2012 review: the year by the numbers

The last post of the year! It’s been a really excellent year all round and time for my traditional post counting down the numbers that have been my life this year.

  • 8081324 (roughly): the number of page views across my blog (up almost 10% from 2011) according to Google, from 141 countries (same as last year)
  • 104793: the number of miles I flew on United
  • 26389: my current tweet total
  • 10822: the number of emails I sent (actually slightly down from 2011)
  • 8497: the number of subscribers to our Insider mailing list
  • 5670: the number of people who follow my Twitter ramblings
  • 1186: the number of books (real, paper books) I own
  • 617: the number of books I own but haven’t read yet
  • 300: the number of mm in the lens I bought for my birthday this year
  • 181: the number of nights away from home (all with Kimberly, so not *too* bad :-)
  • 83: the number of days teaching or presenting at conferences
  • 81.8: degrees North we reached on our trip to Svalbard in July
  • 66: my current level on the Wizard101 game my kids sucked me into playing
  • 63: number of dives (taking my total to 185)
  • 59: the number of books I read (see this post)
  • 58: the number of SQLskills blog posts I wrote, including this one
  • 57: the number of flights we took
  • 49.6: the percentage of time we were away from home (which is why we call it our vacation home)
  • 42: the number of polar bears we saw during our trip to Svalbard in July
  • 40: the big four-oh, which I hit in July
  • 37: the number of new bird species I saw (taking my life total to 444)
  • 25: the number of different places we slept instead of our house
  • 16: the number of monthly magazines I subscribe to
  • 12: the number of tins of real haggis I ate this year
  • 11: the number of courses we recorded for Pluralsight
  • 7: the number of new airports I flew through
  • 6: the number of countries we visited this year
  • 4: the number of Lego models I made
  • 3: the number of new airlines I flew on
  • 2: number of awesome daughters who scuba dove with us (aged 10 and 12)
  • 1: the number of new countries I visited (Norway – taking my total to 30)
  • 1: the number of new favorite drinks: bellinis! yummy!
  • 1: funniest person I know: Joe Sack (who just became a SQL MVP – cool!)
  • 1: person who tried to teach Joe cheerleading moves on our deck: Erin Stellato (I almost died laughing…)
  • 1: the number of Jonathan Kehayias in the world (thankfully :-)
  • 1: the number of indispensable assistants, without whom our lives would be a distressing quagmire – Libby we love you!
  • Finally, the one and only best person in my life: Kimberly, without whom I would be lost…

Thank you to everyone who reads my blog, follows me on Twitter, sends me questions, watches our videos, comes to our classes, and generally makes being deeply involved in the SQL community a joy.

I sincerely wish you all a happy, healthy, and properous New Year!


(Diving with the girls on the Kona Aggressor in February, courtesy of our pro-photo buddy Michele Westmorland)

2012: the year in books

Back in 2009 I started posting a summary at the end of the year of what I read during the year (see my posts from 200920102011) and people have been enjoying it, so I present the 2012 end-of-year post. I set a moderate goal of 60 books this year and I managed 59. Next year we have a lot of travel again and so I’m going to aim for 60 books.

For the record, I read ‘real’ books – i.e. not in electronic form – I don’t like reading off a screen. Yes, I’ve seen electronic readers – we both have iPads – and I’m not interested in ever reading electronically. I also don’t ‘speed read’ – I read quickly and make lots of time for reading.

I find myself quite unable to choose a favorite book of the year, so I give you my three favorite books of the year: a tie between Lincoln by Gore Vidal, Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen, and The Bruce Trilogy by Nigel Tranter. These are superlative works of historical fiction, which is now my favorite genre.

Now the details. I enjoy putting this together as it will also serve as a record for me many years from now. I hope you get inspired to try some of these books – push yourself with new authors and very often you’ll be surprisingly pleased.

Once again I leave you with a quote that describes a big part of my psychological make-up:

In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro!

Analysis of What I Read

I read 27655 pages, or 75.8 pages a day, and a book every 6 days or so.

