It was almost 10⅓ years ago when I blogged about a ‘Red Screen of Death’ aka RSoD, and…

As the title indicates, it was > 10 years and < 4 months ago when I blogged about an RSoD.

I should set the scene.

A former colleague of mine had what he believed to be a great way to remove a small chunk of the NLS registry keys/values that we no longer used and which seemed needlessly redundant.

My response was, “No, it would be a bad idea.”

He seemed nonplused by my lack of enthusiasm since this was going to be Longhorn, and reducing needless registry bloat was everyone’s responsibility.

“It has been there since Windows NT 3.1,” I insisted, “so someone is depending on it, even if we aren’t anymore.”

He didn’t want to check with Bryan. Or Rob. Or Neill. Or Jamie. He just wanted to try to build and install a copy of Longhorn that was without that chunk of registry.

Pleas about customer dependence and backwards compatibility were also ignored. He was going to do it.

The result was a little bit of recovered art, as shown below:

And him admitting that I was right. Epically so, in fact.

The errors in his thought process and a BBSpot article about the next 25 years of Windows led to the blog post Longhorn on Virtual PC 2004 dated May 7th, 2005.

This error in my decision making process led to

• a minor Microsoft PR gaffe based on a /. article inspired by Joi Ito;

• a Microsoft HR person putting me on paid administrative leave for a week while they decided if my Blog should survive;

• a VP named Brian, my manager’s manager’s manager’s manager  reportedly asking was there any reason to not fire me;

• being reprimanded for the error by my manager’s manager’s manager for the PR snafu atop the negative Longhorn press already building, but recommending that the Red Screen of Death blog post not be removed;

• someone from LCA sending me email informing me that I was in violation of the beta by posting that particular screenshot.

Lesson learned, until another blog post many years later.

Looking back at the old blog post retrospectively, I will concede that I made Longhorn a punch line joke for a brief news cycle, but it was many  other more powerful people who made both Longhorn and Vista jokes for many years. I am not really the villain in this story…. ;-)

I guess it turns out I -was- Bad Attrition after all, to -some- folks at Microsoft, at least! ;-)

Today’s blog post will start with an introduction, one about the four basic types of projects at Microsoft:

1) ones that are considered strategic to Microsoft’s strategies;

2) ones that are considered important to Microsoft’s goals;

3)ones that are merely considered to be interesting to Microsoft;

4) ones about which Microsoft doesn’t really give even a lone rat’s ass.

And there are really no other kinds of projects, from Microsoft’s point of view.

Obviously, some people would accuse me of vastly oversimplifying the situation. But what list on the Internet is not guilty of such a misdemeanor as providing some simplifying assumptions to make the overall narrative easier to describe and explain?

Another issue that is almost Microsoft policy is that it has the resources to make huge mistakes and yet be able to recover from them.

And finally, Microsoft is often forced to recategorize a project after a mistake is finally realized. You can probably realize the vast number of times that such a recategorization has happened in the past.

For example:

• how many times has Microsoft had a great idea but jumped into it too early?

• how many times have they won a market but not realized its true potential so that a competitor could rush in and clean their clocks?

• how many times has Microsoft been right but failed in the actual implementation to provide a compelling solution so that a competitor could sweep in with something better?

• how many times have they taken the lessons of one successful project and assumed [incorrectly] that they would apply to another?

• how many times have they just been completely wrong?

• how many times have mistakes in licensing or other reimbursement methods led others to vault past them by simply appearing less greedy (whether or not they actually in fact were)?

• how many times they got it right but that same “maximize the profits” mentality takes literally years to overcome?

You get the idea. In fact, I’m sure you can think of exact projects that fell into each of these buckets and more.

Whether it is EAI or IDN or MSKLC or font subletting or any of the other things about which I blather, I often wonder how much money they plan to burn through before they get it.

Then there was just as the most recent example the msg that I got the other day, just after I was laid off but before I lost my MSFT email account:

Hi Michael,

Nice to see your latest blog posts on MSKLC. Windows 10 has shipped, of course, and now is the time to try to plug for an update to MSKLC.
We’re all about being data driven here, and the current tide is moving toward more focused language support rather than thinking broadly. So I’m particularly interested to look for ways to justify the 1.5 or 2.0 version of MSKLC with numbers. You have often quoted 2M downloads. Is that a number you got from the DL center folks. I’d like to be able to point to that as a metric for investment here. I expect I should be able to pull a current number for that.

