Category: A Microsoft Life

In the Seattle area? Free Friday night?

Just a reminder:

I’m very excited to be doing a reading at the Redmond Association of Spokenword on Friday, July 29th at 7pm at the Old Redmond Schoolhouse Community Center. I plan to read two sections from my book, as well as discuss the writing process and publishing process. I will have copies of the hardback edition of my book for purchase ($25) and will be doing a free signing as well. If you are local to Seattle please drop on by and say hello, I’d love to meet you!

I Bookified my Blogerations part 2: The Hardbackening

All right let’s see how deep a hole I done dug. Clearly I underestimated the demand for the personalized hardback edition of my book, so here it is.  I am now taking orders for A Microsoft Life, hardback edition.  The link is just over to your right on the Buy Now button.  Please note, the Lulu button is for the paperback and ebook copies.  (for those waiting on Kindle,, Nook,, and Apple iBook, there will be a third post in this series when those are available, and the buttons on the bade to the right will be updated)

Don’t click the button just yet!  There’s stuff you need to know. Here’s how this is going to work.  I have copies of the book heading to me.  They should arrive in the next 10 days.  Each paypal order (and yes I’m sorry wikileaks supporters I’m using PayPal) gets you a copy of the book personalized by me, as well as a free copy of the .PDF sent out via email so you can start reading immediately.


During checkout you will see this screen, I need you to click where I note in the screenshot:


In the notes I need three key things:

The name or nickname you want the book personalized to.

That person’s favorite thing.

A valid email address to send the PDF to (if not the Paypal confirmation one.)

On the inside of the book I will be writing a short message to that person involving their favorite thing.  Plus I need a place to send the PDF.

I have set the price for the hardback at $24.99 with 6$ in shipping and handling inside the US and territories and $18 dollars S&H for International.  After doing a bunch of math, those rates seemed to be the best median price points for me to manage two shipping zones as opposed to, say, 7 or 8.  If you *really* think I’m a jerk for the shipping breakdown please send me an email pleading your case and your shipping charges and maybe we can work something out.

So!  I reserve the right to reject certain names (No “Dixon Cider”’s etc), and fair warning if this takes off I might have to throttle the amount, in which case I will take the button badge down until I catch up.  I don’t want anyone to wait more than three weeks from payment to receiving their copy.

Go for it!  I mean…you know, if you want to.

I Bookified My Blogerations!

[UPDATE:  Personalized Hardbacks are now available for order. Click Here!]


Tuesdays are when new movies and new games get released, and besides this post is a long time coming, but I’m very proud to announce the release of my first book, A Microsoft Life.

The story of how the book came to be is an odd one. This year being my 15th as a Microsoft employee, I took some time to collect a ton of the Microsoft lore and stories that I have written about here on my blog, expand and rewrite them, then compile them into a rough narrative. Once the manuscript was complete I handed it over to a professional editor (the wonderful Joanne Starer) and my friend Mark Pedersen designed the cover:


Joanne made the text readable through a ton of effort, and I think Mark did an outstanding job with the cover, from the hand drawn pointillism portrait of me to the idea of having the monitors each contain an image from one of the stories in the book. I’m immensely proud of the stories in the book, because they are the types of stories that I would be interested in as a geek.  Part Memoir, part history book, this project is designed to be a quick, humorous read that you can pick up and put down at any time. To be clear, it’s not a study of the company or some type of expose. But if you’ve ever wanted to know what the Redmond Reality Distortion Field is, why Microsoft buildings are designed to prevent you from attending meetings, or what a pig flu had to do with the Windows 98 product launch…well this is your book. It’s about a geek living an unlikely existence in one of the major technology companies in history.

I read the Windows 98 chapter from the book at w00tstock 2.9 in Austin and 2.10 in Dallas. I was super nervous at actually doing a live reading and announcing that I was going to have a book come out.  I mean, at that point that makes shit real ya know?  But judging from the number of people in the autograph line who said they were disappointed it wasn’t available yet for them to buy, I guess it got a good reception!

A Microsoft Life weighs in just shy of 50,000 words and is 169 pages. It is available right now from for $15.99 for paperback and $6.99 for a downloadable PDF.  It will soon also be available at those same prices from, Kindle, iBook, etc. In addition, I am also working on a hardback version that will only be available from here at that will be signed and personalized for $24.99. I will update this post when that happens.

I’m not DRM’ing the PDF, the main reason I am supplying it via Kindle and iBooks, etc is mostly for convenience for people. As a Kindle app user on my iPad it’s a super easy way to get books. It’s also a severe hit in the return I get, so I figure the least I can do for adding DRM to the process is take a lower cut to make up for the inconvenience and not mark it up. Please note the PDF does *not* contain the front and back cover art, but the Kindle and iBook versions will. Oh, here’s the back cover art in readable size:


(the blank box is for the UPC)

So.  That’s done. 