The average book length was 469 pages, 63 pages longer than last year. Quite interestingly, Fiction + Historical Fiction accounted for exactly 61% as in 2011, albeit with the amount of each reversed. I read more Photographic books too, ‘coffee-table’ books about the Arctic, underwater creatures, and travel.

The Top-10 Top-17

Well I really struggled with this again this year as I read a lot of truly *superb* books in 2012. I didn’t want to leave any out of my short list and deny you the chance of having them suggested so I present you with my top-17! If you don’t read much, at least consider looking at some of these in 2013. It’s impossible to put them into a priority order so I’ve listed them in the order I read them, along with the short Facebook review I wrote at the time.

 #2 Beneath Cold Seas; David Hall; 160pp; Photographic; January 1; (Incredible underwater photos from the Pacific NW – makes me want to jump in a dry suit and jump in right now. I had no idea the PNW had such cool critters to see apart from Giant Pacific Octopus and Wolf Eels. I’ll be diving Puget Sound for sure this year! Strongly recommended.)

 #5 The Angel’s Game; Carlos Ruiz Zafon; 544pp; Fiction; January 7; (Excellent labyrinthine gothic murder-mystery set in 1920s Barcelona. Has some elements of The Shadow of the Wind by Zafon that I read last year and I think this novel is even better. Excellent story and a page turner. Going to Amazon to buy his other novels now. Strongly recommended!)

 #7 Shadow Country; Peter Matthiessen; 912pp; Fiction; January 24; (Fantastic trilogy about E.J. Watson – a farmer/killer/desperado in Florida at the start of 1900s. Told from three viewpoints, it recounts Watson’s life as a pioneer sugar-cane grower and all the trials and tribulations that went with it – from multiple families of children to murdering farm hands to avoif paying them. It also shows the terrible way that black people were treated 100 years ago. Altogether a thrilling and educational work of historical fiction – strongly recommended.)

 #8 To Kill a Mockingbird; Harper Lee; 336pp; Fiction; January 25; (Excellent story of racisim in a small town in southern Alabama in 1935. Told from the point of view of the 8 year old daughter of a white lawyer defending a black supposed-rapist, it follows the lead-up to the trial, the trial, and aftermath. A classic that everyone should read.)

 #15 Lincoln; Gore Vidal; 672pp; Historical Fiction; March 3; (What an utterly fabulous novel! An extremely well-done fictionalization of Lincoln’s presidency and the Civil War – reinforcing Vidal’s place as my favorite historian. The dramatis personae is complete and there are numerous rich portrayals of the eminent statesmen and generals of the day. Incredibly interesting to read about the re-forging of the Nation, even in fictional form. I cannot recommend this book enough!)

 #16 River of Smoke; Amitav Ghosh; 528pp; Historical Fiction; March 10; (Amitav Ghosh is one of my favorite writers and this book was really good. It deals with the events leading up to the Chinese crackdown on opium imports in the 1830s and the start of the Opium Wars that Great Britain eventually wins.  As always, the portrayals of characters and relationships are excellent and the events historically accurate. Strongly recommended!)

 #26 Snow Crash; Neal Stephenson; 448pp; Science Fiction; May 30; (I hadn’t read since I moved to the US in early 1999 so thought it was high time to experience it again. Awesome book, with lots of cool action and near future cyber-tech. I particularly like the one-man portable, nuclear powered, flechette gattling gun. Contains some pretty interesting ideas, based on ancient Sumerian bio-hackers figuring out how to program humans through tongues that speak directly to the brain stem. Highly recommended!)

 #27 When Christ and His Saints Slept; Sharon Kay Penman; 768pp; Historical Fiction; June 3; (A long one – 768 pages – from a new author I’ve discovered – Sharan Kay Penman. She’s a master of pithy historical fiction and I devoured this book. It deals with the 19 year struggle between King Stephen and Empress Maude after the death of Henry I in 1135, ultimately ending with the coronation of Maude’s son as Henry II. Looking forward to the other two in the trilogy – wish I’d brought them with me on this trip!)

