T-SQL Tuesday #135: Tools That Have Helped Me the Most

Welcome back to another edition of T-SQL Tuesday. This month’s edition is hosted by Mikey Bronowski (b|t) who asks us to write about a tool that has helped you the most over the years.

I’m a query tuner at heart, so for me the answer is an easy one: SentryOne Plan Explorer. Disclaimer: Yes, I work for SentryOne now, but I’ve been a devoted Plan Explorer’s user for most of its 10 year history, having discovered it back in its early days.

This blog isn’t going to tell you all about how awesome Plan Explorer is. There’s tons of existing resources out there to help you get up to speed (like this Beginners Resources PDF). Instead, I’m going to share a more esoteric tidbit that I only recently learned.

.pesession Files

In Plan Explorer, you can use it as a query performance tuning environment (rather than a query development environment), iterate through multiple changes, and go back in history to compare and contrast. Then if you want, you can save your working session out as a .pesession file. This allows you to share everything you’ve done, give it to a colleague, or whatever.

For this blog post, I’m going to be using the .pesession file from my Advanced Plan Explorer Usage presentation. First, here’s the history from the master file and you can see that I have 8 iterations.

So What’s The Big Reveal?

So here’s the tidbit that I only recently just learned, that frankly kind of blew my mind but didn’t surprise me at the same time. 

.pesession files are really zip files. 

This means you can extract the contents!

Once you’ve extracted everything, you can open up individual queryanalysis files inside Plan Explorer.

In the above example, now you see that I have the 1st, 4th, and 7th entries open from my original .pesession file.

How Is This Useful?

Honestly? I’m not so sure that this is really that useful to the everyday query tuner.

Best use case I can think of is if you’ve been working on something, have like 30 iterations, but only want to send the 23rd one over to your colleague, because that’s the one that worked best in the end. Like I said earlier, this is certainly an esoteric tidbit. But hopefully was entertaining enough.

Thanks for reading!

T-SQL Tuesday #134: Breaks for Mental Health

Welcome back for another edition of T-SQL Tuesday. This month’s edition is hosted by James McGillivray (b|t), who asks us to write a post about how we take breaks for our mental health. I’m going to share about two things I try to do.

Looking Inward

Throughout my life, I’ve dabbled with meditation but like exercise, never quite got fully into it. But there are lessons that I have learned, that I leverage regularly. These include basic breathing techniques to help calm myself. And I’ve found the ability to quiet my mind to also be invaluable (though it doesn’t always work for me). But what I’ve come to appreciate most is learning how to be mindful of and focus on my surroundings.

If you’re curious about meditation, the two smartphone apps that I found helpful are Headspace and Insight Timer. I find guided meditations useful. But alas, like daily exercise, I just sucked at getting into a routine and sticking with it. But if you can succeed where I’ve failed, then you too can reap the benefits of regular meditation.

Making Music for Money? Making Music for Me

The above is the title of an old, obscure Jimmy Buffett song. I’ve always enjoyed listening to music, but hated the piano lessons that my mother forced me to take in my early years. Funny how things have come full circle and I’ve picked up an instrument again.

Back in the fall of 2020, I gifted Deborah Melkin (b|t) with a new Martin 000-16GT. As a result, I decided to start dabbling with her Epiphone PR-4E, which served her well for many years as her starter guitar. I was particularly motivated to learn guitar by various articles I’ve read, which talk about learning new skills to get more fulfillment out of life. Given that we’re stuck in quarantine hell and I no longer have my dogs, why not?

L to R: Epiphone PR-4E (old) & a Martin 000-16GT (new)

Justin Guitar’s beginner series has been invaluable in my guitar learning journey. It’s funny to me that like exercising, the first few weeks were THE WORST! It was when I was most excited and wanted to devote lots of time to learning, but couldn’t thanks to finger pain and lack of callouses. But I’m finally past that hurdle now. Like meditation and exercise, I don’t practice daily, but the desire is still there and I get back to it in fits and spurts, with aspirations to continue my learning.

It Just Takes a Few Minutes

Heck, when I decided to write this blog, I pulled the guitar out and started practicing a new chord, a finger stretch exercise, and practiced a basic strumming pattern. And it FELT GOOD! Just a 10-15 minute tangent… but you know what? It was better for my mental health than doomscrolling or some of the other mindless habits that I’ve gotten into to pass the time, that do nothing for my mental health.

And sometimes, even just a few minutes of peace and quiet enough to soothe the soul.

