The Old New Thing

A decidedly Canadian response to the shambles that was the running portion of the modern pentathlon in Beijing

Living so close to the United States-Canada border means that there's a lot of friendly teasing of the many Canadians in our midst. It's a good thing Canadians as a whole seem to have a pretty good sense of humor about it. (Well, except the Quebecers. Those humorless grumps.) The final stage of the modern pentathlon is supposed to be a cross-...

I'm sorry, Brian/Bryan Gregory, that confirming the spelling of your name is too much for you to handle

At 10am on November 30, I received a telephone call at work with "Anonymous" as the caller ID. Strange. But maybe it's the same person who called my office phone from New York at 1am on the day after Thanksgiving and didn't leave a message, and they're just following up on the first business day after the holiday weekend. "Hello?" — ...

How to write like Raymond: Start a sentence with a question mark

Another installment in the extremely sporadic series on how to write like Raymond. I use the question mark as an emoticon to indicate befuddlement or confusion. (This is not to be confused with the use of an inverted question mark in Spanish.) Here's an imaginary example: To: Cakes and Cookies Discussion Hi, I'm trying to bake a carrot ...

Things I've written that have amused other people, Episode 5

A question was sent to an internal discussion list for users of the XYZ tool: From: Q To: XYZ Users The GHI function in the JKL tool doesn't work for me. «description of problem deleted» I responded with this message: To: Q, XYZ Users The JKL tool is not part of XYZ. You should contact the author of the JKL tool. The ...

I’m sorry, Brian George, but we got cut off and I couldn’t call you back

Yesterday, at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, I receive a telephone call at work. There is that characteristic pause after connecting which tells me that I have probably just been called by a telemarketer. "Hello?" — Hello, I'm Brian George from Liquid Capital Management. Our company founder, Brian Kim, has been working closely with ...

The social skills of a thermonuclear device: Why did you hang up?

One morning I'm working in my office and I'm interrupted by a telephone call. The caller-ID shows that it came in through the switchboard. (I.e., somebody called the main Microsoft number and asked for me by name.) Me: Hello? Caller: [angrily] Mr. Chen, why did you hang up? I don't recognize the voice, and I haven't received a phone ...

How to write like Raymond: Intentional typographical errors

I'm a pretty good speller. If I want to show impatience, I will type very fast and make no attempt to fix the typographical errors. Here's an example: Somebody asked me what the correct name is for a particular user interface element. i don't nkow. call up the online hep and see what the ycall it. It may surprise you to know that I am ...

Sorry, I don’t get calls on this phone often

Many years ago, I was in a small meeting: It consisted of the project manager, me, and one other person. Just a quick little status meeting to discuss how things were going. We were a few minutes into the meeting when the project manager's cell phone rang. Now, this was back in the days before cell phones were ubiquitous. They were pretty ...

How to write like Raymond: What I tell you three times is true

Another installment in the extremely sporadic series on how to write like Raymond. On occasion, I'll find myself engaged in a mail thread with a customer who refuses to believe what they're being told and is under the impression that rephrasing the question will get a different answer. "My customer wants to control the name and appearance of...

We're all in this together: Maintaining common tools

In the Windows division, as with any other product group, there is a common "bag of tools" that people tend to rely on to get through the day. Occasionally, somebody will encounter a problem with one of these tools. When I run Program Q, I get the message XYZ, and then it appears to get stuck in an infinite loop allocating more and more ...