 Also of interest would be applications of MSKLC in EDU or Enterprise environments where people are extending the keyboard for English or other major markets.

I realized that some people at Microsoft understand that there are things that people ought to pay attention to, who are trying to find some argument to get things done. And they are asking me.

Suddenly I realize that my larger goal, to be thought of by some of those at Microsoft who I respect to be what those who speak fluent HR’ese would call ***Bad attrition***.

Because as they search for answers to questions that

• I can answer (but they never asked before the RIF);

• I *have* answered in a Blog that they fought to shut down;

that I WAS bad attrition, whether the Powers That Be™ at Microsoft realize it or not.

Oh well. Maybe there is a way they can get me some consulting hours to make up for their lapses. Or they could just read this Blog! ;-)

A bit about TS Eliot’s The Waste Land, The Fisher King, Mr. King, MS, and the theme of redemption

Like yesterday’s blog post titled The movie Excalibur was about so much more than a geek of a young man like myself could grok the fullness of today’s blog post about Thomas Stearns Eliot (bka TS Eliot) and specifically what some people consider to be one of his greatest poems The Waste Land.

The resulting poem directly refers to both Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough and Jessie Weston’s From Ritual to Romance in the footnotes (or to be more pedantically accurate, endnotes) as a good introductory guide to the redemption theories that allusions to the Fisher King and the Grail kinda try to represent.

The assignment came by my own choice in my American Literature class taught by J. Todd King, mainly to try to impress him but also to stop me from my own delusions of being a poet myself.

I was largely successful, getting an A- on the paper, but I later retyped it for my senior year British Literature class (where I got an A). I recall Friend’ing him on Facebook and guiltily admitting my crime.

His answer was basically that he wasi impressed that I took advantage of the loophole and we bonded a bit on our shared disease (multiple sclerosis). We each felt trapped in our own bodies, our own diseases.

The poem itself was very powerful for me personally, and I dug through the allusions and the symbolism to the point where I can reread it or have Audible reread it to me and remember many different years of my life when I was writing about it, rewriting about it, reading it, or rereading it for whatever reason and somehow feel a little bit redeemed.

Yet another shade of irony that I first went off on disability at the very end of the month of March, thinking just as the poem started, thinking that “April is the cruelest month…” realizing that I can still remember a lot more of it than I expected to.

And I’ll close this blog post just as Eliot closed The Waste Land and say Shantith shantith shantith….

The movie Excalibur was about so much more than a geek of a young man like myself could grok the fullness of

Excalibur the movie had a great premise that even a youngster such as myself at the time could get behind.

It was basically adaptation of Malory’s Morte d’Arthur (1469–70) recasting the Arthurian legends as an allegory of the cycle of birth, life, decay, and restoration, by stripping the text of decorative or insignificant details. The resulting film is reminiscent of mythographic works such as Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough and Jessie Weston’s From Ritual to Romance.

Though I didn’t read any of these things at the time, I read all of them just a few years later when doing research for my paper on The Waste Land by TS Eliot, which I will talk about further some day suon. But for now I will just focus on the movie, and on Michael Everson (who talked about some of the linguistic aspects of the Irish language interest that guided certain aspects of the movie:

“The Charm of Making” per the article in Wikipedia:

According to linguist Michael Everson, the “Charm of Making” that Merlin speaks to invoke the dragon is an invention, there being no attested source for the charm. Everson reconstructs the text as Old Irish: the phonetic transcription of the charm as spoken in the film is

[aˈnaːl naθˈrax, uːrθ vaːs beˈθʌd, doxˈjeːl ˈdjenveː].

Although the pronunciation in the film has little relation to how the text would actually be pronounced in Irish, the most likely interpretation of the spoken words, as Old Irish text is:

Anál nathrach,

orth’ bháis’s bethad,

do chél dénmha

In modern English, this can be translated as:

Serpent’s breath,

charm of death and life,

thy omen of making.

Amazing how transfixed I was by a chant that was almost certainly not real related to a language that became the adopted mother tongue of a colleague who I had not even made the acquaintance of, yet…

In any case, the charm was a recurring theme during the film, even in the last time of its occurrence, shown here in a YouTube clip. Perhaps little more than an Eversonian retcon, but it moved the story along better than any macguffin of old might!

