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  • Blog Post: 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...
  • Blog Post: 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...
  • Blog Post: 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...
  • Blog Post: Another way to make sure nobody sends you feedback

    I wanted to report an issue about a problem with our building, let's say that the widget frobnicators were not working. I went to the internal Widget Frobnicators Web site, and it was very pretty, with an FAQ about the current supplier of widget frobnicators, where to look up more information about how...
  • Blog Post: Got errands? Now is the time

    This upcoming Sunday is the Super Bowl, the championship game for a sport played only in the United States.¹ The entire country stops doing anything when the game is on. This makes it a perfect time to get out and run your errands, because the streets will be completely empty. Check out...
  • Blog Post: Microspeak: landing (redux)

    In a meeting, my colleague Martyn Lovell said, "The plan is shifting and hasn't landed anywhere yet." This was generally understood to mean "The plan is shifting and the issue is not yet settled." I don't know if this is true Microspeak, or Martyn was just making up a little metaphor on the...
  • Blog Post: It's not too late (okay maybe it's too late) to get this gift for the physicist who has everything

    A LEGO set to measure Planck's constant .
  • Blog Post: When corporate policies meet precision scientific equipment

    One of my colleagues used to work as an IT consultant, and one of his clients was a tobacco company. Since they were a tobacco company, the company policy on smoking was "You can smoke anywhere, any time." "Anywhere" includes the labs. The labs with very expensive precision scientific equipment....
  • Blog Post: Distinguishing between normative and positive statements to help people answer your question

    Often, we get questions from a customer that use the word should in an ambiguous way: Our program creates a widget whose flux capacitor should have reverse polarity. Attached is a sample program that shows how we create the widget with Create­Widget . However, the resulting widget still...
  • Blog Post: A little cheat in my Tiger Beat photo homage

    One thing nobody has called out in my tribute to the Bill Gates Tiger Beat photo , either because it was too subtle or too obvious, is that the photo is actually a mirror image. The arrangement of furniture in the room was not correct: The big table was on the wrong side of the room. It was also...
  • Blog Post: Raymond, why did you stop studying Chinese? It has no grammar!

    One of my colleagues, a native Chinese speaker, asked me whether I was still learning Mandarin Chinese. I told him that I had given up. He was baffled by this. "But Chinese is such a simple language. It has no grammar !" Now of course, Mandarin has a grammar, because every language has a grammar...
  • Blog Post: Microspeak: All-up

    Here are some citations. Let's see if we can figure out what it means. I think a presentation of these results would be a fun boost for the team. Is this something we should handle in a bunch of teams' weekly meetings, or should we do something all up ? In the first citation, all up appears to...
  • Blog Post: The citizenship test is pass/fail; there's no blue ribbon for acing it

    The civics portion of the United States citizenship test is an oral exam wherein you must correctly answer six out of ten questions. One of my friends studiously prepared for his examination, going so far as buying a CD with the questions and answers and listening to it every day during his commute to...
  • Blog Post: Microspeak: spend

    Remember, Microspeak is not merely for jargon exclusive to Microsoft, but it's jargon you need to know. We don't encounter the term spend much in the engineering side of the company, but it's in common use among those who regularly deal with money and budgets. We are in line with company standards...
  • Blog Post: The wisdom of seventh graders: The emergency survival kit

    As a precursor to reading a story about survival, seventh grade students were asked to come up with a list of things they would want to have in their emergency survival kit. Students were specifically instructed to limit themselves to things that were readily available (so no Apache helicopters ),...
  • Blog Post: News flash: Big houses cost more to maintain

    In 2005, we learned that big houses cost more to heat . In 2006, we learned that big houses cost more to cool . But then the research into big houses seems to have stalled. No worries. The research journal The Wall Street Journal recently released a paper concluding that big houses cost...
  • Blog Post: Revival of the Daleks: Act One, Scene One

    In 2009, a group of volunteers on a routine cleanup of a pond in Hampshire, England discovered a Dalek . (Later in the episode, the story may introduce a scientist who is thawing out a 30,000-year-old-virus .)
  • Blog Post: Outdoor Trek: Mirror, Mirror starts this weekend

    As previously noted , Outdoor Trek will be staging live performances of the Star Trek episode Mirror, Mirror . The schedule is up . Three weekends starting this Saturday at Blanche Lavizzo Park . Saturday performances are 7pm; Sunday performances are 2pm. Admission is free. Attend if you...
  • Blog Post: The social interactions in two preschool classes, in graphic form

    Each preschooler at my daughter's school was asked a few simple questions, and the answers were printed in the yearbook. Among other things, the preschoolers were asked to complete the sentence, "I like to play with (person)." This is the type of question that leads to tears and hurt feelings. ...
  • Blog Post: Microspeak: Brownbag

    Remember, Microspeak is not merely for jargon exclusive to Microsoft, but it's jargon that you need to know. The term brownbag (always one word, accent on the first syllable) refers to a presentation given during lunch. The attendees are expected to bring their lunch to the meeting room and eat while...
  • Blog Post: Get your hex wrench ready, because here comes the Ikea bicycle

    Ikea säljer elcyklar . Click through for two-image slide show. Ikea selling electric bicycles Forget furniture. Ikea is now launching, that's right, an electric bicycle. It goes under the name People-Friendly and costs around 6000 SEK ($900 USD). But only in Älmhult,...
  • Blog Post: How to take down the entire Internet with this one weird trick, according to Crisis

    According to the television documentary Crisis which aired on NBC last Sunday , a cyberattack took over the entire Internet. Timecode 13:00: "Anything connected to the Internet. Banking systems, power grid, air traffic control, emergency services. The virus has spread into them all." And...
  • Blog Post: Eventually, we may find out where notes eight through twelve came from

    CBC Radio's Tom Allen investigates the origin of the opening four notes of the classic Star Trek theme . He traces it to the opening of Mahler's First Symphony, then further back to Brahms's Second Symphony and Beethoven's Fourth Symphony. In college, one of my classmates (the same one that...
  • Blog Post: Even if you're the President, your mother still has the power to embarrass you

    Last year, in honor of Mother's Day (the United States version), the John F. Kennedy Library shared a letter sent by President Kennedy to his mother . Mrs. Kennedy had contacted Premier Khrushchev asking for an autographed photo, copies of which were subsequently forwarded to the White House so...
  • Blog Post: Raymond's house rules for Easter Egg Hunts

    One of my colleagues frustrates his family by hiding the eggs for the annual Egg Hunt way too well . "Apparently, drawers and freezers are out of bounds in the traditional egg hunt." Here are my house rules for Easter Egg Hunts: All eggs must be hidden within the implied egg-hiding area. No...
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