Doug Reilly's Weblog

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Tom Moreau - Database Geek of the Week!

Tom Moreau is an interesting guy.  Who else in the software business do you know who has an advanced degree in Experimental Space Science?

Doug: I notice you have a doctorate. Could I ask what your degree is in?

Tom: Officially, it's Experimental Space Science, but before you make any cracks about me being a "rocket scientist", I should tell you that my PhD supervisor wouldn't let me base my thesis on rockets, since they have a high probability of failure (although I did analyze some rocket telemetry data through my course work). Funnily enough, the fellow grad student, Steve MacLean, who showed me how to use the word processor (something more challenging than physics back then) went on to became a Canadian astronaut! Anyway, my specific field was molecular physics. I looked at the UV emission spectrum of the ClO free radical, which took part in the degradation of stratospheric ozone. Coincidentally, my cousin also has a PhD in spectroscopy, though he remains in the profession, studying polyatomics.

Read the entire article here.

I am Coming Out!

No, I am not gay - not that there is anything wrong with that.  I am Coming Out as a Cancer Survivor.  My new article, Coming Out as a Cancer Survivor: A Guide for Software Developers is now available.

I have an unfortunate amount of experience on this particular topic.  If you, or a coworker is dealing with cancer, please take a look at this article.  It is one of those articles that I am very proud to have written, and hope it will help those who come after me.


New Article on Career Development

An article I did on career development in general, and attending conferences in particular, has just been posted on

As "conference season" begins, this article can help you determine whether attending a conference is right for you, as well as talking about how to minimize the costs and maximize the benefits.

Michael Rys - Database Geek of the Week

The Database Geek of the Week is back from vacation!  Well, actually, 3 weeks or so in the hospital is not technically a vacation, but you know what I mean.  Michael is a Program Manager at Microsoft.

Doug: Where in the SQL Server world do you think XML best fits?

Michael: I think one of the advantages and, to some extent, disadvantages of XML is that it can be used for many different things: as a transport format for data interchange, as a markup document format (for example, XHTML, WordML etc.), as a semi-structured data representation, and so on. The important thing to remember is that all this is data and therefore needs to be integrated with the data management platform – in our case, SQL Server. So XML fits as a transport format for relational data (which inside the database should be still be processed as relational data), but it also enables easier management of semi-structured data inside the database, and allows us to unlock the information inside documents beyond simple full-text search — for example, enabling context sensitive search.

The entire interview is here.

Do you have a candidate for Database Geek of the week?  If so, do contact me using the Contact link, or at



[OT] Managed Care Rant

Let me preface this by saying that I am sick.  Not a little sick, like a cold or the flu, but really sick.  Life threatening sick.  Thus, my level of patience with the managed care system may well be even more limited than normal.  I consider this reasonable: When you are really sick, and there are people who appear set on preventing you from trying to stay as well as you are or getting a little better, you are likely not to like them.


Further, I have had illnesses all my life that have made me averse to managed care.  I have a rare disease that pre-disposes me to a number of unusual illnesses.  Your average physician is not aware of the possible difficulties, there is no chance a clerk or an RN at a managed care company will understand the details of my disease.  For instance, desmoids tumors are frequent complications of my disease.  They are "benign," however my niece died of complications from a desmoid tumors at age 20.  I pay more not to have to get any referrals.  Sadly, a CT scan needs a "Pre-Certification."


On Friday, January 27th, my doctor wanted me to get a CT the following week (week of January 30th).  My doctor is a very good doctor, Chief of the Gastric and Mixed Tumor Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, a pretty good cancer center.  He felt it was important for me to get a CT this week.  Initially, I was only able to get an appointment only for the following week (9:30 PM on the 9th), however, the doctor's office said they would try to do better.


On Tuesday, January 31st (late) I got a call about a moved up CT, now scheduled for February 2nd at 2:40 p.m., arrive at 1:40 p.m.  On February 1st in the AM, my doctor's office faxed the requested information to Care Core National (who manages imaging issues for Aetna NJ).  This was the first of three times this information was sent.


On February 2nd, I called Care Core National first thing and was told that my doctor's office had not sent the requested information.  I called my doctor's office again and they assured me that they had sent the information to the correct number, and had a confirmation that it arrived the prior morning.  I called a number of times trying to get Care Core National to acknowledge that they had the fax, but was eventually forwarded to a "supervisor," a Ms. Rivera.  Ms. Rivera suggested that if I had the physician fax the information once more (a third time) marked as Urgent, perhaps it would be read within an hour or two.  Otherwise, it might take 4-6 hours or longer for the other faxes to get read.  Note that the person who forwarded me to Ms. Rivera when I requested a supervisor implicitly lied, as Ms. Rivera supervises no one.


At this point, I assured them this was not a vanity CT.  I am trying to stay out of the hospital, trying to stay off of IV nutrition at home, and for all these reasons, it was critical to do the CT when my doctor felt it was important.  I called back as I drove the 2 hours into Memorial Sloan Kettering, and was told that, in spite of the fact that my doctor considered my need for a CT scan Urgent, someone who was not a physician, likely an RN, at Care Core National had determined that I did not meet their criteria for Urgent, and they could not tell me what those criteria were.


