#PASSDataCommunitySummit — the last days, and the journey home

Well, on Friday evening, I watched workers take down booths and banners from the Seattle Convention Center, as PASS Data Community Summit 2022 came to an end. The circus had ended, and the tents were coming down.

I flew home Saturday afternoon/evening/night, so I’ve actually been home for a few days (I needed to recover from my trip, and life happens — what can I tell you?), so I’m writing this a few days later than I’d like. Nevertheless, it was fun and exciting, and since I’ve written about the first couple of days of Summit, it’s only fair that I wind it up!

Let me tell you about what happened since I last wrote. I mentioned that I was going to sit in on Kris Gruttemeyer‘s session about being on-call and work-life balance. Quite honestly, I thought his session was the best one that I saw all week. He focused on on-call personnel — as he put it, “being on call sucks. How do we make it suck less?” But in my opinion, his session was for more than people who were on-call. It applied to anyone to has been stressed about their job situation — which means a lot of us, myself included. I think his session is one that can benefit all of us — even those of you who are not technical — so when recordings of the sessions become available, I’ll make sure that I link to it.

I also moderated a session as well. This year’s Summit was actually a hybrid event — that is, it was both online and in-person. A number of sessions were not only being presented live, they were also live-streamed as well, and they required moderators to coordinate questions with the speaker. (Sessions that were not live-streamed did not require a moderator.) So I got to field questions from both online and the live audience, and I also passed along time warnings (per the speaker’s request) as to how much longer he had to speak. It was an interesting experience, and if you ever want to experience a presentation from another angle, it’s one I suggest that people do at least once!

I mentioned two other presentations from the day before. I attended Eugene Meidinger‘s session on dealing with depression. You could tell that this was a deeply personal presentation for Eugene, and I appreciate him presenting it. There is a stigma attached to mental health, yet it’s something that we all have to deal with. I’m of the opinion that all of us should have a mental health primary care provider with whom we should meet regularly, but that’s another conversation for another time.

I also sat in on a session on how to speak to developers. As a technical writer, it was something that immediately caught my eye, but it wasn’t really what I expected. A lot of his talk showed SQL code and explained, “this is what developers expect” or something to that effect. I was hoping to hear more about techniques when DBAs communicate with developers, but that wasn’t what I got, and I’ll admit that I was a little disappointed with the presentation.

My favorite part of Summit is reconnecting with #SQLFamily! I started speaking at SQL Saturday in 2015, and since then, I’ve met a lot of awesome people, many of whom have become some of my closest friends! I even made a few new friends while I was there. When I left, I had a few new contacts on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook that I didn’t previously have! The highlights of the last day included getting together for drinks after the event, and having dinner with a large group of people at the Crab Pot! A good time was had by all!

I also forgot to mention a special moment on Thursday night. My cousin and her husband live in Seattle as well, and I made it a point to get together with them. We went for dinner at a place by Salmon Bay. I haven’t seen them in years, and it was great to reconnect with them as well.

I flew home on Saturday afternoon, and arrived back in Albany some time after midnight. After five days, four nights, and an awesome Summit, I was home again.

They said the numbers were down this year; where the 2019 Summit had something like five-thousand attendees, this year’s event had about fifteen-hundred in-person. (I have no idea how many people signed in online.) But in spite of the lower numbers, there was a feeling there that you don’t — and can’t — get from an online event. There’s something about being able to shake someone’s hand, give someone a hug, or having dinner or drinks with friends in-person that just doesn’t happen when you’re online.

I love attending events such as SQL and Data Saturday, but there’s something special about PASS Summit. I already can’t wait to go to the next one!

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#PASSDataCommunitySummit — day 2 debrief, and thoughts about the last day

It’s Friday, and it’s the last day of the Summit! This has been an amazing week! I always enjoy attending events like this, and PASS Summit is no different. It has been a great week of seeing old friends, making new ones, and attending some great sessions!

I will be attending a couple more sessions today. I promised Kris Gruttemeyer that I would attend his session this morning. I had a drink with him the other night, he told me about his session, and it sounded really interesting! I’m looking forward to seeing it! If you’re stressed out about the pressures of being on-call, or just stressed out in general, this sounds like a really good session!