Over the next 12 months I actually have two more books in the works, and a fourth probably in 2012.

I hope you enjoy what I’ve done.  Open-mouthed smile

Sydney, Where the Bare Ass Spankings Lie

In December of 1998 I was given a choice to go to Tokyo, Japan to deliver a three week training course on the upcoming version of Internet Explorer, or Sydney, Australia to perform the same task. I chose Sydney, and my life has been the stranger for it.

At the time I was living in Dallas. This meant a flight over to Los Angeles followed by a 14 hour flight to Sydney. Back in those days most groups within Microsoft had a pretty reasonable policy for justifying flying business class. If the flight was over six hours long and you were expected to work within 24 hours of landing, you could book business class. At this point in my life I had made two overseas flights to Europe, both coach. All my domestic travel had been coach as well. Thus was I introduced to business class, or as I called it afterwards: 14-hour long blowjob class.

I exaggerate, but only slightly. The change from coach was immediate. Aboard a very nice Boeing 747, I was ushered to the top deck, shown my enormous seat, and handed some champagne. The seat converted to an almost flat space to sleep on and there was a good three feet of space all around me. The seat had a screen that displayed the current position along with a real time map. You could also watch TV or movies on it. There was power for my laptop, and the food was real food served on real plates with real silverware. There was even a wine list! A clown came out to cheer me up any time I felt down! The stewardesses were all Angelina Jolie! I saw God! He made me some pancakes!

Well, I may or may not have taken advantage of the all you can drink cocktail list with its fine selections of Cognac.

Most of a day later I landed in Sydney. The approach from the coast was spectacular and I couldn’t wait to see the city. Being early December in the southern hemisphere, the weather was warm and balmy. I was bemused to see many a Santa Claus in shorts from the cab window as I made my way from Sydney proper out to North Ryde where the Microsoft office was located.

For the next couple of weeks I taught some of the most professional and customer centric Microsoft employees I had yet encountered. In almost all cases they spent serious time in class participation, provided product and training feedback, and were incredibly focused on providing the best experience for the product that they possibly could. I spent my days teaching polite and focused students. I spent my nights eating spectacular seafood and hitting the local bars in the area for the one-time novelty in my life of having hot girls actually fawning over my American accent as much as I was stricken by theirs.

Great story right?

The title promised bare ass spankings and we don’t have too much more to go to deliver.

During my time in paradise I became fairly close to the students, as I mentioned they were among some of the most professional and passionate employees I had had the pleasure of working with. At some point during my time there I got invited to the groups Christmas party. Apparently their local Halloween party had been canceled for whatever reason and they had chosen to do up their Christmas party as a costume party. I lacked a costume, but was assured that didn’t really matter as there would be masks aplenty at the event. Up until this point I had spent a lot of time in Sydney meeting various Internet people unrelated to work that I knew from being on several different message boards. So each night had been a different low key affair involving dinner and drinks with couples or the stray person my age meeting up for beer. I had not been partying at all with the students. Perhaps it was some foreboding sense that as the teacher of the class that I should not fraternize too closely to the students until the class was over. More likely, nay certainly, it was prescience of situations where I would be exposed to the largest field of marijuana I had ever seen personally and one of my male student’s perfectly shaved genitals.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The night of the party opened with three of my handlers picking up at my hotel. These weren’t students, but employees assigned to make sure I got from point A to point B for the class. The idea was drinks and relaxing back at their place near the party. The party, it was described to me, was slightly unofficial given the anything goes nature of the costumes. Are you noting the words in italics?

We arrived at their shared house. I hopped out of the car still a little bemused by the driver’s side back seat being on the right and took in the place. It was nice, a large but older single story home in a spot near the industrial area of the city, where apparently the party was going to be. My lead handler stepped out of the car and led us to the side gate which he unlocked and let us through. We meandered down a small side path for a few feet before we hit the back yard and a small deck leading to the rear entrance of the house. I was preoccupied with merely following the path before we hit the deck and one of the handlers said, “What a view.”

I looked up and out and paused, pretty sure at what I was seeing but too much of a neophyte to truly process it. Imagine a camera in a movie, maybe it’s Hoosiers or Field of Dreams or Children of the Corn. The view pans up from the ground then slowly raises to reveal an epic farm crop that extends to the horizon. Except it was pot plants. Sticky bud as far as the eye could see. I wasn’t shocked so much as I was awed.

“Party starts in 2 hours. Let’s chill,” one of the handlers said.

They went inside while I stood for a second longer on the deck, figuring one napalm strike on this place and the contact high would easily reach Canberra. Not wanting to appear freaked I went inside and gratefully accepted a cold beer then freaked as the single largest bong I have ever seen was produced. As if suddenly realizing there was a foreigner in the room a handler, a stunning redhead girl, decided to check in.

