much food as we can pack into our face. I am quite certain that he will both anticipate and enjoy the Christmas holidays from the time he's 3 until somewhere in his teens, and I'll look forward to enjoying his reactions.

I guess this means I've become a little soft in my middle-aged years ....

Indistinguishable from Magic

When out and about during the day, I like to watch people interact with the technology that surrounds us. So much has changed in such a short amount of time that comparing the tools we enjoyed in the 90s to the devices we take for granted today can be quite amazing. Thinking back even further, there was a time when the average person could repair just about any item they purchased without requiring a PhD in a science-related discipline. Those days are long gone and will likely never return, which means generations of people will grow up not really understanding how the things they use actually work. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, nor is it necessarily a good thing. This is just the way it is.

A Lithographic Sheet of Intel Haswell-series Processors

The integrated circuit is a perfect example of something that the vast majority of people do not understand. Most software developers couldn't tell you how one of these things really works yet, without them, there wouldn't be any need to develop software. Yet the same could be said about a lot of the food we eat, too. Do most of us really know how the meal we ate went from being alive somewhere on the planet, to dead, to processed, to packaged, to shipped, to delivered, to bought? Probably not. It's too complex and, for most people, irrelevant.

We live in a remarkable time. The vast majority of people over the age of 20 are quite literate in at least one language, and we have access to vast sums of knowledge that span thousands of years of study. For most of us, though, we focus on just a narrow band of subjects and learn them well enough to accomplish the basic tasks asked of us. Some people dig deeper to learn more. They go on to solve some wonderfully complex problems, such as designing the next in-demand CPU ... essentially teaching a rock to "think".

For the vast majority of us, though, we are surrounded by tools that are taken for granted and pretty much indistinguishable from magic.

9:13am

Non-Productive

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