I’ve also been volunteered to moderate a session as well, so I’ll have to make sure that I’m there for that! We’ll see how it goes!

I also witnessed something amazing yesterday. While I was sitting in the speaker’s lounge (writing yesterday’s ‘blog article, in fact), Ed Pollack came into the room, saying there was a room full of about a hundred people and no one to give the presentation. Apparently the presenter was a no-show. (I won’t name the presenter in question, but we all hope he is okay, and it was nothing more than “maybe he overslept.”) John Miner, who was in the room as well, said “I know that topic. I can do the presentation.” He packed up his stuff, went to the room, and gave the presentation — all without any notice! As far as I’m concerned, John gets the superhero of the day award!

Most of the day was uneventful. I hung out with #SQLFamily, and attended a couple of afternoon sessions. (I’d talk about the sessions some more, but I’m short of time as I write this.) The highlight of my night is that I got together for dinner with my cousin, who lives in Seattle, and her husband! I have not seen them in years, and it was great to be able to get together with them and reconnect!

One of the things that strikes me about PASS Summit is how this event is international, not just national. I have heard many British and Australian accents. I have met many of those people, along with people from Canada. At Tuesday’s first-timers’ networking event, we had at least two (it might have been three) people at our table who were from Canada. I enjoy meeting all these people from all over the world, and it adds to an already-great experience!

At this time, I’m looking at the clock, and as much as I’d like to write more, I promised Kris that I’d sit in on his session, so I should probably try to go and find his room. I’ll try to write more later when I have a chance. (On the other hand, I fly back home tomorrow morning, so it’s also possible that this might be my last ‘blog article before the end of the Summit.) Hopefully, you’ll hear from me again before I leave Seattle, but if I don’t, I’ll write more when I’m back home!

#PASSDataCommunitySummit — day 1 debrief, and what I look forward to for day 2

Greetings from Summit day 2! This morning, I’m writing from the speaker’s lounge in the Seattle Convention Center, where a number of speakers (myself included) are busy looking at their laptops. I’m not sure what the others are doing — working on their presentations, maybe? — but I know that I’m here writing in my ‘blog and enjoying a few refreshments that are provided for the speakers who partake this room and its resources.

It probably makes sense for me to talk about what went on yesterday. My session was scheduled for the very first time slot of the three days of general sessions — and, unfortunately for me, that turned out to be problematic.

I did my presentation about networking, which happens to be one of my favorite presentations to do. I enjoy giving it, I get my audience involved (there is an opportunity for my audience to do some networking themselves), and I get the impression that my attendees enjoy it as well. A big deal has been made about networking for this event — indeed, I was told that about 40% of the attendees were first-time participants, so I was looking forward to a good turnout for my presentation.

It turned out to be a disappointment. Only five people showed up for my presentation.

I had two things working against me. First, I understand that yesterday’s keynote ran over time. Since my session was at 9:30 (and I intentionally waited five extra minutes, until 9:35, to start to allow stragglers to come in), it likely interfered with my (and others’) session. Second, my room was located in a relatively-new section of the convention center, located right across the street from the main convention center, and the room was a little difficult to find.

Now, let me be clear. It isn’t so much the low turnout in and of itself that disappointed me. I’ve presented to smaller audiences before (the smallest audience I had was two people — heck, I one had a session where nobody showed up). I couldn’t care less about stroking my ego. No, I was more disappointed in the fact that, at an event where networking has been emphasized all throughout up to this point, only five people got to hear my presentation describing how to network — information that I really felt could help many people throughout this event. I felt that I had a really good message to pass along — especially to the first-time attendees — and it only got through to less than 1% of the people who are here. I had seriously expected ten times that number to show up to my presentation. That, to me, was the big disappointment.

However, attendance numbers aside, those who were there said that I gave a really good presentation. And now I can say that I am a four-time PASS Summit speaker!

There was another disappointment before that. I had signed up to attend a vendor’s breakfast. I’m not going to lie; my main (in fact, my only reason) for attending was the word “breakfast.” For a decent breakfast, I’ll spend an hour listening to a vendor’s sales pitch. But it was not to be. When I arrived, there was no food left. Apparently, when they opened the doors, breakfast disappeared very quickly. I was told they were ordering more Egg McMuffins for attendees. Um, no. Lack of planning on your part does not constitute patience on mine (at least not in this case). No food, no sales pitch. I blew off the vendor’s spiel and settled for the continental breakfast they were serving in the dining hall.