“Oh hey are you cool?” she said, gesturing to GargantaBong, the Bong that all other bongs pray too.

“Oh yeah.” I said, then tried to deploy some slang, “Not my thing, but I’m 4:20 friendly”

They stared at me blankly, and at the culture cross collision of the situation I finally busted out laughing genially.

“I’m cool,” I said laughing again, “I’ll stick with beer”

The next hour was spent watching them conduct a bong based forest clearing experiment with a bag from the back yard while I drank all their beer. Seemed like a good trade, because by the time the hour was over we were all laughing so hard we nearly forgot there was a party with a fancy dinner to go to. We piled into the car, the driver baked beyond the dreams of avarice. The party location was a rented out warehouse in a Sydney industrial district, a warehouse known for being set aside for lavish parties. We arrived on time, all of us hungry with some hungrier than the hungriest of hungry munchies hungry people who are also hungry and want food.

“Fuck I’m starving,” the redhead opined as she got out of the car.

“You get between me and the food, and you’re breaky for the rest of us tomorrow,” the driver said, swaying ever so slightly.

Everyone except me broke into peals of laughter and stumbled on in. I watched and prepared to settle into yet another in a long string in my career of company parties that featured nice dinners, forced fun, and a boring speech or two. That was when I noticed the costumes.

“You need a mask,” the girl said at the door as my jaw hung loosely on its hinges.

“You shot who in the what now?” I said.

Culture collision again.

My accent gave me away as a non-Oz-ican and she took that look I had become so used to for a couple of weeks: “Could you say that again?” I was expecting her to say.

“A mask,” she said, “it’s a costume party, you need a mask.”

The night was blazing hot and I looked up to see how halogen orange the sky was with the bit of smog in the city against the lights. I was pretty sure I had just seen several of my students enter the party in full bondage gear. Contact high, I thought, you just watched three people in a small living room smoke the Yellowstone Natural Park through the Death Star of all bongs while you pounded back a six pack of beer.

“A mask you say. Sounds perfect,” I offered after a focusing breath and the realization that it was all relaxing downhill from here. I was just weirded out, that’s all. Surely this was going to be the standard Microsoft thing.

In retrospect, the inside of that party was like Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut except with less clothes and less sex. Within seconds one of my best students approached me with his girlfriend. He was wearing a kilt, and nothing else. She was in all vinyl and carrying a whip. I reached for the nearest tray of booze as he casually chatted me up about how I was enjoying Australia. Seconds later I swear to the flying spaghetti monster the multi pierced airplane porn reading chick from my trip to Bismarck walked up in all her tattooed splendor.

“Oh my god,” She said, “I love your kilt!” This was directed at my student who of course was appropriately accepting of the compliment. “You’re not wearing anything under, right?” she said.

No. No. No, I thought.

“Of course not,” he said, lifting his kilt to reveal a generous dollop of perfectly shorn genitalia.”

“Neither am I!” replied the girl, lifting up her skirt to reveal her everything to everyone.

I’m pretty sure they high fived in that moment but the memory burned into my skull is of the site director walking by with a paddle and seeing my student’s girlfriends whip. While I was still processing the shaven Adam and Eve bits of the past 120 seconds, the high level individual involved in our core business of Australia took the whip and proceeded, with glee, to bare ass spank my male kilted student.

Everyone had a grand time.

I spent the rest of the evening holding my badge in the air waiting for someone from Microsoft Human Resources to collect it and let me know they were terribly sorry but I had to be let go due to this party.

I woke up the next morning in my hotel room. My throat was a bit raw from some ill advised cigarette smoking at the end (hey, I thought I was dead anyway.) There were enough photos to prove I wasn’t crazy, but we all agreed what happens on the other side of the Earth has to have mathematical proof.

Dear the Microsoft Australia Office: I’ve not been invited back. What do I gotta do?

A Maze of Twisty Passages, All Alike …

Know this, for after fifteen years at the company I can say it’s a fact: Microsoft’s developers/software/executives/employees/actions are not, and never have been, intentionally evil.

Microsoft’s building designers, however, are.

Actually, that’s not fair. The designers are just doing what they are told: maximizing available space for working environments, all within a budget.

But the people who design all the directional signs inside all Microsoft buildings? Spawn of … someone really, really evil. Like Hitler. Or Stalin. Who’s worse, Hitler or Stalin? Or Satan? Is Satan as bad as Hitler, or worse? Okay, the sign people are spawn of Hitler, Lizzie Borden, Satan, and Billy Bob Rubik, designer of the Rubik’s Cube. Thanks Wikipedia.

