You can take the boy off the farm…

I was recently reminded by a good friend of mine, Kevin Kline, of something that happened several years ago. It still brings a smile to my face so I thought I’d share it with you even though it’s “old news”. For anyone that follows my family blog, this is re-post from almost three years ago.

The DBA Farmer

For those who don’t already know, my professional life and my home life are at opposite ends of the technology spectrum. I’m sometimes referred to as the DBA Farmer by friends since we have a small hobby farm in Middle Tennessee where we raise cows, goats, turkeys, and chickens. We also grow and preserve food from our garden.

A few years ago, I was invited to attend a one-day leadership training session in Chicago. As with a lot of these types of events, a welcome reception on the eve of the actual training was provided to “break-the-ice”. So I, and about 100 others from around the country, flew into Chicago that afternoon to attend the reception and to socialize before our training that was to follow the next morn.

The reception was held in a private room in a fine restaurant just off the Magnificent Mile in downtown Chicago; a very upscale place. Drinks and appetizers were served while we made small-talk. Then we made our way to another area where a nice multi-course meal was served while the conversations continued.

Unlike a lot of people in technical fields, I’m not overly introverted. So I seldom look at my own shoes, especially when talking with others. However, at one point during the evening’s activities, I did happen to glance down towards my feet. That’s when I noticed it. There, stuck to the side of the sole of my right shoe was an unmistakable and tell-tale sign of my origins. Sticking to the side of my black dress shoe was none other than a big, dried, white & gray glob of chicken poop.


I must have stepped in a freshly formed pile while walking to my truck to go the airport that afternoon. Somehow, the rest of the walk to the truck and the ride to the airport didn’t cleanse me of my tag-along. Somehow, it continued to persist through the security checkpoint, without setting off all kinds of alarms! Apparently going completely unnoticed through the screening process.

Or perhaps it was noticed but simply not acted upon by the guards? How do you approach a man in business attire and ask him to clean off the chicken poo he left on the x-ray machine?

In any case, the poo remained. It traveled with me on the plane and even on taxi ride to the hotel once I had arrived at my destination.

Anyway, upon the startling revelation of the distance this poo had traveled, I glanced up, looking around to see if anyone in the room had noticed me noticing my own shoe. Thankfully everyone else seemed to be oblivious of my new discovery. As I took in the vast audience of other attendees, I realized that I was surrounded by CEO’s of large organizations, Presidents of companies, Chief Financial Officers for institutions. And there was me, in the middle of it all, standing amongst all of these people of respect, with chicken poo on my shoe. I laughed out loud at the juxtaposition of it all.

I yam what I yam

It was then, that I fully realized that you can take the boy off the farm, but you can’t take the farm off the boy. And I wouldn’t trade that for the world!

Got a funny story you’d like to tell on yourself? Why not share it here? Don’t be embarrassed; life’s too short to not laugh at ourselves.


Finding a good hobby

I spent seven hours in the sun today. But I wasn’t relaxing on a beach somewhere. Nor was I out on the links with three of my best friends bragging about a shot that I once made. Actually back when I played golf, it might well have taken me seven hours to get through 18 holes!

No, today I took the day off to clear a rather large maple tree that fell across our driveway during a storm last night. I could have easily called someone to come do it for me. And in fact, it probably would have been less expensive to go that route. As a self-employed database consultant, my income is directly related to the number of hours that I work. So there was definitely some opportunity cost associated with clearing the tree myself. But that’s ok; I didn’t do it for to save a buck or two. I did it because it was fun, despite the mercury in the thermometer breaking the mid-90’s F.

It’s not about the money

As a consultant it’s easy to get lured into thinking of most everything in terms of opportunity cost. “I can work another couple of hours tonight and make an extra xxx dollars.” When you think in those terms, the dinner with your wife and kids becomes very expensive.

But when everything comes down to a purely financial analysis, the really important things in life will certainly lose out. How can you measure the impact of helping another person, of leading a Scout Troop, of being there for your kids? How important is the good feeling you get from doing something you really enjoy?

Find a hobby

I received some good advice many years ago. Oddly enough, it wasn’t from someone I know personally. It was from a book. It was written by Bill Gates. At least I think it was. The advice? Don’t underestimate the importance of being well rounded; don’t let work be all consuming for you. Find a hobby. Find something you enjoy and get really good at it. Whether it’s golf or gardening, sailing or soccer, find something that you really enjoy and pursue it.