But, enough of my disappointments; let’s talk about the good stuff!

After I did my presentation, it turned out that another session that interested me was in the room next door in the next time slot. Blythe Morrow did a presentation called “How to Write a Kickass Anything.” As someone who writes for a living, the session title alone was enough to pique my interested, and she did not disappoint. There was a lot to cover — too much for me to recap — but a couple of takeaways were to come up with your own professional branding (something that I’ve already done), and that “simplicity” and “clarity” are not synonymous. In regards to the latter, for most of my technical writing career, I’ve maintained a principle of KISS. When I told Blythe this, what she told me was along the lines of “making it simple doesn’t necessarily make it clear.” That was a huge takeaway for me, and it’s definitely something I’ll carry with me moving forward.

Getting together with #SQLFamily friends after the first day!

After I did my presentation, I’ve been joking that “now that my commitment to PASS Summit is done, I could technically hop on a plane right now and fly home.” But the thing is, while presentations and learning are a big part of Summit, they aren’t the only things. I’ve often mentioned the importance of #SQLFamily. It’s a real thing. In only a couple of days here, I’ve seen so many friends whom I love dearly and don’t get much of a chance to see, except when we cross paths on the SQL Saturday circuit or at other various events. These people are important to me, and I want to spend as much time with them as I can. Last night, after the day’s sessions were over, I joined friends for some drinks at the hotel across the street, then joined a few more at the Cheesecake Factory (also across the street). My friends are very important to me, so any opportunity I can get to get together with them is cherished!

I spent some time at the exhibitor hall, where the vendors have their booths set up. I’ll admit that I look for booths with good swag and prizes to win, but it’s also important to make sure you support vendors at events like this. They are, after all, a big reason why these events exist. Vendors are big supports of conferences such as PASS Summit and SQL Saturday; without them, many of these events wouldn’t exist.

One of the big booths was Redgate (of course; they’re the ones who are responsible for coordinating Summit), and they did an interesting promo. They handed out these little mini Lego Steves (see the pics below). If you took a Twitter selfie with Lego Steve, you had a chance to win a prize! I took a couple of selfies, including the ones you see below. Honestly, it doesn’t matter whether or not I win, but I thought it was fun to take these pics!

A Lego Steve, along with the contest instructions
Me, Lego Steve, and actual Steve! (Lego Steve is the one I’m holding in my fingers!)

This morning, I woke up at 4 am (local time), before my alarm went off. I got up, showered, dressed, and went to the convention center.

Bob Ward moderates the Microsoft Q&A breakfast

My first order of business was breakfast. I attended the Microsoft vendor breakfast — and yes, this time, there actually was breakfast. I got myself a good breakfast and listened to a Q&A with some Microsoft bigwigs. Bob Ward was the session moderator.

Now, a little explanation is in order. Bob Ward is probably the Elvis Presley of SQL rockstars. He is very well-known throughout the SQL community. He has written books, he has been on the front lines of SQL Server development, and people flock to his presentations when he speaks.

That said, he has one flaw. He’s a Dallas Cowboys fan. He’s such a big fan that he has been known to incorporate the Cowboys into his presentations. In fact, SQL Server 2022 was code-named “Dallas” because of him.

Because of this, I asked for the mic (I was the first to do so), and I asked this question.

“My question is specifically for Bob. What’s the over-under on the number of wins the Cowboys will have this year?”

Yeah, I know, but I had to ask. It got a good chuckle from the crowd!

After the breakfast, I attended the morning keynote, where a number of people from Redgate, including my friends, Steve Jones and Kathi Kellenberger, got to speak! I couldn’t tell you everything they discussed (I couldn’t remember it all if I tried), but Steve did mention (and I’m mostly paraphrasing here) that we are now living in a multi-database platform world, and that isn’t going to go away.

And now, here I sit, writing a ‘blog article. There are a few more sessions I want to attend, and they look like good ones! I’m looking forward to seeing what Day 2 brings!