I eventually got to the first level supervisor's supervisor (a Mr. Robinson) via voice mail and left a message explaining the circumstances, the degree of my illness and how his organization has made this difficult time so much more difficult.  I never heard back from Mr. Robinson (he says he called twice, but never left a message).  I called him, and he offered no real insight into how someone who is very sick should go about getting a CT when only a day or so in advance was possible due to hospital scheduling and patient need.  I asked for information regarding lodging a formal complaint, but never got any answer.  I assured him that his organization had ticked off their worst nightmare: A sick guy who can write and speak with time on his hands.


Aetna, by the way, washes their hands of all of this, saying that they contract to Care Core National, and even when they disagree with details of a case, they can do nothing.


As a postscript, I eventually did get pre-certs for both scans (less than 24 hours after I actually had them).  I am now told by Mr. Robinson that these pre-certs will be applied to the scans from yesterday.


Is this the way we want desperately sick people to spend their time?  As a society, is this compassionate care?  A patient with a life threatening illness, doing the best he possibly can for himself to stay out of the hospital and off of other expensive therapies must waste a precious day of his life fighting for what he pays a great deal of money for.  I hear you saying, "Well, you are sick, you must use your insurance a lot."  Of course I do.  I have no choice in the matter, I do not smoke, I do not drink.  Prior to some recent surgery, I ate a normal American diet, which is to say likely too much, but otherwise lead a normal life.  At the same time, I buy car insurance, and have not used it in many years.  I have homeowners insurance that I am pretty certain I have not used in this century, and probably not the last decade of the last century.  That is the point of insurance, you share risks.  I am a terrible risk with respect to health insurance, a much better risk with respect to car and homeowners insurance.  That is what Insurance should be doing.


A little late, but I am once again an MVP!
Blogging this from my hospital room.  Thrilled to have been selected again.
[OT] Going off line for a while (again)...

I will be admitted to a hospital in Baltimore, Maryland (St. Agnes) for some fairly serious surgery on Wednesday, January 4th.  St. Agnes is a small hospital, but does a large number of the surgeries that I will need (for a rare, mucus secreting tumor).  I was referred by a surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering in NYC.  I live in NJ, so it will be pretty far away from home.

I have created a blog based upon a sample from my latest book (sorry, no RSS feed, no time) to allow anyone who wishes to to keep track of my progress.  It is here:

Careful readers will note that back in June of 2004, I had other serious surgery, a Whipple procedure.  As far as we know, this surgery is totally unrelated to that other serious surgery (and unrelated to my liver resection back in 1998).  The Whipple was related to an underlying condition I have (Familial Adenomatous Polyposis - FAP), however neither the liver resection nor this impending surgery is a normal complication of FAP.  I presume I must have really ticked someone off in a previous life....really bad Karma.


Dave Sussman - Database Geek of the Week!

Dave Sussman is an author, trainer, and ASP Insider.  He has most recently worked on a book covering ADO.NET and Sustem.Xml in .NET 2.0.  From the interview:

Doug: What do you think about using VB.NET or C# for stored procedures in SQL Server 2005?

Dave: I think it’s an exciting aspect of SQL Server 2005, but it comes with a warning. I’ve done talks on the SQL CLR, and I always say, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

There has not been enough guidance on when it’s appropriate to use managed code for stored procedures. For example, T-SQL is designed for set-based work, so if you are doing simple set work, such as returning a rowset, T-SQL will be faster than managed code. If you have a stored procedure with SQL cursors, however, it’s a good candidate for managed code. The same goes if you have a stored procedure with complex business rules. I think where managed code will have more use is in functions and aggregates, which was always limited to the supplied ones.

Read the entire interview here. 

Peter DeBetta - Database Geek of the Week

Peter DeBetta as an author, consultant and trainer.  He knows SQL Server, and he talks about it in my recent interview:

Doug: How did you get involved with writing books?

Peter: I was teaching a SQL Server 6.5 programming class and someone asked if SQL Server had crosstab abilities. I told the student no, but then thought about it and decided to write a stored procedure to return crosstab, or pivoted, data.

When I completed the monstrous procedure, I realized I knew the product pretty well, so I got up my nerve and wrote to a publisher. Within a few weeks, I had a contract for a SQL Server programming book that, after about two months, was canned due to a perceived lack of interest.

I almost gave up on the idea of writing a book. But I woke up one day about a month later and decided to try again. I got a contract with Sams Publishing to write an Unleashed-series book, which went to press and started my writing career.

Read the entire inteview here.

Scott Forsyth - Database Geek of the Week!

Scott Forsyth has a job that is out of the ordinary for database geeks, but what he does can impact many of us.  Scott is the director of IT for ORCS Web, a premier Web Hosting company.  Scott is responsible for helping lots of folks keep their hosted sites running.

Doug: As someone monitoring a number of shared database servers, you must see all kinds of databases, from the elegantly designed and tuned to the ones upsized from Microsoft Access that have field names containing spaces and punctuation marks. From your vantage point, do you have advice on whether to use stored procedures or not?

Scott: That’s a loaded question because it encompasses performance, maintainability, nTeir architecture, and even consideration of the expertise and preferences of the developers. With tools like LLBLGen and other O/R mappers, many complex projects don’t use stored procedures at all. Yet there are many obvious situations in which a stored procedure is essential to performance.

The entire interview is here.

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