Thinking about 1999, Notting Hill, what was wrong with that movie, and more

The movie Notting Hill came out during an unusual period in my life. I had just finished seeing a blonde who wasn’t all that famous and started seeing a blonde who a bit famous before seeing another blonde who wasn’t so famous before seeing yet another blonde who was a little bit famous.

The weird thing about it all was that I kinda had an aversion to blondes since I was quite young after being rejected by another blonde who frankly admitted her sincere lack of interest in me in a way that intimidated me from the serious pursuit of other blondes for many years thereafter.

Not for nothing but that original blonde is technically a little bit famous in her own way, in yet another inflection of that force of nature known as irony.

Anyway, back to Notting Hill, and that blonde who was a little bit famous that I was seeing down in southern California back when the movie came out. I saw it with her several times because the theme of the famous person (played by Julia Roberts) ending up with the not so famous person (played by Hugh Grant) helped me get my head around the new relationship even more effectively than the similarly themed movie Just Write with the famous person (played by Sherilyn Fenn) ending up with the not so famous person (played by Jeremy Piven) a few years prior.

So a few trips to southern California later and she was over me, something that most ladies have found themselves reasonably easy to do. I found myself with another blonde, this time a less famous kind, but in the end that didn’t work out either. And then the next blonde, also in the southern California area (although I am told that it isn’t so uncommon in the area), which also didn’t work out, unfortunately.

Getting back to the nominal point of today’s blog post, the movie Notting Hill, I am aware of only three specific failures and/or kerfuffles in the flick itself:

• each and every one of the many dozens of neighborhoods that make up the megacity of London has unique qualities about it, and Notting Hill is no different. In this case, the carnival is known to pretty much anyone spending a year there, like the moviegoers do in the long montage do;

• anyone who has ever been to Notting Hill or knows anything about the place knows that the racial makeup was probably surprised at the absence of black faces not only in the ensemble cast but in the entire neighborhood during the montage as well (add the bonus mini kerfuffle with the ones in the US who mentioned the paucity of “African American faces” without usually remembering in time that Notting Hill and London aren’t in America);

• in a particular scene, Hugh Grant mentions that all he has to look forward to at home is “a masturbating Welshman” which obviously managed to offend some of those of Welsh descent.

None of them are fatal flaws in the film, but none of them had to happen since the first two could be solved by minimal research into the specific location that was the name of the film, and the third could have been avoided by not trying so hard to be clever with so many lines. Bad enough that Julia Roberts flubbed the floppy/floosie line herself in the movie….

On the plus side, the unusual confluence of circumstances cured me of my irrational aversion to blondes! ;-)

Some things were -SO- much more impressive to know before Google made them -SO- easy to learn

Technically the same point applies to Bing, but seriously, who are we kidding here?s

filed under Collation/Casing because if Google can co-opt my passion about  collation with their Alphabet re-org, then clearly their passion is the one I’ve had since before they were born….

Years ago it was my PNL (Liz) who asked me:

Who did the work at the beginning of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and provided the lips and voice?

It takes me back to the old days before the Internet or Google made it so much easier to get the answers to questions like that.

The lips for the movie were provided by Patricia Quinn (she played the role of Magenta later in the flick), but she is lip syncing (no pun intended!) the voice provided by Richard O’Brien (the guy who later plays Riff Raff, Magenta’s brother).

(reference to the blog post Let there be LIPs implied)

Now I was emotionally prepared for  this issue when SciFi grandmaster Robert A. Heinlein’s Double Star taught me how real actors could handle any voice or sound required (which also incidentally explained to me Hugh Laurie’s ‘American’ accent in House MD).

Which is also how I learned that l could never really be an actor myself, by the way….

These days, every Blog in the world has a list of things that you never knew about the Rocky Horror Picture Show that includes random tidbits like these, which can be found by any random Google search. I was much more impressive all those years ago when I did it the old fashioned way.

When I may have known less, but didn’t feel like it was being handed to me for free….

Do you know what I mean? ;-)

Trying to build some kind of a narrative #6: Several of the more intriguing of the other 32 (of 37) contracts at Microsoft

Continuing from the prior blog post in this series from yesterday (link here)….

Showing a gratuitous Microsoft logo again for the sake of art:

Anyway, I could revisit the MSLU (aka Microsoft Layer for Unicode aka Godot) story again, but that one is too easy to find here. Or the tale of the Dr. International, discussed here. The fourth Microsoft Access contract was a conspiracy to make VBA wizards more localizable at runtime;  my co-conspirators were the subsidiary program managers in each country.