Greetings from #PASSDataCommunitySummit day 1!

Before I get started, let me just say that I’m talking about my first day at PASS Data Community Summit, not necessarily the first day of the Summit. Although today is the first day of general sessions, the first round of pre-cons started Monday, and I didn’t arrive until yesterday (Tuesday).

Getting here was a long trip. I woke up at 3:00 am (Eastern time) to catch my flight, which left at 5:38 am. I had about a five hour layover in Detroit, where I got myself breakfast and took a bit of a catnap, before catching my flight to Seattle. My flight from Detroit to Seattle actually arrived almost an hour ahead of schedule, so there’s that! I checked into my AirBnB, dropped off my things, and headed to the Seattle Convention Center.

I didn’t expect much from my first evening here, but it ended up being quite busy! First, I tracked down my friend, Andy Levy. We chatted for a bit (while taking a little time to recover from our travels), and I suggested we go scope out my room where I would be speaking in the morning. It’s interesting, because since I was last here, there have been changes to this venue. First, there’s the name change. It used to be Washington State Convention Center; now it’s Seattle Convention Center. Second, it has expanded; there is now additional space where there wasn’t before, and my session is in one of them. I’m in a room called Skagit 3, which is located across the street from the main Convention Center. I just hope people are able to find my room!

I signed up to volunteer here, but communications have been both scattered and voluminous, and I’ve had a hard time keeping up with them. I did make it to the First Timer’s Buddy Event, which was an opportunity for first-time attendees to network and get together with veteran attendees (like me!). It was a great event, and tired though I was, I managed to catch my second wind here. I sat at a table with a few friends of mine and about five first time attendees.

It was here that I realized that I’d made a mistake. Those of you who follow my ‘blog likely know about my networking business cards. It was then that I realized that I’d left most of my cards back at my AirBnB (and I wasn’t about to hop back on the light rail to go back and get them). I did have a few in my wallet, so I handed out what I had.

There was also a networking slide presentation. I looked at the slides, and I’m absolutely convinced that Steve stole them from my presentation! πŸ˜€ Much of what was on those slides was material that I will be covering during my presentation this morning! With that, I did my best to promote my session! (I also saw my friend Taiob, who also told me he was promoting my session as well!)

The welcome reception followed. When I first attended PASS Summit in 2019, I was overwhelmed (in a good way!) by this event, and although the attendance numbers are down this year, I felt a very similar vibe this year! There were food tables serving a variety of items, along with drink stations (I’m generally not a cocktail drinker, but I decided to use my drink ticket on a Jack and Coke. Hey, if I have a free drink ticket, I’m going to take advantage of it!). I met up with a number of friends, including Ed Pollack, John Miner, Kathi Kellenberger, Grant Fritchey, Peter Shore, and several others whom I can’t remember right now. (Ed. note: I’ll come back later and edit this to include names I forgot and link their pages, if I can!)

I did have one lady at the reception tell me that she recognized me, and told me I was “internet famous.” Well okay, I’m not entirely sure that I buy that, but whatever! I also ran into a Kappa Kappa Psi brother from Northwestern State whom I’d met before, when I was last here in 2019! I made it a point to wear my letters cap to identify myself as a fraternity brother; you never know who you’ll run into!

I had signed up this morning to attend a vendor breakfast, but when I arrived, they had run out of food. I’m not going to lie; I signed up specifically for breakfast, not the sales pitch, and if there isn’t any food, what’s the point? Instead, I went downstairs to get the general continental breakfast that they were serving.

I’m writing this article from the speaker’s room at Summit. My session is in the very first time slot of the three-day session schedule for Summit, and as I write this sentence, I will be speaking about a little less than an hour from now.

Events like this are always a good time, and so far on my Day 1, this one has not disappointed! I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the week brings!

Well, I need to get ready to go do my presentation! Wish me luck!

Getting ready to travel to #PASSDataCommunitySummit

I’m taking the week off from work, as I prepare to head out to Seattle for PASS Data Community Summit! As I write this, I’m taking the day today to rest up before I spend tomorrow traveling, and to prepare!

