• The Old New Thing

    When you inadvertently become a collector of something you really aren't all that into


    As I was heading home at the end of the day, I ran into one of my colleagues who was also going home, and he was carrying a Star Wars-themed metal lunchbox similar to this one. For those who didn't grow up in the United States, these metal lunchboxes are the type of things elementary school children use to carry their lunch to school.

    I remarked, "Nice lunchbox."

    My colleague explained, "Yeah, I sort of ended up as the lunchbox guy. It started when somebody gave me a lunchbox as a semi-humorous gift, and I kept it on my shelf. Then other people saw that I had a metal lunchbox and concluded, 'Oh, he must collect metal lunchboxes,' and they started giving me metal lunchboxes. And before I knew it, I became an unwitting collector of metal lunchboxes."

    The same thing happened to a different colleague of mine. As his first birthday after he got married approached, his new in-laws asked his wife, "What does Bob like?"

    His wife shrugged. "I dunno. He kind of likes Coca-Cola?"

    That year, he got a vintage Coca-Cola serving tray. The next year, he got a Coca-Cola clock. And then Coca-Cola drinking glasses. And so on.

    Eventually, he had to ask his wife to tell her family, "Okay, you can stop now. Bob doesn't like Coca-Cola that much."

  • The Old New Thing

    That's not how you start a boat


    Tomorrow is Opening Day of the Seattle boating season. (Which, as I noted some time ago, is purely a social occasion with no legal significance.)

    One of my colleagues is not much of a boat person, but his wife is. (In fact, she's a commercial fisherman.) They were on board some fancy boat or other as it sat docked. He was up on the top deck—this being a boat so fancy that it had an upstairs and a downstairs—and as the preparations were made for heading out, his wife called out to him to start the boat, since he's up there already.

    Now, as I mentioned, my colleague isn't much of a boat person. But he figured, "These modern boats, how hard can it be? It's probably pushbutton nowadays." So he looked at the control panel and saw a bright red button. "Red button, that's probably the power button, right?"

    The button looked like a letter V with a dot in the middle, or at least that's how it was described to me.

    Immediately upon pressing the button, alarms rang on board the boat, and the Coast Guard called them on the radio.

    It turns out that the V with a dot is not the power button. It is the "man overboard" button. The dot is the person's head, and the letter V represents the two flailing arms.

  • The Old New Thing

    How to find the IP address of a hacker, according to CSI: Cyber


    The episode of the television documentary CSI: Cyber which aired on CBS last Wednesday demonstrated an elite trick to obtaining a hacker's IP address: Extract it from the email header.

    Here's a screen shot from time code 14:35 that demonstrates the technique.

    <meta id="viewport" content="" name="viewport"></m <link href="y/images/favicon.ico" rel="shortcut ic <link href="y/styles.css?s=1382384360" type="text/ <link href="y/mail.css?s=1382384360" type="text/cs <hidden: ip: 951.27.9.840 > < echo;off;>           <!--if lte IE 8><link rel="stylesheet" type="text/ <!--if lte IE 7><link rel="stylesheet" type="text/ <link href="plugins/jqueryui/themes/larry/jquery-u <link href="plugins/jqueryui/themes/larry/ui.js?s=

    This technique is so awesome I had to share it.

  • The Old New Thing

    In the Seattle area, people treat you nicer once they learn your last name is Gates


    One of the team members during the days of Windows 95 happens to have the last name Gates, no relation.

    She says that it's surprising how nice salespeople are to you once they learn what your last name is.

    Go figure.

  • The Old New Thing

    I want you to chase your sisters until they throw up


    A friend of mine grew up in a rural area. The family got their water from a well and had to fluoridate it manually with tablets.

    When my friend was a little girl, she was playing around the house with one of her friends (let's call her friend Alice). They got into the kitchen cabinet and found these candy-like things and ate them. When her mother discovered that they had eaten fluoride tablets, she called the poison control center for advice. In addition to telling her to give the girls something-or-other, they instructed her to keep the girls moving until they vomited up the tablets.

    As it happens, my friend's brother and Alice's brother were playing outside. The boys were called inside, informed of what happened, and instructed to keep their sisters moving and try to get them to throw up.

    The boys couldn't believe their ears. You want us to chase our sisters until they throw up? This must be what heaven is like!

    The boys assumed their responsibilities with great enthusiasm, chasing the girls around the yard, putting them in a swing and spinning them around, all the stuff brothers dream of doing to torment their sisters, but this time they could do it without fear of punishment. Fortunately, the story had a happy ending. The girls soon vomited up the tablets and thereby avoided two horrible fates: (1) fluoride poisoning and (2) being forced to endure torture from their brothers in perpetuity.

