human choroinic gonadotropin

One week down already

   Posted by: jasoncbunn   in Weight Loss

It’s already January 8th and one week is already in the bag for 2016.  As a Catholic, the next couple of years could prove interesting as we arrive at the 100th anniversary of Fatima and the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.  There are some that believe that the 100 years that was given to Satan according to the vision of Pope Leo XIII started with Fatima and thus his time is nearly up.  Undoubtedly society has moved away from its past affiliation with Christian principals at an alarming rate in the last century.  We don’t know the future, so all we can do is pray fervently, raise our kids the best we can, and leave the rest up to the Almighty.

To more mundane matters, it’s been a slower start to the new year than I wanted in regards to the weight loss battle.  Lost 3, gained 2 back.  It’s not a family affair, so it’s tough.  I read recently that you only change when the pain of change is less than the pain of the status quo.  The pain of change is really the pain of loss.  Giving up this dessert or that heavy meal, giving up convenience in favor of cooking a meal.  There is some physical pain from exercise, but I believe 80% or more of the battle is with food.  You can probably strive to just walk a ton and get your 10K to 15K daily steps and be fine for a good long part of the weight loss battle.

So what’s the pain of the status quo?  Not fitting into clothes right.  Not being able to keep up with the kids or to take them on any sort of physically challenging activity.  We live in the great white north and don’t ski.  Partially because I hang on to my east coast right to complain incessantly about the weather in winter, but mostly because I can’t physically do it.  So the kids miss out.  Same thing with something like a roller coaster.  The problem, or challenge, is that most of those pains can be avoided.  We don’t ski.  We rarely go to amusement parks.  Other pains are more hypothetical, like not being here for the family.  Terrifying, but too easily dismissed; you can’t focus on the future all the time.  There’s work to be done.

So victory, or at least progress, comes when the pain of eating in or eating right is less than the pain of being fat.  The immediate vs. the hypothetical/avoided makes it difficult.



A Sunday day of rest

   Posted by: jasoncbunn   in General

I don’t suppose when the Church established the idea of a day of rest, we’re supposed to rest from our healthy living initiatives, but that’s what happened.  Started out well enough, but today was a special mommy and daddy day for DD2.  She had an outing with just the parents and herself, no siblings, as a Christmas gift.  So, lunch out, a movie, and bringing pizza home.  Not exactly a wonderful example of healthy living, but hey, it’s a special day for the girl, and Sunday.  Back on track tomorrow.

Christmas break is now over at the office, so we begin a new year with the dreaded season of performance reviews.  The system isn’t too bad at our office.  I’m pretty protective of my 1 on 1 meetings with my team, which we try to have weekly.  Thus, the annual review shouldn’t be a surprise.  The idea is to summarize what should be obvious during the year, and to set the stage for growth in the next year.  It’s more time consuming than anything else, but a valuable part of the process.


January Goals and Plans

   Posted by: jasoncbunn   in General

So, it’s Saturday evening, the second day of the year.  Yesterday was not a bad start.  Of course, we ended up at a restaurant for breakfast and I didn’t go completely overboard, but it could have been better.  There is so much confusion about the right way to eat.  For some, the 500 calorie “fit fare,” or whatever it is called where you dine out, is the way to go with low fat franken-food.  For others, layer on the fat, but sugar is the enemy.  Add in the vegetarians and fruit-fanatics, and basically, you can conclude eating is hazardous to your health.  I’m still feeling the waters out in that department,  generally gravitating to a higher fat, low sugar and little to no pasta and bread as the way to go.  Of course, I grew up in Central NJ, with Italian food as a way of life, and pasta and breads are a big part of that.  Challenges galore.

So what are the goals for January?  First, I want to make the changes to lose 15 pounds.  It’s a lot, but back to my half-bodyweight comment earlier, it’s a drop in the bucket, maybe 10% of what I need to lose.  The trick will be getting it into my head that I need to approach this as if my life depended on it.  Because the reality is, it does. For the diet, that means getting rid of the soda, 64 or more oz of water each day, passing on the candy, sweets, and other junk, and portion control.  I should fire up myfitnesspal again to track the food each day.  Of course it’s a pain to deal with measuring everything, but it’s less painful than the consequences if I don’t get my act together.

Other goals for this month is to set up a meeting with a mentor for some advice regarding personal continuing education at the office, read nightly with my 8 year old, and get back to 10K steps per day.  I also want to post something here daily and read one management/leadership book.  I’m not sure I will ever have, or even want, an audience, but this is more like a place to collect thoughts and ideas and a place to look back on a phenomenal 2016.