I seem to be getting better at this conference travel prep thing. All I need for my presentation on Wednesday is to make sure I have my presentation slides on a flash drive, but that said, even though I don’t need my laptop to present (like I would for SQL Saturdays), it’s coming with me, anyway. You never know if there’ll be an issue with any of the equipment supplied, so always have a backup plan. There’s also a matter of making sure I’m packed for five days and four nights, but I don’t expect that to take too long.

Also, having my laptop means that I’ll be able to ‘blog about my PASS Summit experience, which I’m hoping that I’ll be able to do!

As I write this, I’m seeing some friends’ social media posts about Summit pre-cons, which are already in progress. I won’t be able to partake in any of the pre-cons, but I should be in town by tomorrow evening to take part in other programs, such as the buddy program for first-timers. (Note: I haven’t been able to find this link, but will update this article if I come across it.)

Events like these are always a good time. PASS Data Community Summit is a great opportunity to reconnect with old friends and make new ones as you build up your network!

See you tomorrow in Seattle!

Getting social with travel apps

Although I do not live in or near New York City, I’ve been there often enough that I feel comfortable about getting around, knowing where to go, and can often pass myself off as a native. (To my NYC friends: you can stop laughing now!) Friends often ask me for advice about where to go, where to eat, and how to get around. (In regards to the latter: get a MetroCard and ride the subway.)

One thing that I tell first-time visitors to NYC: take a cab ride. Anywhere. It doesn’t matter where you’re going. Why? Because in my frequent trips down to the City, one thing I’ve discovered is that New York cab drivers are great to talk to! They are the best conversationalists. I’ve gotten into the best conversations with NYC cab drivers. Conversations vary; I had one once vent to me about problems with his girlfriend. Another once told me about how, once he became mayor, he was going to ban all traffic from Manhattan and limit it to just pedestrians and bicycles. And I once commented to one driver about his great ability to navigate around the congested streets. I told him something like, “I probably wouldn’t last five minutes in this crap.” His response: “the secret is find a great radio station and just listen to it all day long.” Cab drivers know the lay of the land, they often know places to go, and with their experience with driving people around, they have many great stories to tell.

Okay, so why am I talking about conversations with NYC cab drivers? For one thing, it’s networking. If you consider yourself an introvert, it’s a great way to practice breaking the ice, carrying on a conversation, and meeting people. But it’s also experience with hosts and travel service people when you’re on the go.

I often use AirBnB when I travel; it’s a great lodging alternative when I can’t afford the price of a hotel room. I also make use of Uber and Lyft if I don’t plan to rent a car or if I leave my car at home. (There are a number of similar lodging and transportation apps I use as well, but I won’t list them all; you get the idea.) Nearly every case involves interacting with a host, whether (s)he is ferrying you to your destination or is putting you up for the night. If you’re lucky enough to interact with your host (note: I’m talking mainly about AirBnB; I don’t often rideshare unless I have to), you might find that (s)he will have plenty of local advice for you, as well as some good stories to tell.

Earlier this year, my wife and I spent a weekend out in Boston. We rented an AirBnB, We had a great time drinking coffee on the back deck, watching planes take off and land (Logan Airport was visible from the back deck), and getting to know one of our hosts. It turned out that he was an airline flight attendant (which might partially explain why his house was near the airport). He had some great stories to tell about his job, where he traveled, and how he prepared for another flight. He was great to talk to, and I will make sure I consider his place again the next time I’m out that way!

Remember that when you use a travel app, there are people involved whenever you use it, including people who will end up serving you. It’s an opportunity to expand your network, and you might hear some great stories along the way.

Support your local artists

A little while ago, a friend of mine from high school sent me a message (along with a link) saying that his band was scheduled to perform a gig pretty much in my own backyard. I added his gig date to my calendar, and I will make the effort to attend.

I have to admit that I really haven’t done enough to go out and attend local concerts and gigs, unless it’s one in which I’m actually performing, and that’s a shame on my part. As a part-time musician myself, I can say firsthand that local musicians (and all artists — not just musicians) take their craft seriously, and they put a lot of time, effort, and soul into what they do. As such, these artists deserve to be recognized for their efforts, whether it’s by purchasing their art, sampling their wares, or attending their concerts and gigs.