  • The Old New Thing

    A Venn diagram demonstrating the dining options in one of the new cafeterias


    Back in the early 2000s, a new building opened on the Microsoft main campus, and the food services department tried an experiment: Instead of creating a standard cafeteria, they decided to make the cafeteria in the new building a specialty cafeteria. This new cafeteria was more like a deli, specializing in offerings like antipasto, rotisserie chicken, and grilled panini sandwiches.

    The idea was that the building would generate cross-building foot traffic with the building next door. The food services department figured that people would typically go to the cafeteria in the old building next door, but if they had a hankering for something offered by the specialty cafeteria, they could walk over to the new cafeteria.

    It was an interesting idea, but it didn't work out well in practice because people are lazy and always go to the nearest cafeteria. This meant that the people who worked in the new building wandered into their cafeteria and saw the same specialty offerings every day. And nobody from the other cafeteria ever came to visit the specialty cafeteria.

    One of my colleagues explained the dining options in the new cafeteria with a Venn diagram:


    After a few months, the food services department realized that their plan wasn't working out too well, and they converted the new cafeteria into a more traditional cafeteria.

  • The Old New Thing

    Travel tip: Don't forget your car on the ferry


    One of my colleagues lives on Bainbridge Island and has quite a long commute to work each day. From his house, he walks to the bus stop, then takes the bus to the Winslow ferry terminal, then takes the ferry to the Seattle ferry terminal, then takes the bus to Microsoft. And at the end of the day, he does the trip in reverse.

    One day, for whatever reason, he drove to work instead of taking the bus. He drove to the ferry terminal, took the ferry across, then drove to work. And at the end of the day, he drove to the ferry, but when the ferry arrived at its destination, he forgot that he had driven his car and walked off the boat to the bus.

    While on his way home on the bus, he got a phone call from his wife. "Did you forget your car on the ferry, dear?"


    Now, leaving your car on the ferry is a bad thing not just because your car is now an obstacle on the ferry deck which all the other drivers must maneuver around. When there is an abandoned car on the deck, one of the possibilities that must be investigated is that a passenger has fallen overboard.

    The crew took the ship offline, conducted a search of the vessel, and initiated a search-and-rescue operation along the ferry route, looking for a body floating in the water.

    My colleague had to sheepishly call the ferry authorities and say, "Hello, I believe you're looking for me."

    (Today is Transit Driver Appreciation Day, but I don't think your ferry captain will complain if you thank him/her, too.)

  • The Old New Thing

    Nice job, you got an A minus from Bill


    Bill Gates does not praise lightly.

    Some time ago, a colleague of mine helped to prepared a keynote address for Bill Gates. Afterward, he was informed that Bill rated the presentation an "A minus".

    My colleague thought, "Wow, an A minus. It would be great to get some feedback from Bill about where I could have done better."

    Bill's assistant explained, "Don't worry. That's the highest grade he gives."

  • The Old New Thing

    The 2015/2016 Seattle Symphony subscription season at a glance


    For many years, I've put together a little pocket guide to the Seattle Symphony subscription season for my symphony friends to help them decide which ticket package they want. For the past several years now, we haven't ordered any tickets at all because we all have young children, but I still make this guide out of some sense of obligation.

    So here's the at-a-glance season guide for the 2015/2016 season anyway, again with no comments from me because nobody I know is going to use them to decide which tickets to order. Besides, you can probably preview nearly all of the pieces nowadays (minus the premieres) by searching on YouTube.

    Here is the official brochure for those who want to read the details, and you can see what The Seattle Times thinks of it.

    Week Program 21 13 7A
    7G 4A SU
    Mendelssohn: String Quartet #6
    Beethoven: Symphony #4
    Mahler: Symphony #1



    R. Strauss: Don Quixote
    Brahms: Symphony #3
    Dvořák: A Hero's Song
    Britten: Violin Concerto
    R. Strauss: Also Sprach Zarathustra
    Stravinsky: Symphony in C
    Beethoven: Piano Concerto #1
    Mozart: Symphony #41, "Jupiter"
    Giya Kancheli: World Premiere
    Brahms: Violin Concerto
    Martinů: Symphony #4
    R. Strauss: Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks
    Bruch: Violin Concerto #1
    Nielsen: Symphony #4, "The Inextinguishable"
    11/19 Mahler: Symphony #10 (Cooke)                
    Debussy: Danses sacrée et profane
    Messiaen: Poèmes pour Mi
    Fauré: Requiem
    Rimsky-Korsakov: Overture to The Tsar's Bride
    Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto #2
    Tchaikovsky: Suite #3 in G
    Mozart: Selections from Idomeneo Ballet Music
    Mozart: Violin Concerto #3
    Haydn: Symphony #104, "London"
    R. Strauss: Don Juan
    Beethoven: Piano Concerto #3
    Berio: Sinfonia (for 8 voices and orchestra)
    Ives: Three Places in New England
    Bartók: Piano Concerto #3
    Beethoven: Symphony #3, "Eroica"
    Haydn: Symphony #88
    Mozart: Piano Concerto #23
    Schoenberg: Transfigured Night
    John Adams: Scheherezade.2, Violin Concerto
    Elgar: Pomp and Circumstance March #3
    Respighi: Pines of Rome

