Sunday, 23 May 2010

Where's my dinner?

We feeds the birds from a bird feeder in our garden, just outside the kitchen window. We get Sparrows, Chaffinches, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Starlings, Blackbirds and occasionally Woodpeckers. Now we have for some time wondered at the way that when stocks run low we get Sparrows and Blue Tits on the window sill, tapping at the window. We are not sure whether they are just finding amusement at their own reflection or actually trying to get our attention – having made some sort of connection between the food appearing in the feeder and the people that live in the house.

Well, today i was sat here writing a different blog article and there is a knocking at the window and this is what I saw.



Yep, just to make sure, here is a close-up. The Woodpecker wants his dinner!!!


Apologies for poor exposure/composition but this guy is so timid and I had to get the camera and take the picture without disturbing him. This was all over in maybe 5-10 seconds. He'd gone almost by the time my camera was away from my face.


Today I feel lucky to be here, now. :)

Friday, 21 May 2010

How do you use blog content?

Do you write a blog, have you ever thought about it? I think people fall into one of a few categories when it comes to blogs, especially blogs with technical content.

  1. Writing articles furiously – daily, twice daily and reading dozens of others.
  2. Writing the odd piece of content and read plenty of others’ output.
  3. Started a blog once and its fizzled out but reading lots.
  4. Thought about starting a blog someday but never got around to it, hopping into the occasional blog when a link or a Tweet takes them there.
  5. Never thought about writing one but often catching content from them when Google (or other preferred search engine) finds content related to their search.

Now I am not saying that either of these is right or wrong, nor am I saying that anyone should feel any compulsion to be in any particular category. What I would say is that you as a blog reader have the power to move blog writers from one category to another.

How, you might ask? How do I have any power over a blog writer? It is very simple – feedback. If you give feedback then the blog writer knows that they are reaching an audience, if there is no response then they we are simply writing down our thoughts for what could amount to nothing more than a feeble amount of exercise and a few more key stokes towards the onset of RSI.

Most blogs have a mechanism to alert the writer when there are comments, and personally speaking, if an email is received saying there has been a response to a blog article then there is a rush of enthusiasm, a moment of excitement that someone is actually reading and considering the text that was submitted and made available for the whole world to read. I am relatively new to this blog game and could be in some extended honeymoon period as I have also recently been incorporated into the Simple Talk ‘stable’. I can understand that once you get to the "Dizzy Heights of Ozar" ( then getting comments and feedback might not be such a pleasure and may even be rather more of a chore but that, I guess, is the price of fame. For us mere mortals starting out blogging, getting feedback (or even at the moment for me, simply the hope of getting feedback) is what keeps it going. The hope that you will pick a topic that hasn’t been done recently by Brad McGehee, Grant FritcheyPaul Randall, Thomas LaRock or any one of the dozen of rock star bloggers listed here or others from SQLServerPedia and so on, and then do it well enough to be found, reviewed, or <shudder> (re)tweeted to bring more visitors is what we are striving for, along with the fact that the content we might produce is something that will be of benefit to others.

There is only so much point to typing content that no-one is reading and putting it on a blog. You may as well just write it in a diary. A technical blog is not like, say, a blog covering photography techniques where the way to frame and take a picture stands true whether it was written last week, last year or last century - technical content goes sour, quite quickly. There isn't much call for articles about yesterdays technology unless its something that still applies to current versions too, so some content written no more than 2 years ago isn't worth having now. The combination of a piece of content that you know is going to not last long and the fact that no-one reads it is a strong force against writing anything else. Getting feedback counters that despair and gives a value to writing something new.

I would say that any feedback is good but there are obviously comments that are just so negative or otherwise badly phrased that they would hasten the demise of a blog but, in general most feedback will encourage a writer. It may not be a comment that supports or agrees with the main theme of a post but if it generates discussion or opens up a previously unexplored viewpoint it is contributing to the blog and is therefore encouraging to the writer.

Even if you only say "thank you" before you leave a blog, having taken a section of script to use for yourself or having been given a few links to some content that has widened your knowledge it will be so welcome to the blog owner.

Isn't it also the decent thing to do, acknowledging that you have benefited from another's efforts?

Saturday, 15 May 2010


Well, it was really windy and a little rainy at times but I had the camera out for a good DSC_6231while. Sadly the wind put and end to many close-ups of the birds as it was blowing me on my feet but here is one that I am pleased with. I know the horizon wasnt that sloping but its a symptom of trying to pan with the bird in the middle of a blowy day on the top of a cliff. No apologies :).