Often, whenever my wife and I have an evening free, I’ll often ask her, “you want to do anything tonight?” Most of the time, that involves doing something for dinner. As a sports fan, I’ll sometimes look to see if one of the local teams is playing, and if I’m up for it, I’ll look into getting tickets. But as a musician, I don’t often look for any live music performances that interest me.

Whenever I’m performing, I’ll announce that I have a performance coming up — nearly always on Facebook, but sometimes also on Twitter and here on my ‘blog. I would hope that (at least) my friends would come out to support me and what I do. And whenever my friends tell me they’re performing somewhere, it’s only fair that I reciprocate. Part of it is “professional” courtesy, but mostly, my attendance sends a message that “I support what you do!”

As I get older, I’ve noticed that I’m somewhat less inclined to go out. I used to hit some jazz clubs when I was younger (I love listening to live jazz, among other things), but events like that have lessened as I’ve gotten older. Mostly, after a week of working or free days doing things around the house, by the time a Friday or Saturday evening rolls around, I’m “too tired to go out and do anything.” And that’s a cop-out on my end.

Some people won’t go to a concert unless it’s a big name. Hey, even I’ll admit that whenever my favorite band comes to town, I have to attend. That’s okay. But there’s also likely a number of local artists who also deserve your attention, and a lot of them happen to be pretty good! Not only that, but chances are the price of admission is likely to be a lot less than a ticket to see your favorite nationally-known artist.

Think of it this way — if you like to travel, you’ll likely buy souvenirs that are unique to that area. Sometimes, the wares are pieces of art that are indigenous to wherever you’re visiting. In doing so, you’re supporting lesser-known local artists. So why not do the same in your own hometown?

So whenever I ask my wife (or any friends) if they’re interested in doing something, I’ll make sure I check the local arts calendar to see who’s performing or exhibiting. It makes for good, inexpensive local entertainment, not to mention that you’ll be supporting your local artists, you’ll get a taste of your own local culture, and you’ll likely have a great time in doing so!

(P.S. I put my friend’s gig date in my calendar, and I’ll try to bring some friends along with me!)

#TheBestOf… Visiting the ballpark

This is part of a series of articles in which I contribute to uniting our world by showing off a part of my own. A while back, I proposed writing articles to bring people together by showing us something special about your world that you want to share.

Today’s topic: the joys of taking in a baseball game.

I’m one of those fans that you’ll see at the ballpark keeping score!

One of my favorite activities is to take in a ballgame. It relaxes me, it’s fun (although I understand why a lot of people find baseball to be boring), and (for those of us who do “get” baseball) it can be mentally stimulating. I’m one of the people that you’ll see keeping score at a ballgame. People who find baseball to be boring often don’t understand that baseball is actually a chess match — the managers are making moves based on probability, and certain strategies are employed based on certain situations (e.g. what kind of pitch to throw, whether or not to steal a base, substituting a player, and so on). I’ve had a lifelong love affair with baseball, going all the way back to my early teens, and I will take in a ballgame whenever I have a chance to do so. I’ve even been known to schedule vacations around Major League Baseball schedules. I even wrote a previous article in which I talk about the ballparks and arenas that I’ve visited.

With that, there are things that I make sure I do whenever I visit a ballpark. Every ballpark is an experience, and with the number of different stadia around the country, each experience will be different.

  • Mingle with the fans around you. Fans are often representative of the local culture, and you can often experience a lot just by talking to fans. They can often tell you about things to experience, places to eat, and maybe talk a little about the history of the home team or the area that you’re visiting. Conversations with local fans can often be quite interesting. And often, you’ll speak the common language of baseball, even if you’re rooting for opposing teams!

