Behind the SQL: The Making of SQL Sam

A lot of people have asked what goes into the making of a SQL Sam story. (Well,
actually, only my wife has. And, after I started explaining it to her, her
eyes glazed over and she suddenly found something else to do. But let’s pretend
that somebody might want to know…)

Each story is based on something that really happened to me. I make a note of it,
write down the details so I can reproduce it later on, and save it for one
of the rare times when I have time to write the story. Each story takes about
six hours to write. (Most of that is trying to think of plot elements: technical
things like a beginning, middle, and end.) As I write the story,
I try to make up names that convey the mood I’m in. Usually the names of people,
the expressions they use, or even the names of machines used to illustrate the
problem come from some bit of popular culture. If you’re hip (translation: if you
grew up in the sixties and seventies, or watch a lot of television), you might
spy some of the “jokes”. Here’s a key to the ones that I consciously know about:

  • SQL Sam and the Evil Twin


    The names of the computers, Beanie and Cecil, refer to a popular children’s show
    in the early sixties. Cecil was a dragon, and Beanie was the little boy who was
    his chum. (That’s chum as in “buddy”, not as in “shark bait”.) Beanie had a
    propeller on his head called the Beanie-Copter. Kids back then wore such things.

  • SQL Sam and the Too-Slow Query


    I made up the name “Tulsa Jones” because I was trying to convey a woman with
    smarts and strength. I imagined that she was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and that
    she was a blue-jeans kind of lady, tough yet still feminine. I tried to pick a
    name that conveyed that without having it sound like someone who was featured
    in adult films.

  • SQL Sam and the Phantom Connection


    This story has numerous cultural references:

    • The game show refers to “Let’s make a Deal”, where people could pick a prize hiding
      behind a door.

    • SQL Sam asks what’s behind the door marked NULL. “Who know’s?” replies the host.
      This refers to the use of three-value logic in a database. The crowd screams “Not NULL!”;
      try to figure out what NOT Null means sometime and you’ll wish you’d never heard of
      NULL.

    • The name of the junior DBA, Jimmy Jerry, actually has two references. The first
      is to the old Superman show, with Jimmy Olsen, the cub reporter. The second
      reference is to Jimmy and Jerry, two gourds that appear in the popular VeggieTales
      series of children’s videos.

    • At one point, Jimmy Jerry shouts “SQL Sam, you’re the greatest!” This is a
      reference to the Tennessee Tuxedo cartoon. Tennessee Tuxedo and his pal Chumley
      would always go to Phineas J. Whoopie who would proceed to give them some
      simple explanation of how something complicated like an internal combustion
      engine worked. Armed with this new-found knowledge, Tennessee would announce
      “Phineas J. Whoopie, you’re the greatest!” and then proceed to get into a great
      deal of trouble with the little bit of knowledge he had gained. Sound familiar?

  • SQL Sam and the Never-Ending Delete


    This story includes these references:

    • “Sam, stop this crazy thing!” is a reference to the end-credits of the
      Jetsons cartoon, where George gets caught on the automatic treadmill
      while walking his dog, Astro, and calls out “Jane! Stop this crazy thing!”

    • Dana Nully and Fox Nullder are, of course, parodies of the two popular
      X-Files characters.

    • “I believe the truth is in here” is a take-off of the X-Files catch-line “The
      Truth is Out There.”

      Take me to SQL Sam Cases


      Steve Hontz is President of The Bit
      Corner, Inc.
      , a Phoenix-based consulting firm
      specializing in Windows NT, C++, and SQL Server
      development. You can reach him at
      [email protected].


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