    Glinka: Summer Night in Madrid
    Glazunov: Violin Concerto
    Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherezade
    Mussorgsky: Introduction to Khovanshchina
    Prokofiev: Violin Concerto #2
    Brahms: Symphony #4
    Glinka: Overture to Ruslan and Ludmilla
    Dvořák: Cello Concerto
    Silvestrov: Symphony #5

    Mendelssohn: Overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream
    Britten: Nocturne
    Szymanowski: Symphony #3
    Tchaikovsky: Romeo & Juliet Fantasy Overture
    Dutilleux: Timbres, espace, mouvement
    Beethoven: Piano Concerto #4
    Ewald: Symphony for Brass Quintet #3
    Prokofiev: Symphony #7




    Stravinsky: Symphony of Psalms
    Shostakovich: Symphony #4
    Fauré: Masques et bergamasques
    Ravel: Piano Concerto in G
    Dvořák: Symphone #9, "New World"
    Anna Clyne: U.S. Premiere
    Gershwin: Concerto in F
    Beethoven: Symphony #7
    Week Program 21 13 7A
    7G 4A SU

    Insider tip: Click a column header to focus on a specific series. (This feature has been around for several years, actually.)


    21Masterworks 21-concert series (Choice of Thursdays or Saturdays)
    13Masterworks 13-concert series (Choice of Thursdays or Saturdays)
    7AMasterworks 7-concert series A (Thursdays)
    7BMasterworks 7-concert series B (Saturdays)
    7CMasterworks 7-concert series C (Thursdays)
    7DMasterworks 7-concert series D (Saturdays)
    7EMasterworks 7-concert series E (Thursdays)
    7FMasterworks 7-concert series F (Saturdays)
    7GMasterworks 7-concert series G (Sunday afternoons)
    4AMasterworks 4-concert series A (Friday afternoons)
    SUSymphony Untuxed (Fridays, reduced program)

    For those not familiar with the Seattle Symphony ticket package line-ups: Most of the ticket packages are named Masterworks nX where n is the number is the number of concerts in the package, and the letter indicates the variation. Ticket packages have been combined if they are identical save for the day of the week. For example, 7C and 7D are the same concerts; the only difference is that 7C is for Thursday nights, while 7D is for Saturday nights.

    This chart doesn't include concert series such as the Distinguished Artists series which share no concerts with any of the Masterworks concerts.

    Notes and changes:

    • The 7[AB], 7[CD], and 7[EF] concert series do not overlap, so you can create your own 14-concert series by taking any two of them, or recreate the 21-concert series by taking all three.
    • The 13-concert series is the same as the 7[CD] and 7[EF] series combined, minus the June 9 concert.
    • The non-Masterworks series line-up continues to be tweaked: Gone are the Mozart series and the The Sunday Untuxed short concerts for families. Two children's series were renamed but otherwise unchanged: Discover Music became Family Concerts, and Soundbridge Presents became Symphony Kids.
    • The long-time Wolfgang club, which targeted adults under age 40, and its accompanying series appear to be gone.
    • A Shakespeare-themed concert in April commemorates the 400th anniversary of his death.

    This is the first season of a two-season cycle of Beethoven symphonies and piano concerti. Although there are no ticket packages specifically for the Beethoven concerts, tickets are available individually so you can make your own festival.

  • The Old New Thing

    Staying cool is one of the skills of a corporate president


    Some time ago, there was a mechanical problem with the heating/cooling system in our part of the building, and one of the senior managers in our group took the opportunity to tell a story of a one-on-one skip-level meeting he had with Steve Sinofsky.

    I'm sitting there in my office with Steve, and there was something wrong with the HVAC, because as the meeting progresses, it gets warmer and warmer, and eventually I'm sitting there sweating profusely, not exactly making the best impression on our group president. Steve, on the other hand, appears to be completely unaffected. It's sweltering in my office, but he's cool as a cucumber.

    It can't be more than five minutes after the meeting is over before a team of technicians swarms into my office to figure out why the heating system has gone berzerk.

    Steve must've whipped out his phone as soon as he left, called the Facilities desk, and said "Dude, there's something seriously wrong with the heating system over in room 1234. It's like an oven in there. You need to check it out." And since the request came from a corporate president, it got dispatched with high priority.

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