    I once attended a game at Fenway Park (a dangerous place for a Yankee fan like me, I know), and I struck up a conversation with a lady sitting next to me. After a while, she said to me, “you’re from New York, aren’t you?” I said, “yeah, how’d you know?” She said, “something you said. You definitely have a New York accent.” To this day, it’s the only time I’ve ever been told that I have an accent of any kind!
  • Sample the ballpark fare. I mentioned in my previous #TheBestOf article that I make it a point to sample food that’s representative of an area that I’m visiting. The same holds for ballpark food. Most, if not all, ballparks have their standard hot dogs, of course, but a lot of ballparks will often have fare that’s representative of their locale. I’ve sampled, among other things, streak sandwiches and bacon on a stick (a friend who accompanied me to a game once said to me, “that’s not bacon, that’s a pork chop!”) at Yankee Stadium, Fenway Franks and hot cocoa at Fenway Park, coffee and garlic fries (not together, mind you!) at Safeco Field (now T-Mobile Park), and French fries at SkyDome (now Rogers Centre). Granted, a ballpark isn’t a four-Michelin-star restaurant, but a lot of concessions have come a long way since the days of a hot dog and a beer (although you can still get those).
Monument Park is one of my favorite places in Yankee Stadium to visit!
  • Explore any unique features of a ballpark. Not all ballparks are created equal. I love to explore ballparks, especially one that I’m visiting for the first time. Fenway has the Green Monster. Yankee Stadium has Monument Park and the Yankee Museum. Tropicana Field has the manta ray tank (I was going to mention the Ted Williams Museum, but was sad to see that it had been closed). Many ballparks have features that are usually worth checking out, and if they’re fan-accessible (Monument Park is one of my favorites), I suggest you go check it out!
  • Buy a souvenir. Any tourist will often get souvenirs unique to his or her trip. Ballparks are no different. I have a small collection of items from ballparks I’ve visited. I have caps, shirts, jerseys, and other swag for the Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles, Montreal Expos, and Colorado Rockies (and maybe a few others that I’ve missed). (Okay, as a Yankee fan, the only memorabilia I won’t buy is anything for the Boston Red Sox or New York Mets! πŸ™‚ ) They all represent ballpark experiences I’ve had, and even though I’m a Yankee fan, I will wear these items proudly!*

    (*Well, okay, maybe except on days when the Yankees play them!)
  • Keep score. I regularly keep score at ballgames. A scorecard does a number of things. It makes you pay attention to whatever is happening on the field of play (and, if you’re new to baseball, it can help you better understand the game). It can be a conversation piece; often if other fans around me see that I’m keeping score, they’ll often ask me things like, “what did such-and-such batter do his last time at bat?” (I remember someone once said to me, “if you’re keeping score, you immediately become the god of that section where you’re sitting!”) And at the end of the game, your scorecard becomes another souvenir of the ballgame!
  • Admire the history and the architecture. It’s often said that sports are a reflection of society. As such, a great deal of history comes along with a ballclub. (If you want a good synopsis of the relationship between baseball and history, check out Ken Burns’ Baseball.) Understanding the history of a ballclub, as well as the architecture of the ballpark, often reflects the history of the municipality that it represents.
  • Enjoy the environment. There’s a reason why baseball is called “America’s Pastime.” For me, there’s something very satisfying and relaxing (or exhilarating, if an exciting play happens) about spending a beautiful summer day at the ballpark along with good friends (or even by myself), a scorecard, a hot dog, and a beer.
  • Visit the surrounding area. Areas surrounding ballparks can often be attractions in and of themselves, and they often provide great destinations after the game is over. Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is within easy walking distance from Camden Yards. Denver’s LoDo neighborhood is a stone’s throw from Coors Field. Fenway Park is right around the corner from Kenmore Square and Boston University. And Safeco Field/T-Mobile Park is only a short distance from Seattle’s Pioneer Square and the waterfront.

If you are as big of a baseball fan as I am (or even if you’re not), and if you like to travel, make sure you take in a ballgame. It will enhance your travel experience so much more!

The #Coronavirus chronicles, part 21: μ•ˆλ…•ν•˜μ„Έμš”. μ €λŠ” κΉ€λ ˆλͺ¬μž…λ‹ˆλ‹€ #COVID19

In case you don’t read Korean Hangul, here’s what I wrote above.

“Hello. I am Raymond Kim.”

Phonetically, it would sound like this.

“Annyeonghaseo. Jeo-neun Gimrehmon-imnida.”

At this point, you’re probably wondering what this is all about. Why am I introducing myself in Korean?