 #32 Body of Secrets; James Bamford; 670pp; History; June 22; (Now I’m a US citizen I’m suddenly fascinated with the history of the country, with piles of books on Presidents, wars, commerce, and secret agencies. This is an excellent history and analysis of the NSA. After its heyday in the 40s-80s, it’s been a troubled agency trying to keep up with the Internet and diverse and numerous threats instead of just one, the old USSR. Highly recommended!)

 #42 Bring Up the Bodies; Hilary Mantel; 432pp; Historical Fiction; August 14; (Really excellent sequel to Mantel’s Wolf Hall. Covers the downfall of Anne Boleyn through the eyes and thoughts of Thomas Cromwell. Masterly done – I recommend this book to any fans of historical fiction, and especially the Tudor times.)

 #43 The Bruce Trilogy; Nigel Tranter; 1047pp; Historical Fiction; September 3; (Fabulous (and huge – 1047 pages) age-turner following the life of Robert the Bruce, from his early 20s to his death in his 50s. Extremely well told, with a wealth of detail, I strongly recommend this book for all fans of history! A strong candidate for my top book this year.)

 #44 Imprimatur; Monaldi & Sorti; 640pp; Historical Fiction; September 15; (Excellent historical fiction set in Rome in 1683, during a plague outbreak. Some travelers are sequestered in an inn and several of them discover the underground labyrinth under Rome’s vias and piazzas. There follows a complicated intrigue, richly described and full of great historical detail. Definitely recommended!)

 #46 The Quincunx; Charles Palliser; 800pp; Historical Fiction; October 6; (Fabulous novel, very Dickensian in style. Full of twists, turns, and intrigues. The central character suffers a roller-coaster of hope and set backs trying to recover his inheritance. Strongly recommended.)

 #47 1876; Gore Vidal; 384pp; Historical Fiction; October 14; (The 6th Vidal (RIP) book I’ve read, and the 3rd in his Narratives of Empire series. This one deals with the horribly corrupt election victory of Hayes over Tilden in the Union’s centennial year. Very well written, bringing all the characters to life splendidly. Now looking forward to reading the biography of President Grant I’ve got on the shelf. Strongly recommended!)

 #48 Empire; Gore Vidal; 496pp; Historical Fiction; November 8; (As with all Vidal’s novels, this one was excellent. It covers the period at the end of the 19th century, with the rise of Theodore Roosevelt and William Randolph Hearst, and the political machinations involved, following the lives of Caroline and Blaise Sanford and John Hay, Lincoln’s private secretary. Highly recommended, but read the series in order.)

 #55 The Terror; Dan Simmons; 955pp; Historical Fiction; December 20; (HMS Terror and HMS Erebus get icebound in the Arctic in the 1840s on Franklin’s ill-fated search for the Northwest Passage. The book follows the harrowing fate of the crews trying to survive through incredible hardships. Excellent – strongly recommended.)

 #57 Polar Obsession; Paul Nicklen; 240pp; Photographic; December 25; (Fabulous book of wildlife photography from the Arctic, Svalbard, South Georgia, and Antarctica. I recognized several of the Svalbard locations from our trip this summer. Really cool to see shots of narwhals above and below water, and of course the famous leopard seal encounter too! Strongly recommended!)

The Complete List

And the complete list, with links to Amazon so you can explore further.