2020 Community Recap: By the Numbers

Looking back over 2020, I’m blessed to have had many opportunities to remain very active in the SQL Server community. Don’t feel like writing a lot so here’s the breakdown by the numbers:


Event Type # of Presentations # of Events
Conferences 10 8
SQL Saturdays 10 9
User Groups 8 8
Webinars 4 4
Total 32 29

* Excludes SentryOne vendor activities

Other Stuff

Blog Posts = 3 (not including this one)
Chicago Suburban User Group meetings = 11
Event Moderator = 1

Another Chapter Ends…

Finally, the most bittersweet number.

2309 days since Sept 4, 2014 to today, Dec 30, 2020 = User Group Leader

Effective today, I’ve stepped down as co-Chapter Leader of the Chicago Suburban User Group.

At least the reason for this change is a good one; I’ve relocated to Boston!

Until Next Time…

Here’s to hoping for a better 2021!


Kicking Off 2020 Events – Where’s Andy At?

Like most of you, I’m focusing on new things for 2020.

In 2019, I spent a lot of time on the road. I presented at over 25 events (conferences, SQL Saturdays, and User Groups), flying over 60,000 miles (a LOT for me)! On the other hand, I hardly blogged at all, so I’m resolving to change that in 2020!

My passion for speaking and presenting is as strong as ever. So to kick of my blogging efforts in 2020, I’m going to start a “Where’s Andy At?” monthly series. Hopefully it’ll help promote the awesome conferences, SQL Saturdays, and User Groups that I’m fortunate enough to attend and present at!

Where’s Andy At?

SQL Saturday Nashville – Jan 18: Presenting Let’s Dive Into SQL Server I/O To Improve T-SQL Performance
SQL Saturday Cleveland – Feb 1: Presenting Let’s Dive Into SQL Server I/O To Improve T-SQL Performance

Looking Ahead

Beyond those two events, I have other User Group engagements, SQL Saturdays, and conferences in my pipeline! I can already announce that I’ve had the honor of being selected for Data Grillen 2020! And I again part of the core organization team for SQL Saturday Chicago in March!

Need A Speaker?

If you happen to run a User Group, I’d love to speak at yours! I can easily manage remote presentations and offer a great amount of flexibility around those. Sometimes I can also visit your city in-person too, thanks to SentryOne! Contact me and ask!

Hope you see you at an event in 2020!

Looking Back on 2019 & Planning for 2020

Most folks do a year-end review later in December. But strangely enough, I’m finding myself doing one today. Maybe it’s because I just turned 42? In either case, let’s do a quick recap of 2019!

  • SQL Saturdays: 14
  • Presentations Given: 35
  • Conferences: 3 (SQLBits, SQL Intersection, PASS Summit)
I’ve also traveled enough to attain Platinum status with American Airlines & Diamond status with Hilton! Crazy!

In my Mid Year Update, I mentioned that I was going to debut two new sessions. I accomplished that, and presented them a total of 11 times! I plan to continue submitting them, but also have my mind’s eye on new session content.

  • SQL Server 2019: Intelligent Query Processing
    As someone who has specialized in T-SQL, IQP capabilities in SQL Server 2019 are HUGE! When GA was announced, I had my SQL Server 2019 RC install upgraded within 15 minutes! I’m super excited about this new feature set and look forward to seeing more folks adopt SQL Server 2019.
  • Advanced Plan Explorer
    At PASS Summit, I had the pleasure of co-presenting with Kevin Kline about SentryOne’s (FREE) Plan Explorer tool. Plan Explorer has been around for many years, but this experience really opened my eyes to the need for a more advanced session around how to use PE to dissect execution plans.
At this point, I’ve already got my eye on a number of 2020 events. I’ll be kicking off the year with SQL Saturday Nashville (session TBD) and I plan to submit to SQLBits 2020, Data Grillen 2020, and several SQL Saturdays whose CFS’s are already open. And of course, I’m again part of the SQL Saturday Chicago 2020 planning team! And finally I am going to attempt to blog more regularly!

2020 is already shaping up to be a very busy year. And I couldn’t be more excited!

24 Hours of PASS: 2019 Summit Preview Edition

PASS Summit 2019 is coming up fast, and PASS is holding their 24 Hours of PASS Preview Edition next week! I’m again honored to be presenting a preview edition of “Everybody Has A Story To Tell: Developing Your First Presentation” next week!

You might think, “Andy, you’ve been doing that session for a few years now. It’s nothing new!” Yes, it is several years old… BUT since it was selected for PASS Summit 2019, I’m making a number of enhancements! I’m very excited about some of the ideas I’ve come up with to improve this session and am eager to share some of them next week.

So if you’ve ever thought about presenting, but are still unsure… or a relatively new presenter and want to enhance your craft, be sure to register and join me!

Sept 10, 2019 @ 15:00 CDT
Sept 10, 2019 @ 20:00 UTC