Well, this is another COVID-19 pandemic project undertaking. For whatever reason, last night I decided that I needed to reconnect with my ancestral culture. Don’t ask me what prompted me to pursue this, because, quite frankly, I have no idea. (It might have something to do with me poking around TripAdvisor the other day.) What I can tell you is that this is something I’ve been meaning to pursue for a long, long time. Despite being Korean-American and growing up in a Korean household, I never learned the language. My late grandmother, who spoke almost no English, tried to teach me when I was young, but I never quite grasped it. I had a hard time with it. It probably didn’t help that, because she didn’t speak English, she couldn’t explain to me what she was trying to teach me.

Other than my family, my other source of the Korean language came from watching M*A*S*H reruns.

Last night, I found a Korean language learning program online, and decided to check it out. I signed up for an account and started my latest learning endeavor.

I stayed up past my bedtime — until 1 am.

I discovered that Hangul (the Korean written alphabet) is amazingly easy to learn. If you look at Korean characters and get intimidated, don’t be. The way they are structured is actually very simple, and once you grasp the concept, it’s not bad.

Basically, it’s just these concepts.

  • Every character is a syllable.
  • Every character is structured around a block.
  • Each character block is made up of at least one consonant and one vowel. They may have another consonant, and there’s something (I’m still learning about this) that involves double-consonants and double-vowels, but every character is required to have at least a consonant and a vowel.

I think there’s a little more to it than that, but that’s what I’ve learned so far. In one of my lessons from last night, I learned the Korean vowels. I’m drilling myself to remember what they are phonetically (I’m having a little trouble distinguishing between the vowels γ…— and γ…“), but so far, I’m enjoying the learning process and am having a lot of fun with it!

Earlier during the pandemic, I decided I would teach myself French. I haven’t stopped that endeavor, but I have slacked off on it. I think I learned more in one night learning Korean than I did in one week of learning French. I’m having a lot of fun with it, I’m finding it easy to learn, and I feel like I’m connecting to my ancestral roots.

Let’s see how much of this I can learn. Hopefully, before long, λ‚˜λŠ” ν•œκ΅­μ–΄λ‘œ 말할 것이닀!*

(*Okay, I used Google Translate for that last bit. Sorry to disappoint you. I’m working on it!)

“Your opinion matters…” Helping people by sharing your experiences

My wife and I have an anniversary coming up, so I started planning a getaway trip to celebrate. (Because of the pandemic, we decided to keep the trip short — only one night, and we’re not venturing very far — only about an hour’s drive from our home.) While I was making my travel plans, I started poking around my own TripAdvisor profile. I had posted a few reviews, and I thought I’d post a few more. I figured my experiences and opinions could help other people looking for travel information, and it’s entirely possible that, by the time you’re finished reading this article, I’ll have written a few more reviews.

One of the biggest reasons why I started my ‘blog was so that I could write about my own experiences for the purpose of helping people. Helping other people is one of my great passions, and while I can’t always help physically or financially, I can help by providing information. It’s what I do professionally, and it’s what drives me as a professional technical communicator.

However, you don’t have to be a professional technical communicator to help provide information. There are countless forums out there, covering nearly an endless number of topics, in which you are able to provide your feedback. You’re probably tired of hearing automated support lines that say “your feedback is important to us.” But feedback is important. Feedback is data. Whatever feedback you provide helps to make products and services better.

How often had you looked something up (e.g. an answer to a technical problem, a hotel review, suggested driving directions, etc.) and became frustrated because you weren’t able to find any information? If you’re an application (or any type of IT) developer, have you ever been frustrated because you asked for feedback about your product, and no one would give it to you? That feedback would’ve been valuable in debugging and improving your product. This is why QA testing is a big deal, and is usually a critical step in development life cycles.

This isn’t limited to just IT professionals. It applies to just about anything in which information is involved. If, for example, you were making travel plans and wanted information about a destination, have you ever been interested in, say, a bed and breakfast, but you couldn’t find much information about it, and no one had written any reviews about it? Those reviews would have gone a long way in providing information about that place.

A lot of us brush off the messages that say “your opinion matters.” The thing is, it really does. Don’t be afraid to express your opinion or to provide feedback. What you say can help someone make a better decision, help improve a product, or possibly change the course of someone’s business for the better.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go and write a few more TripAdvisor reviews…