  1. Tibet: Culture on the Edge; Phil Borges; 208pp; Photographic; January 1
  2. Beneath Cold Seas; David Hall; 160pp; Photographic; January 1
  3. Sea; Mark Laita; 200pp; Photographic; January 2
  4. Foucault’s Pendulum; Umberto Eco; 656pp; Fiction; January 6
  5. The Angel’s Game; Carlos Ruiz Zafon; 544pp; Fiction; January 7
  6. The Crusades; Thomas Asbridge; 784pp; History; January 9
  7. Shadow Country; Peter Matthiessen; 912pp; Fiction; January 24
  8. To Kill a Mockingbird; Harper Lee; 336pp; Fiction; January 25
  9. Rooftops of Tehran; Mahbod Seraji; 368pp; Fiction; January 26
  10. A Fraction of the Whole; Steve Toltz; 576pp; Fiction; January 30
  11. Descent Into Chaos; Ahmed Rashid; 544pp; Non-Fiction; February 3
  12. Ocean Soul; Brian Skerry; 264pp; Photographic; February 5
  13. Jihad; Ahmed Rashid; 288pp; Non-Fiction; February 11
  14. The Somnambulist; Jonathan Barnes; 384pp; Historical Fiction; February 19
  15. Lincoln; Gore Vidal; 672pp; Historical Fiction; March 3
  16. River of Smoke; Amitav Ghosh; 528pp; Historical Fiction; March 10
  17. The Ascent of Money; Niall Ferguson; 432pp; Non-Fiction; March 17
  18. The Hunger Games; Suzanne Collins; 384pp; Fiction; March 18
  19. Catching Fire; Suzanne Collins; 391pp; Fiction; March 21
  20. Mockingjay; Suzanne Collins; 400pp; Fiction; March 23
  21. The Burning Land; Bernard Cornwell; 370pp; Historical Fiction; March 25
  22. Death of Kings; Bernard Cornwell; 336pp; Historical Fiction; April 1
  23. The Age of Turbulence; Alan Greenspan; 544pp; Non-Fiction; May 6
  24. Gridlinked; Neal Asher; 420pp; Science Fiction; May 17
  25. Prador Moon; Neal Asher; 230pp; Science Fiction; May 26
  26. Snow Crash; Neal Stephenson; 448pp; Science Fiction; May 30
  27. When Christ and his Saints Slept; Sharon Kay Penman; 768pp; Historical Fiction; June 2
  28. The Skystone; Jack Whyte; 512pp; Historical Fiction; June 9
  29. Area 51; Annie Jacobsen; 400pp; History; June 14
  30. Shadow of the Scorpion; Neal Asher; 304pp; Science Fiction; June 16
  31. Vanishing World; Granath & Lez; 264pp; Photographic; June 17
  32. Body of Secrets; James Bamford; 670pp; History; June 22
  33. Railways; Ammonite Press; 300pp; History; June 26
  34. The Singing Sword; Jack Whyte; 560pp; Historical Fiction; July 6
  35. Adrift in Caledonia; Nick Thorpe; 352pp; Travel; July 8
  36. Time and Chance; Sharon Kay Penman; 544pp; Historical Fiction; July 12
  37. Devil’s Brood; Sharon Kay Penman; 768pp; Historical Fiction; July 18
  38. Skagboys; Irvine Welsh; 560pp; Fiction; July 28
  39. The Line of Polity; Neal Asher; 672pp; Science Fiction; July 29
  40. The Eagles’ Brood; Jack Whyte; 640pp; Historical Fiction; August 3
  41. Trainspotting; Irvine Welsh; 349pp; Fiction; August 4
  42. Bring Up The Bodies; Hilary Mantel; 432pp; Historical Fiction; August 14
  43. The Bruce Trilogy; Nigel Tranter; 1047pp; Historical Fiction; September 3
  44. Imprimatur; Monaldi & Sorti; 640pp; Historical Fiction; September 15
  45. The Acid House; Irvine Welsh; 289pp; Fiction; September 24
  46. The Quincunx; Charles Palliser; 800pp; Historical Fiction; October 6
  47. 1876; Gore Vidal; 384pp; Historical Fiction; October 14
  48. Empire; Gore Vidal; 496pp; Historical Fiction; November 8
  49. The Mongoliad: Book 1; Neal Stephenson et al; 442pp; Historical Fiction; November 21
  50. The Mongoliad: Book 2; Neal Stephenson et al; 420pp; Historical Fiction; December 2
  51. The Epic of Gilgamesh; Anonymous; 128pp; Historical Fiction; December 6
  52. The Saxon Shore; Jack Whyte; 736pp; Historical Fiction; December 13
  53. The Fort at River’s Bend; Jack Whyte; 480pp; Historical Fiction; December 15
  54. The Sorcerer: Metamorphosis; Jack Whyte; 512pp; Historical Fiction; December 17
  55. The Terror; Dan Simmons; 955pp; Historical Fiction; December 20
  56. Hubble; Devorkin & Smith; 224pp; Photographic; December 22
  57. Polar Obsession; Paul Nicklen; 240pp; Photographic; December 25
  58. Incandescence; Greg Egan; 256pp; Science Fiction; December 27
  59. Spectacular Alaska; Charles Wohlforth; 132pp; Photographic; December 28