2016 Roadmap

   Posted by: jasoncbunn   in General

A new year, and a new attempt to record the journey. Ideally, this year either the idea takes hold and I am able to give back, and get something, out of this writing exercise or else I hang it up. The idea of capturing plans, successes, failures, musings, etc., still has a lot of appeal for some reason. There is a lot of accountability that comes with putting something “on paper,” even if it is electronic.

So, it is a new year, so let’s start with the objectives for the year. Professionally, I am in the position of leading ont of the most talented set of professionals in the organization. There are eight database administrators and two ETL platform administrators and together we’re essentially responsible for the availability and performance of several hundred TB of data assets across hundreds of servers. The details are not something the organization likes to publish, so I will be a bit vague about that. Suffice to say, we are heavily invested in SQL Server and are in a very strong position in the company. We have the ability to make such an impact on how the end user perceives the company. If the databases are running slow, if the ETL data loads are not running as they should be, there is a direct impact to the business. We had some great wins in 2015 and I’m looking forward to delivering more solutions in 2016.

Being the team lead has put me into an interesting position. I feel comfortable in the role, and do wonder how to best prepare myself for what other opportunities could be on the horizon. I don’t have any thoughts about leaving the organization; I’m pretty happy with the area and the quality of life it provides, but at the same time I hopefully have a good long career still ahead of me and don’t want to stagnate. This year I want to make some changes in that regard.

Personally, the objectives for the year fall into three categories– health, family, and personal growth. In the health category, without going into the details too much, I have a lot of work to do. Suffice to say if I were to lose half my bodyweight, I’d be barely, if at all, underweight. You can do the math. This is a lifelong struggle and I do wonder sometimes how it affected my career and especially my parenting. My kids have a couple of health challenges that are directly attributable to my generally failure in this regard. This must be corrected in 2016.

Family. I have a lovely wife and four wonderful kids, and we are what I’ll call orthodox Roman Catholics. Orthodox in the sense that we follow the teachings of the church, even when difficult. God established the pillar and foundation of truth not in the bible, not in a pastor’s message, and certainly not in my exulted opinion (thank goodness for that!), but in the Church. When I disagree with the church on matters of faith and morals, I do my best to submit to her will and strive to find the fault in my own. When it is not a matter of faith, I still strive to understand and weigh her opinion most strongly. In this regard, we can do better in our daily prayers, in habits of living the faith. We also homeschool two of the three oldest who are school-aged, and I want to get back on track there after a few sicknesses and a very busy December set us back.

When it comes to personal development, I need to read more and surf less. More writing, less TV. When the weather breaks, I want to do more outside and put in a garden, to take some steps in the realm of self-sufficiency. There’s a lot of problems in the world today and sometimes it seems like all it would take is a minor market correction and all we see around us can come crumbling down. I’m not planning to go off-grid and live in the woods somewhere, but being able to live for a few days or weeks without the crutches of modern day infrastructure isn’t a bad idea either.

At a very high level, that’s the lay of the land as I gaze upon this new year. I’ll focus in a bit more on January in my next post.


On Call DBA Checklist

   Posted by: jasoncbunn   in SQL Server

So, you are on call for your DBA team this week.  Perhaps you have 200 servers, perhaps 1000 or more, but you have enough that you have the automation tools in place.  You are not scanning error logs one at a time or opening backup folders to verify that backups ran.  You know nothing went horribly wrong because you were not paged the night before.  As you walk into work, fire up the PC, and sip your morning coffee, what do you look at?

This was the basic question posed to my DBA team this morning.  A quick count of the aggregate emails we receive, or can receive, turned out to be surprisingly high– 36.  Some of these are alerts (TempDB version store is filling up, for example), many were configuration problems (guest account is enabled), some simmering potential problems (I/O taking longer than 15 seconds), and others were minor errors (databases not backed up).  Many were duplicates since there are production and non-production versions.

The challenge was to identify the five key emails that we as a team wanted to ensure were read by the DBA on-call.  Sure, we should look at all of these, but what are critical ones the on-call is standing up and essentially guaranteeing would be examined?  It was a lively discussion, and instructive to force us to pick five since none of them were trivial or we wouldn’t be alerting ourselves.