The more intriguing tale is the unpaid work I did for MSLU including m very own DaveC story, which is basically the day that a 4am 🕓 email announced a build break in UnicoWS.lib. My first thought was that I’d send email to the waste of space NO HIRE asking him to revert his change ASAP, but luckily I didn’t send the message since it turned out to be DaveC. :/ I spent the next several hours

• reverse engineering the intent of his huge change that caused the build break in my single .LIB;

• making the correct fix;

• verifying the fix allowing the build to complete successfully;

• crafting a humble email to DaveC that asked if he would be willing to code review my suggested change to make sure it didn’t break him unintentionally.

I swear I aged 10 years in the time it took me to get a “Sorry about that. Your change looks good. Could you go ahead and check it in? Thanks.” email. And since the MSLU project was out of money, I didn’t even get paid for my efforts. A much more interesting story IMHO….

Then there is my DavidV story, told here,an investigation that upon the official advice of both my Admin and his I billed his cost center for quite generously — covering travel time to his home, time spent there, digging through SLM logs and OBTriage emails to assess the reasoning behind the decision to not make the fix for the two bugs he ran into (neither was my fault, BTW!), which come to think of it might be why I didn’t mind fixing the DaveC bug gratis since I was so fully and properly reimbursed for my full forensic RCA (Root Cause Analysis) of the DavidV reported problems. ;-)

Or my contract program manager job for Windows CE Services, writing the spec for Desktop Pass-through so that cradled devices don’t have  to rely on their  own wireless connections when something faster is available…. a patent that others  are still licensing!

Or I could tell the heartwarming story of The Most Robust Software Project I Ever Worked On.

Or the one project that made it to private beta among VBA license holders — the hosting VBA within your Visual Basic 6 application Wizard — which I was fired off of before the product ever shipped (although they did pay me in full, to this day I don’t know if it ever shipped and I am only mentioning it now since it has been over ten years and the extra NDA has expired.

(if anyone else has art to volunteer I won’t object!)

Then there is all of the time I spent in the SQL Server unit. It started with replication and the Replication Conflict Resolver, which had to be written for SQL Server and essentially rewritten for Jet [Red] since the latter had to work properly for both Jet and SQL Server replication, including Jet as a SQL Server subscriber (which the old one could never properly do).

While there, I not only learned how my own Partial Replica Wizard inspired its more impressive cousin but they loved the story of why I told them that I limited to just one initial query (because the Access team is cheap!). They also needed an Alpha version of the SQL Server Conflict Resolver (no Jet [Red] version required for that!). My contacts with Matt Curland and Bruce McKinney as well as my contacts on the VB team got them to approve the only known Alpha build of a VB project in another business unit all due to a cluster of tangential expertises and a contractor who knew just enough to get it all done….

And then they needed help with sample customer provided resolvers including ones built as stored procedures. Yet another contract.

And then they needed help with setup (my experience with the ACME Setup Engine based on he ODE 97 Setup Wizard turned out to be invaluable to them!).

I even taught others about a fascinating and now defunct loophole I accidentally discovered in the Purchase Order requirement at Microsoft, where almost every FTE could at that time approve up to USD$1000 without a written contract. With my MS internal rates then at at  ~USD$100-150/hr, almost anyone could write a “mini-contract” for a lone bug in setup or a stored procedure or whatnot even if they had neither budget nor headcount!

Talk about innovation at Microsoft! There are even people I knew from LCA that were impressed!

But as fun as it all was, eventually I had to find a place to be beyond the next contract Finally, I could go with my last official Microsoft contract, the part of The Story of MSKLC up until “We knew that we needed a better way to do this.”

My fulltime acceptance was specifically delayed until this last contract was finished.

The 37th one…. ;-;

Trying to build some kind of a narrative #5: Some of my 5 earliest contracts (of 37) at Microsoft

Originally I came to Microsoft in the end of 1996 for a six month contract to help the Certification Systems group validate how valid the comparison between different editions of the same certification exam.

Gratuitous Microsoft logo follows….

The older art would have made more sense, but I am feeling a little lazy this morning…. ;-)

My manager Steve got me a v- alias, (v-michka), which helped me until I went fulltime dozens of contracts and years lter….

Although skeptical of the concept, we had a statistician who was sure we could do such a validation and I’d been doing similar work for publishing doctors for years so I figured the less peer reviewed world would survive such an attempt to bring rigor to a process that frankly could use something a bit more rigorous.