Importance of how often you take full backups

A couple of weeks ago I kicked off a survey asking how often you perform full backups of your databases.

Here are the results:

The ‘Other’ values are:

  • 20 x ‘Daily for small dbs, weekly (with daily diff) for large dbs.’
  • 16 x ‘Depends. Some daily, some weekly.’
  • 5 x ‘Daily on small, weekly on vldb, and before/after for schema, or physical changes and software upgrades.’
  • 5 x ‘Weekly and daily differential backups.’
  • 4 x ‘Every 12 hours.’
  • 2 x ‘Depends: some weekly with daily diffs an hourly transaction logs, others are daily fulls with transaction logs depending on various criticality and disk requirements.’
  • 2 x ‘Every 2 weeks.’
  • 1 x ‘Daily on system DBs; Weekly on User DBs with Differentials daily.’
  • 1 x ‘Every other day, with differentials every 8 hours.’
  • 1 x ‘It depends on size and criticality. Some are performed daily and others weekly. Diffs are performed for weekly and transaction log backups are done for both in 10 minute intervals.’
  • 1 x ‘Never I only have a test database.’
  • 1 x ‘Some servers daily, others weekly.’
  • 1 x ‘Storage snapshot every hour and weekly native.’
  • 1 x ‘We take storage snapshots every two hours.’

I’m actually a bit surprised at the results as I expected there to be a larger number for Weekly than Daily, but more frequent backups are good, if you can do them.

Example Strategies

My opinion is that performing a full backup any less frequently than once a week is dangerous – opening you up to a higher likelihood that you won’t be able to recover in the event of a disaster.

Here are two example strategies: full backup monthly on the first of the month vs. full backup weekly on Sunday morning, with two months of backups being stored in both cases. Both strategies are using daily differential backups and hourly log backups. There’s a lot of data churn across a large proportion of the database. The database size grows at 5% per month.

Now let’s look at a disaster occurring on the last day of the November 2012.

With the first strategy, we restore the full backup from November 1st, and then the differential backup from November 29th, plus log backups up to the point of the crash. The differential backup will be very large because of the data churn. If the full backup is damaged in any way, we need to go back to the full backup from October 1st, plus the differential backup from October 31st, and then all the log backups through November, as the differential backups in November are only valid on top of the full backup from November 1st. This isn’t a problem with differential backups; this is just how they work. Understand that and you’re good to go.

With the second strategy, we restore the full backup from the previous Sunday, November 25th, the differential backup from November 29th, plus log backups up to the point of the crash. In this case the differential backup will be smaller and faster to restore than the ones from the first strategy. And if the full backup is damaged, we only have to go back one week prior, to the one from Sunday 18th, then the last differential from it on November 24th, and a week of log backups. There’s clearly more flexibility with this strategy, and shorter restore times.


If you have the space, and can afford the I/O hit of performing more frequent backups, then perform full backups as frequently as you can, and make full use of differential backups to limit the restore time, instead of replaying all those operations using log backups. Yes, it’s a little bit more complicated, but you’re smart, right? Don’t let people scaremonger you away from using differential backups – they’re as easy to use as log backups as long as you understand their uses and limitations.

As I discussed in my previous blog post today (Importance of where you store your backups), it’s all about making sure you have the right backups, available quickly, to be able to restore within your downtime and data loss SLAs. When did you last check that’s possible with your environment?

This is my last technical post this year – watch out for the yearly wrap-up and books posts on December 31st. Cheers!