Eventually, the team decided on these five emails to highlight and take responsibility to ensure they are examined and processed:

  • Daily summary of critical alerts from the last 24 hours
  • Change Data Capture misconfiguation
  • Mirroring misconfiguration
  • Disk Space warnings
  • Databases not backed up in production

The list is good, and forms a basis of accountability for the on-call DBA.  What I found most interesting is the realization that, in essence, all of the emails are important, and all indicate a greater or lesser degree of instability of the enterprise.  The team realizes that what really needs to happen is that all of these alerts are eventually triaged, documented, and resolved.  Then, whenever any email comes into the mailbox, it is actionable and something we can and should fix.  Gradually, take care of the noise so that the signal can bubble up to the surface.


Backup Share and NTFS Permissions, Too

   Posted by: jasoncbunn   in SQL Server

As DBAs, backups are a fundamental part of what we do.  We live in the world of recovery models and full, differential, and transaction log backups.  We know to test our backups regularly by restoring them to another server.  But what else do we have besides database backups?

I never really thought about what happens if we were to lose file permissions.  Think about the backup locations, or script repositories.  What if all of the service accounts suddenly lost access?  We ran into that this week and it was only because the access patterns were stored elsewhere that we were able to recovery without significant issues.

As it turns out, backing up share and NTFS permissions seems to be pretty straightforward.  Based on this MSDN article, we should be able to back up these permissions and have something in place should it ever happen again.  Just another step towards a more resilient database system.


Turning a Page

   Posted by: jasoncbunn   in General

Wow…big milestone today. Turned forty years old. 40 years since the summer of 1975 when I came on the scene in Newark, NJ. It has been a good ride so far. After 17 years growing up on the Jersey Shore, I was able to attend MIT for five years, graduating with a Master of Science in Aeronautics and Astronautics.

During that time, I was able to spend a few summers at JPL working on the Cassini spacecraft, which successfully launched in October 1997. By that time, I was in California working for Lockheed Martin, flying satellites for the Air Force. 2000 found me in Maryland working for Johns Hopkins University on several NASA projects, among them New Horizons that just flew by Pluto.

In 2001, the situation changed as I met my wife online. We were in Maryland for three years, and then moved back to her hometown in Wisconsin. That necessitated a change in career as there are not many aerospace opportunities here in the Northwoods. I moved into IT and found myself in the world of SQL Server database administration. Prior to 2006, I hadn’t working on any modern IT system and all of my programming work was in a quite different world of real time programming and embedded processors. But, I dove in and grew into a proficient DBA, advancing to lead a team of DBAs and Informatica Administrators in 2013.

Which brings me to today, almost two years into the management job, turning 40. I’m blessed to be married to a wonderful woman, we’re raising four children in a safe and vibrant community. We are proud to be Catholics and strive to make the faith part of our everyday life. I have a fantastic team of IT professionals working with me to manage nearly 100 TB of production data and an active Informatica ETL environment. Physically, I’ve arrived at 40 with everything working pretty well, although I do have quite a bit of weight to lose.

I’m restarting this blog for a few reason. I am convinced that taking the time to write and reflect is a good way to clarify your thoughts and emotions. It’s good to plan, and to see how far you progress. The occasional good idea is often lost when not put into writing. So we’ll see what happens. I usually conclude I don’t have anything to say, but once I conclude it’s for me, it may become easier to write and if it’s helpful for someone, so be it.

So I’ll be capturing the good ideas we have to advance the state of database administration at the company, sharing the journey to fitness for myself and the family, and probably share what it’s like to live as a conservative, orthodox Catholic in a culture that is increasingly hostile to such an opinion.


Joining Infrastructure

   Posted by: jasoncbunn   in SQL Server

A little over a year ago, our team of DBAs was transferred to report to the director of infrastructure instead of the director of data services or the director of operations, our previous departments.  At the time it was met with a bit of concern from the team.  Data Services brings to mind the goal of delivering data solutions to the organization, building an operational data store or a data warehouse.  Infrastructure was viewed in some ways like keeping the lights on.  Keep the plumbing working.  Not unlike the CEO’s initial impression of infrastructure in The Phoenix Project.

However, over the last year, we’ve come to appreciate the closer connection to the teams that build our servers and provide our storage.  One example is the recent effort to reduce storage allocations for SQL Server.  With the storage team as a separate entity operating “over the wall” so to speak, we ask for storage and it’s received.  We didn’t get involved in the overall picture of the array.  But as a member of the infrastructure team, we’ve learned about the difference between storage subscription and storage allocation.  We’ve worked much more closely with the storage admins regarding I/O concerns and how the inner workings of the SAN function.  The idea of the SAN being “smoke and mirrors” as it was once described, is finally fading away as we develop a better working relationship with them.  I could describe similar situations talking with the server and network teams.  A year later, we’re happy to be part of the infrastructure team, although the change has not been without some negatives as we tend to become involved in some data services projects later than we used to, and often end up needing to challenge some assumptions and the translation from logical ideas to a physical database has been painful at times.