For me, it’s living out in the country on a small farm. I spend my spare time tending to the cows, goats, chickens, and turkeys that we raise. I enjoy working on my old tractor, mending fences, and providing for as much of our own food as we can. And yes, I even enjoy clearing a big maple tree when it falls.

And I’m fortunate in that my wife also enjoys the lifestyle we’ve chosen together. Just today, in fact, as I was cutting the tree into manageable pieces, she walked down from the house and said “Hi Hercules, it feels good to be out here doing this, doesn’t it?”  It sure did!

But I like what I do

Many of you may say that you already love what you do for a living, that SQL Server or some other technology is your hobby. To you, I say fantastic! If you can do for a living what you truly love, you’ve reached the zenith of the work life experience.

But I would also caution you to not let the pursuit of your work be all encompassing, so much to the point where life outside of work passes you by. There’s so much to enjoy in this life; do it while you still can.

I’ll have a #4 combo with a side of wifi

I had Krystal for lunch yesterday. I don’t know anyone who actually seeks out Krystal for a meal, but I did yesterday.

Not since college have I dined on those little square meat-like patties on steamed buns. And even then it was at 2:00am, when nothing else was open, and I needed a shock to my system to keep me going for another couple of hours.

Yet yesterday, I sought out Krystal.

But it was not the delicacy known as Krystal Burgers that I wanted, although that indeed was what I ordered. No; it was something else I was after. It was their free wireless Internet.

Free WifiYou see, yesterday I was visiting a client to perform some system integration testing. Much of the tests were straightforward. But the system has an outward facing portal that allows some users to access it from outside the network. To properly test that aspect, I needed to be outside the network. So I grabbed my laptop and headed for the closest wi-fi hot spot. It happened to be the home of the Krystal Burger.

Two hours and four Krystal Burgers later, my testing was complete.

Equipped for the Road

As a database consultant, I spend about 50% of my time working from the comfort of my home office. Frankly, that’s where I’m most productive. I can work remotely, focusing on the tasks at hand.

But there are times when it is simply necessary or more convenient to visit a client’s office. On those days, it’s not uncommon for me to have a spare hour or two between appointments. And for the price of a cup of coffee, I can gain admission to the the world wide web.

Oh sure, I have an iPhone with a data package. It’s great! I can wireless sync it with my server, check emails, and browse the web. I can even remote desktop into a client’s server with it. Having this capability allows me to provide much better service to my clients.

But trying to use my iPhone for serious work like developing Reporting Services reports or updating Integration Services packages, well, that would be like trying to launch a leverage buyout using an ATM machine. No for real, sustained work, I need to have my laptop connected to the Internet. And so, I ended up at Krystal.

A Developing Pattern

This wasn’t the first time I’ve done that either; it’s not an isolated event. I’ve eaten at sandwich shoppes just because they offered free Internet access.

For the past nine years, I’ve met with a group of guys at a Nashville coffee shop for a Friday morning Men’s Breakfast. We chose the location, in part, because it offers free wireless Internet for those of us who hang around after the breakfast for a little remote work.

So I’ve developed a pattern. I’ve chosen restaurants and by extension meals, not based on the menu, or quality, or even my taste preferences, but because of something that is not even close to their core business – their Internet access.

In this day, where email is with me wherever I go, and the web is but a finger touch away, my dining experience has been influenced, if not dictated, by the offer of free Internet.

What’s Going On?

Am I crazy? Maybe. But I’m not alone. Why else would Krystal, Panara’s, and McDonald’s offer free Internet to their customers? It used to be that those restaurants would intentionally have uncomfortable seating so they could get you in and out quickly. Now they lure you in and keep you using the world wide web.

So I’m curious. Have you selected a coffee shoppe or restaurant because they offered free Internet? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

By the way, I do have an AirCard from a cellular provider, but I don’t carry it with me. It stays at home since it is the home office’s connection to the Internet. And considering the number of times per month I actually visit a coffee shoppe for their Internet connection, it’s far less expensive to occasionally savor a few cups of coffee there than to pay for another AirCard.



It’s never to early to learn

Recently, friend and fellow MVP, Louis Davidson (aka Dr. SQL) emailed me a picture of his grand baby. She’s a fine looking little girl. And she’s got brains, too, as evident by her choice of reading material. For those without great eyesight, she’s thumbing through a copy of one of my books. According to Louis, she picked it up herself.


I don’t know how to break it to her, but Notification Services was canned before she was even born.