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Scary update on the future of this blog

I have the great pleasure (and no small amount of anxiety if I am completely open about it) to announce that I have been invited to syndicate this blog with Simple-Talk ( This is a brilliant opportunity for me to connect with so many more people in the world of SQL Server than via this site so I truly hope I am good enough to produce suitable quantity and quality to match the other creators at Simple Talk. Its all going on at

This blog will continue, but there may be some items that dont get double posted.

I would like to thank the staff at Red Gate ( for their offer and assistance in getting this all in place, hopefully I wont let you down.


Please be sure to read the code disclaimer page before you use any code in this blog.

Welcome to Jackstown

I live in a small town, the population count isn't that great but let me introduce you to some of the residents. 
We'll start with Martin the Doc, he fixes up anything that gets poorly, so much so that he could be classed as the doctor, the vet and even the garage mechanic. He's got a reputation that he can fix anything and that hasn't been proved wrong yet. He's great friends with Brian (who gets called "Brains") the teacher who seems to have a sound understanding of any topic you care to pass his way. If he isn't sure he tells you and then goes to find out and comes back with a full answer real quick. Its good to have that sort of research capability close at hand. Brains is also great at encouraging anyone who needs a bit of support to get them up to speed and working on their jobs. Steve sees Brains regularly, that's because he is the librarian, he keeps all sorts of reading material and nowadays there's even video to watch about any topic you like. Steve keeps scouring all sorts of places to get the content thats needed and he keeps it in good order so that what ever is needed can be found quickly. He also has to make sure that old stuff gets marked as probably out of date so that anyone reading it wont get mislead. 
Over the road from him is Greg, he's the town crier. We don't have a newspaper here so Greg keeps us all informed of what's going on "out of town" - what new stuff we might make use of and what wont work in a small place like this. If we are interested he goes ahead and gets people in to demonstrate their products  and tell us about the details. Greg is pretty good at getting us discounts too. Now Greg's brother Ian works for the mayors office in the "waste management department" nowadays its all about the recycling but he still has to make sure that the stuff that cant be used any more gets disposed of properly. It depends on the type of waste he's dealing with that decides how it need to be treated and he has to know a lot about the different methods and when to use which ones. 
There are two people that keep the peace in town, Brent is the detective, investigating wrong doings and applying justice where necessary and Bart is the diplomat who smooths things over when any people have a dispute or disagreement. Brent is meticulous in his investigations and fair in the way he handles any situation he finds. Discretion is his byword. There's a rumour that Bart used to work for the United Nations but what ever his history there is no denying his ability to get apparently irreconcilable parties working together to their combined benefit. Someone who works closely with Bart is Brad, he is the translator in town. He has several languages that he can converse in but he can also explain things from someone's point of view or  and make it understandable to someone else. To keep things on the straight and narrow from a legal perspective is Ben the solicitor, making sure we all abide by the rules.
Two people who make for an interesting evening's conversation if you get them together are Aaron and Grant, Aaron is the local planning inspector and Grant is an inventor of some reputation. Anything being constructed around here needs Aarons agreement. He's quite flexible in his rules though; if you can justify what you want to do with solid logic but he wont stand for any development going on without his inclusion. That gets a demolition notice and theres no argument. Grant as I mentioned is the inventor in town, if something can be improved or created then Grant is your man. He mainly works on his own but isnt averse to getting specific advice and assistance from specialist from out of town if they can help him finish his creations.
There aren't too many people left for you to meet in the town, there's Rob, he's an ex professional sportsman. He played Hockey, Football, Cricket, you name it. He was in his element as goal keeper / wicket keeper and that shows in his personal life. He just goes about his business and people often don't even know that he's helped them. Really low profile, doesn't get any glory but saves people from lots of problems, even disasters on occasion.
There goes Neil, he's a bit of an odd person, some people say he's gifted with special clairvoyant powers, personally I think he's got his ear to the ground and knows where to find out the important news as soon as its made public. Anyone getting a visit from Neil is best off to follow his advice though, he's usually spot on and you wont be caught by surprise if you follow his advice – wherever it comes from.
Poor old Andrew is the last person to introduce you to. Andrew doesnt show himself too often but when he does it seems that people find a reason to blame him for their problems, whether he had anything to do with their predicament or not. In all honesty, without fail, and to his great credit, he takes it in good grace and never retaliates or gets annoyed when he's out and about.  It pays off too as its very often the case that those who were blaming him recently suddenly find they need his help and readily put the issues to one side rapidly.
And then there's me, what do I do in town? Well, I'm just a DBA with a lot of hats. 
(Jackstown Pop. 1)

## names have been changed to protect the innocent. Any likeness of characters appearing in this blog to people in real life is entirely coincidental and almost certainly rather unfortunate.

Please be sure to read the code disclaimer page before you use any code in this blog.


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