The group was re-organized three times as the contract was stretched out to a year and then eventually cancelled during the fourth attempt at a reorg, I was a little disappointed that the original concept was abandoned. But by then someone from DAD (Developer Access Division) Marketing wanted me to write a Microsoft Access version of the Microsoft Excel Publish to Web Wizard that like its Excel cousin would be published to the web to help prove how visionary and quick and dare I say ‘Agile’ Microsoft Office was being.

Even as that project was only midway through, the Microsoft Access development team (formerly the Microsoft Access test team and wizard development team) was looking for some help with a few of their wizards so they could spend less time on that messy codebase, which later became my next three contracts and then I realized that it was raining ☔ money 💵 in Redmond WA, and I decided to formally move.

FWIW (for what it’s worth) that v- alias was greatly beneficial when later rules about a- (agency temps) and their obligatory hundred day vacations changed the landscape of short term work at Microsoft.

For the record, note that none of these early five contracts of the thirty seven I did had anything to do with anything of note that I later did for Microsoft, other than one bit I did unintentionally for Microsoft Access wizards localization….

And thusly my career as a Microsoft contractor had begun….

The 1988 flick Shoot To Kill was freaking awesome

The 1988 film Shoot To Kill was freaking awesome, for lotsa reasons after I first saw it with someone I knew from The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia all those years  ago:.

• Sidney Poitier back in the action buddy movie genre;

• Tom Berenger as mountain man who has to bring the FBI agent through the Pacific Northwest before the killer makes it to Canada;

• nobody knowing who the heck the actual killer is until halfway through the movie;

• intentionally padding the cast with known bad guys from other movies (one of whom is the bad guy this time!);

• Kirstie Alley being a sassy hostage for a big chunk of the movie;

• some really hilarious lines!

We forgive them the holes in the plot because of all of this and more, which is why it has a very rare perfect score of 100% on  Rotten Tomatoes (the curious can look at the Roger Ebert review, which is also three stars!). Because we all loved the trip down memory lane of the older buddy movies and their buddy movie lines.

The most hilarious one IMHO (in my humble opinion) was from a scene where Tom Berenger falls while they try futilely to run from a bear and Sidney Poitier makes the bear retreat, confused:

Tom – I’ve never seen a bear run away like that in all my life .

Sidney – Everyone else out here acts like they’ve never seen a black man before; why should the bear be any different?

I’ve actually watched the movie with Greek, French, Hebrew, and other language subtitles just to see how the localizers/translators handled it!

Freaking awesome, like I said….

Appel vs. Apple? 🍎 🍏

not entirely, though maybe a little, unlike previous X vs. Y blog posts….

This blog post has nothing to do with Apple the company, Steve Jobs,  Woz, or Tim Cook. The gratuitous picture of a non-emoji apple 🍎 is to prove that….

Sherry Apple was my good friend and colleague who was a brilliant neurosurgeon who disproved complaints about the arrogance of neurosurgeons on a regular basis.

In a past life, I was doing EEGs and other tests for neurologists and neurosurgeons, and we had a verbal game we played where I would tell her that all her troubles were caused by her last name being spelled incorrectly. We both enjoyed it.

Rachel Appel is a good friend and colleague who I believe I first met at VBITS years ago and my first words to her were “At least your last name is spelled correctly!” after which I explained enough about Dr. Sherry Apple so she wouldn’t think that I was high or something, or maybe she didn’t mind. I don’t know if she remembers that conversation but I do know she visited with me for a while this last weekend and we just talked about stuff. She is also quite amazing and amusing.

By the way, they both represent two more examples of female friends and colleagues who I care a lot about but have never been romantically involved with in general or slept with in particular.

I’m not going to make it a blog category or anything (because idle speculation about specific ladies not categorized that way would seriously piss me off), but I want to make sure it is understood that most of my friends are female and I haven’t been romantically involved with the majority of them. I am only calling out specific names since wild speculation about such things pisses me off even more.

Anyway, both of them have been able to be inspiring colleagues and great friends.

One of them was a brilliant neurosurgeon which helps make up for the fact that her name was spelled incorrectly for all of her life.

And the other has the intrinsic power of her membership in the Rachii collective to fall back on in case anyone fails to recognize either her brilliance as a software developer or the fact that her name is spelled correctly. ;-)

dedicated to Ms. Appel, who I hope is doing well…..

A blog about all the things that the old Blog was about!