T-SQL Tuesday #99: Dealer’s Choice

Back in 2009, Adam Machanic (b|t) started an initiative that is still going strong: T-SQL Tuesday. This is a monthly blog party. Every second Tuesday of each month, lots of people blog about the same topic, selected by the host for that month. And now, in the 99th installment, I decided to finally join in!

For February 2018, our host Aaron Bertrand (b|t) has elected to give bloggers a choice: either share some of the non-tech things that we are passionate about; or go all Aaron-style and tell the world what we consider the worst T-SQL habits that we really want to kick where it hurts. I actually have a lot of passions outside of SQL Server. But there are even more T-SQL habits that I would live to kick (the habit, but also the person responsible). So many that this blog post would become a full-blown novella. So I’ll open door #1 and share some of my non-SQL passions.

My family

My first and foremost passion is my family. Last summer my wife and I celebrated our 25th anniversary in Paris, the city of love, the city where we had our first joined holiday, and the city where we both have a lot of good memories. The picture here shows one of the many museums in Paris. In our opinion, this is even the best museum Paris has to offer. If you ever visit Paris, and unless you truly abhor art, I recommend including Musée d’Orsay in your travel plans.

I’m also lucky to be the father of two healthy children. My daughter is now 22 years old. She has left our home, living a 30-minute drive from our place together with her boyfriend. She is now working as an intern at an elementary school. One day she will be working as either an elementary school teacher or a teaching assistant. Each and every one of us has a few teachers that, no matter how old we are, we always think back of with fond memories. A teacher that helped us climbed a hurdle, that gave us the confidence that we can achieve even the hardest task, or that simply made our life at school better (or less miserable). I am very sure that my daughter will one day be that memory for lots of people!

My son, about to turn 21, dreams of a career on stage, as a professional actor in musical theatre. This started when he was scouted to be part of the child cast for the Dutch production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. After that experience, he knew how he wanted his future to look. And he’s been working incredibly hard towards this goal ever since. His voice change was late. Until the age of 16 years, he has a very clear, very high boy soprano sound, being able to reach notes that hardly any other child would get. I always expected him to become a tenor, but to our collective surprise he came out of the voice change as a bass-baritone. When he can sing in his own register, his voice is one of the warmest I have ever heard. But he is not only a good singer, he is also an amazing dancer and he is getting better at acting by the day. I know that I, as a father, am probably not the most impartial person. But I think he definitely has what it takes to become a professional musical performer. However, with thousands of aspiring candidates and just a few new openings each year, he needs more than “just” a lot of talent, a strong drive, and a willingness to work incredibly hard. He will also need luck. As a father, I can only hope that he’ll one day be able to achieve the goals he is working towards…

My hobbies

When you sit at a desk as many hours per day as I do (and when you enjoy good food as much as I do), exercise is important. And yes, I know some people are now snickering. I know I do not look like someone who exercises. Yet I do. Imagine how I would look if I didn’t…

For a long time I have been struggling to get exercise in. For a few years I was subscribed to a health and fitness club and vowed to myself to pay a visit every week. But doing exercise on those machines is boring, and I didn’t have the mental strength to force myself to go each week. Until I found jazz ballet. I have hesitated to mention this hobby here because I know some people will snicker even more. But than I decided that those reactions are more telling of those people than they are of me. For me, one hour of jazz ballet burns at least as many calories as two hours of exercise in the fitness club. The complex choreographies and the music are good motivators to never miss a lesson. And having to think about all the different movements of all the extremities has the beneficial side effect of totally quiescing all other activities in my brain – that one hour dancing each week is probably the only hour when my brain is not thinking about SQL Server!

Another unusual hobby I have is playing snooker. I fell in love with this sport when I was struck with the flu. On the couch, I found nothing good on television, but was intrigued by a broadcast of a snooker match on the sports channel. Most English readers will know this sport; for the rest of the world: snooker is like pool billiards, but with a larger table, smaller pockets, smaller (and more!) balls, and because it is an English sport it comes with needlessly convoluted rules and scoring. Just watching snooker as I was trying to get better, I started to appreciate the strategic decision making required for each shot. When a player cannot go for a score, they have lots of options to prevent their opponent from scoring, or even to try to force a foul. After I got better I continued to watch games when they were broadcast, and a few years back I decided to join a club and try playing myself. I soon found that it is a lot harder to play then I though. (I should have known: one of the signs of someone who is really good at something is that they make it appear easy. And the players I watched were the best in their sports, so yeah). But even though I know I am a way-below-mediocre player, I still enjoy playing the game, laughing about my missed shots, and rejoicing when a ball does actually end up where I want it to be!

The final pastime that I want to share with the world is a computer game: Hearthstone. It’s a card game. Or rather, a collectible card game. It is very clear that the game took its inspiration from actual physical collectible card games, such as Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon. But the creators took heavy advantage of this being a computer game: many cards have card texts that would be impractical or even impossible with a physical card game, and many card effects are RNG-based. The result is a game with a lot of strategic elements, but also a lot of random effects that can completely thrash your well though out strategy. I like the fun element this adds. (Usually).

Hearthstone is free to play, but you start with a very limited card set. You can use money to buy card packs – just as with traditional collectible card games. However, you can also “earn” card packs by just playing. Most people do not like this because it forces them to play with mediocre or even bad decks, resulting in lower ranks. But I have found extra pleasure in making the most of the cards I do have, and so I have expressly set myself the challenge to get as far as possible without every paying money for card packs.

For people who know the ranking system and want to get a feel of my level of play: in ranked I usually end each month between ranks 10 and 15, though I have once actually managed to hit rank 5. This is partly because I choose not to pay for more cards, but also for a large part because I do not play ranked very much. After encountering the same three decks for many games in a row, I get bored. I much more enjoy playing the arena. The drafting method used in arena means I have the same chances of getting good or bad cards as all other players, and I will never encounter lots of people all playing the same deck! Because I still am a data freak, I have tracked my arena runs since August 2015, a few months after I discovered the game. Over the course of 418 arena runs, my average result is 4.24 wins per run. Since the average result for all players across the world is about 3 wins per run (2.991577, to be very exact), I am proud to say that I am an above average arena player.

Back to work!

This has become an unusual blog post. I usually don’t share much about my personal life. But I can in this case blame Aaron and deny all responsibility!

It was fun to write on a different tone for a while. But now I really want to open up Management Studio and do some tuning!

Thanks, Aaron!

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