It’s bad enough that in the from-the-top-down X-ray view every Microsoft building resembles a maze from one of those 1001 Mazes! books you see at the checkout at the grocery store. It’s bad enough that even inside some Microsoft buildings, the first floor is designed completely differently from the second floor, and the third floor bends space and time such that I swear I once saw David Bowie on the ceiling.

Those two things alone would be villainy. No, what is worse, far worse, is the fact that all the interior signs helpfully lead you right like a lamb to the slaughterhouse. But the signs end up leaving you just short of it, wondering if you missed a sign—and by the way, what’s with all the lambs screaming?

Here’s an example. To be mindful of Microsoft’s security protocols, which restrict our taking photos of our buildings with the level of detail I am about to describe, I am going to instead provide you an approximation of the hell we have to go through trying to find our way around.

Setting the mood: you’re in an unfamiliar building for a meeting. You’ve arrived with more than five minutes to spare. Plenty of time! You exit the elevator and are greeted with this initial sign:

← 2000–2200
← Restroom
→ Kitchen
→ 2300–2400
→ Conf Rms 2202, 2205, 2206, 2576, 2999

You know that your meeting is in conference room 2576, so you exit the elevator to the right, intending to go to the kitchen to grab a drink because it’s on your way. You walk down the hall to the next sign, which says:

↑ 2300–2400
→ Kitchen
→ Conf Rms 2202, 2205, 2999

That’s odd, you think, where did 2576 go? Oh I’m sure there’s another sign near the kitchen, you decide. So you enter the kitchen and grab a coffee. The Microsoft Starbucks coffee machines brew your coffee per cup from a custom grind. It takes about 90 seconds, but you figure you have plenty of time. Coffee accomplished, you exit the far side of the kitchen and find this:

← 2300–2400
↓ Restroom
↑ Conf Rms 2576, 2999

Oh, you think, see? There it is. You continue down the hall. You now only have a minute or two before your meeting, so you scan for the next sign and see:

↑ 2350–2491
↑ Restroom
↓ Kitchen
↓ 2300–2349
→ Office Supply

You’re momentarily surprised that the restroom has now folded space to move in front of you, but then you realize that certainly there would be more than one restroom on the floor. But then you pause to realize the conference rooms have disappeared from the sign to be replaced by the office supply room.

Now you’re completely confused, because the last sign had a room range of 2300–2400 but this new one expands that to 2491 and sends you in a different direction for the other rooms. Neither room range matches the conference room. Figuring that surely a conference room like 2576 would be in the general direction of the increasingly larger-numbered offices, you proceed gamely in the direction of the 2350–2491 range. Your meeting is now officially started when you reach 2491 down some long, deserted hallway and stumble across conference room 2999, filled with people you do not know. On the door is a sticker that says “meeting moved to Conf Rm 2202 (by the stairs).”

Now people in the offices around room 2999 are kind of looking at you because you probably just uttered out loud, “You gotta be fucking kidding me.”

Your smartphone/watch/internal timing mechanism informs you that you are now three minutes late. You hustle back down the hallway to the sign you last passed, only to see that totally different signs are posted facing the other way:

↑ 2491–2500
↓ Conf Rm 2999
← 2000–2050
← Kitchen

All right, now you are six minutes late and you still have no idea where you are in the building. You get a text message on your phone from your boss or other helpful co-worker trying to protect your reputation as not being one of those people who is always late:

“VP is here. We’re all waiting on you to start.”

The VP? The vice president of the division is there? “Oh my God!” you may or may not exclaim out loud. You hustle back to the elevator.

On the way you pass conference room 2202. In your haste and panic, you think you recognize a friend of yours in 2202 who is supposed to be at your meeting, but that can’t be because yours is in 2576. Maybe they just had a more important meeting in 2202 and could not make it to yours. Regardless, you’re seven minutes late and you need to find 2576. Heading in the opposite direction from the elevator’s initial sign, you find, five feet away with no signage pointing you there, conference room 2576. It is filled with people you do not know and has a sticker on it saying “[Your meeting] moved to 2999,” which you realize had the sticker on it saying it was moved to room 2202, which you just passed and now realized is filled with your friend, the people, and the vice president for your meeting.

You may or may not at this point scream out loud, “Motherfucker!” and run back to 2202, forsaking signs altogether. You try as nonchalantly as possible to open the door and enter, saying carefully and slightly breathlessly, “My apologies for being late. I couldn’t find the room.”

The vice president looks you up and down and says, “But had enough free time to get some coffee, I see.”

The signage situation at Microsoft is so pervasive that among some employees, if you want to send a passive-aggressive signal about who needs the meeting more than you, you make all the invitees come to your building. Likewise, if you need to make peace or resolve a conflict you think you might be wrong about, you schedule the meeting in their building as a peace offering.

No, really.