By the way, we did get paged on Easter night.  We were updating our custom job processing engine and ran into a powershell issue.  Turns out that the foreach command in powershell can loop once for a $null object.  That wasn’t tested since we didn’t consider a few servers still have powershell 2.0 running.  It was a feature fixed in powershell 3.0 and described here.




Easter Sunday- What alerts did you receive?

   Posted by: jasoncbunn   in IT Leadership

Today we celebrate Easter Sunday, when Christians celebrate Christ’s rising from the dead.  This should be a relatively quiet day for IT.  Depending on your business, it even may be the end of a three-day weekend with the offices closed for Good Friday.

In the database administration space, Sunday is our maintenance day, at least for our firm.  We actually recently expanded our maintenance window to encompass most of the weekend in a staggered fashion.  We used to launch our integrity checks all at once and that time quickly became very well known by the storage team due to the IO load on the SAN.  Thus, we fanned those out over most of Saturday since many of the applications are offline over the weekend.  Sunday is reindex/reorganize day and even that has become much more spread out across the course of the day.

If all goes well, we receive zero alerts.  No calls, no pages.  I’m always perturbed when we get a page or alert for something that is expected or typical.  If the response is, “oh yeah, that happens.  Just ignore it,” then why are we getting called, especially overnight or off hours?  If I’m going to ask my team to rouse themselves out of bed, to remotely connect to our systems, and read an error message, the very strong preference is that there is an actionable item that needs to be corrected at the other end of the message.  If it’s a benign configuration anomaly, or a status message, then send an email and wait until morning.  If the process normally retries successfully, then email on the first failure, retry, and let my team sleep unless it fails a second time.  I don’t shy away from the work– if there is work to be done, certainly wake us up.  But the ideal state is that we only use the immediate channel of a page, text, or call if there is action to be taken.

So, we expect a quiet Easter and will pick things up on Monday.  Happy Easter!


The blog- rebooted

   Posted by: jasoncbunn   in General

It has bee a few years since I reserved this domain name and it has been difficult to get going.  There’s the primary question of what to write about, of course.  Do I keep it 100% focused on database administration and IT leadership?  Should it expand to other professional or personal interests?  Should I look to share my own ideas, or use it as a venue to promote the good ideas of others that I uncover?  Plus, do I have anything worth saying and can it be done in a way deemed useful to others?

Recently, I’ve decided to attempt to restart posting my thoughts and commentaries.  There are a couple of developments that led to this decision.  First, I read a great article at on how blogging changed the professional life of Jordan Fried.  While I currently have no plans to start my own business, the idea of branding, of developing clarity and focus, makes a lot of sense.

Second, I am finding that there is a lot of value in recalling how events transpired and how obstacles were overcome and how progress was made.  There have been a number of situations where a past solution has become the basis to solve a current problem, and I’d like to capture these developments as they occur since they could help others.

So with that said, I will see how things go this time.  I am not the Australian viola musician, nor am I the monopoly champion of the same name.  And no, I’m not affiliate with the Bunn family of coffeemakers, either.  So who am I and just what will I be writing about?  Primarily, I will aim to share lessons learned, war stories, victories and undoubtedly some defeats in my professional life as an IT professional.  Specifically, I lead a team of database administrators and ETL administrators for a midwest insurance company.  We help ensure the availability and performance of over 4500 databases in both test and production systems.  My job is to make sure the team accomplishes our objectives, while building confidence and camaraderie within our group, making sure that each individual is growing into the best professional they can be.

While the focus will be technical and IT related, I’d like to consider that I live a well-rounded life with interests outside of work.  Thus, I may veer off to talk about raising children (we homeschool our four kids- two boys and two girls), Catholic fatherhood and faith (I am a life-long Catholic and I consider my faith an integral part of who I am), or even health and wellness (I have a long running struggle to win the battle of the bulge, and may occasionally share how that is going or other insights from our small business that has sold over $1.5 million in wellness products online over the last 10 years).

If in the end there is an audience for my musings, and even better, a conversation, that’s great.  But at present, my primary motivation is to make this a habit, to produce a body of work that can be a record of growth and achievement, and to gain those insights that come from an examined life.