November 2006

This is an e-mail that some people at MS are sending around. It’s helpful and doesn’t (to my knowledge) contain any MS-only information, so I’m posting it here. It’s rather long, so I chose to wrap it. I’m also testing out this new wrapping code, since the old one didn’t transfer when I switched to Blogger Beta. Click below to expand the post.

So, in a sense, it took me from 10:00pm last night until 4:30am this morning to get home from work (including the detours). I have to say this is probably my longest commute I have ever faced, but for the first time, I actually enjoyed it.

Some tips on driving in the fresh snow (based on my experience in Alaska):

1. Always have a full tank, you never know when you will be stranded in a snow bank or traffic jam.

2. Keep emergency supplies in your trunk, water, clothing, jumper cables, etc

3. Many people have been making comments about speed where ice and snow are an issue. I have learned that it is not the speed that will get you, it is not properly managing the vehicle that will get you. When on ice and snow (fresh), your focus should be on how you control your vehicle not on how fast or slow you are going. These tips will help you to figure out what works best for you.

4. Keep both hands on the wheel, turn down any excess noise maker you got going, including passengers. In Alaska, I learned that you can tell what is going on with the road conditions by feeling the vibrations in the steering wheel and listening to the sounds your wheels make on the road. When the vibrations are normal, you know what it feels like and sounds like. When the vibrations are rough (like driving on a dirt road), this means you are on crushed ice or snow. When the vibrations are low and/or your wheel has a slight slip and/or your wheels sound like they are spinning and not grabbing, then you are on ice. Having this information from your vehicle will help you to determine how to deal with the road conditions you are facing.

5. MOST IMPORTANT ALASKAN RULE I EVER LEARNED: If it’s black and shinny, it is dangerous, if it is white and powdered, it is fairly safe. Why is this so important? A black and shinny road means ice or water on the road. White and powdered (or dull colored) means snow or road sludge. In the snow or road sludge you can obtain better traction. On the ice of course you have the obvious. This is why when I was on my way home, I was able to go 45 while others were putting away at 20 to 25 mph. I was being insane or a lunatic driver, I was using what I knew about the road and what it was telling me.

6. AVOID USING BRAKES. When you have one set of wheels in the snow, you reduce your risk of danger. By increasing your distance from other vehicles in front of you to about 5 or 10 car distance (a good way to judge distance in weather like this is if the vehicle in front of you is kicking up rain, snow, sludge, or any other goodies, and it sprays onto your windshield, you are too close), you are providing yourself some recovery time before the risk of collision. The car in front of you will also provide you with another indicator. If they go out of control, you can bet you will find ice in that area when you get there. Instead of using your brakes to avoid the situation, glide through it by taking your foot slowly off of the accelerator. This will stop you from sliding on the ice or going into an un-controlled spin. If you use your brakes, you will only make the situation more difficult to handle, in fact, it could increase your odds of not surviving the incident.

7. GENTLE ON THE ACCELERATOR. When you are going from a stand still to motion, just take your foot off the break, let the engines idle state start you in motion, then gently depress the accelerator. If you are already in motion, gently apply the accelerator to increase your speed, if you get warning signs from the road, steering wheel, vehicle wheels, sounds, or other vehicles, just ease off the accelerator until the situation has ironed itself out. This method alone will steer you to safety by creating time for reaction to the situation. In addition, you will be decreasing your speed to one that will be easier to get you out of the situation.

8. When you feel the vehicle losing control, first remove your foot from the accelerator, then if you need too, tap your brakes, BUT ONLY IF YOU MUST USE YOUR BRAKES. When tapping your brakes, you want to do this in a 4/4 time in quarter notes (for the music folks) this is roughly a second to two seconds on the brake gently, when you feel it tugging on the vehicle to slow it down, you have applied all you want to apply nothing more. Take your feet completely off the brakes in between to give yourself proper timing. Then re-apply it for another second or two. Repeat as needed. You will find that just taking your foot off the accelerator is usually more than enough to regain control of your car.

9. Another vehicle is out of control and you are behind them, then take your foot off the accelerator and watch which way they go. If they are on the left side and slide to the right, then you know that you will want to go to the left side. Careful to avoid the same slick area. If you head into the same direction they are going, you will run into them.

10. Curves can be deadly. On the freeways around here, the outside of a curve will typically have the higher elevation. If you ride a set of tires into the powdered snow areas on the high side of a curve, you may slide a little, if you find ice, but because you are on the high side of the curve, you should have enough time to regain control of your vehicle. If you are coming into a curve and there is a car beside you on the low end, ease off the accelerator and let them through first, this way, if you slide you will not slide into them and pay for their repairs. This was the situation last night in the Puyallup area. Just at the 410 interchange, there is a high elevation on the curve there and people were sliding from the top left of the road to the bottom right. The semi that went through and caused the delays went right off the side of the road there and I believe the vehicle to the left slid into him to help make the situation worse. When I went through this same section, myself and the van in front of my went through it. We both slid, but regained control by the time we entered the passenger lane.

11. Elevations, hills, etc are the worst. Hills and ice are not good friends unless you want to go sledding. Avoid them at all costs. If you live in an elevated area and there are no other paths to get home, consider a hotel, it’s not worth your life. Think about a route that may go around the area and come back to your area. If you must take the hill, then use the powdered snow idea and avoid going straight up the hill. Especially stay out of vehicle paths where someone else just plowed through it with their wheels spinning. They have just turned it into a race track for you, right to the bottom of the hill. Look for dirt in the road, snow, rough terrain. Anything to give you traction. Seek out the smallest hill to get you up instead of the biggest hill. When going down a hill, use the brake tapping technique to keep you crawling very slowly down the hill. If your speed continues to increase, then just increase the seconds you spend on the brakes. Stay close to the side of the road for any traction you may be able to find. All else fails, stay close to any high rise hill beside the road. If you cannot stop, then head for that hill beside the road, it will slow you down some, maybe enough.

12. Semi trucks are your friend, but you can make enemies of them. If you are passing a semi or beside a semi, they may splash your windshield with snow or ice and make it very difficult to see what is going on with the road. If you must address one, pass as fast as you can without putting yourself in danger. If you cannot get past them, then fall back to a safe distance and wait out for the right time to do it. Truckers are professional drivers, they have many years experience on the road and have had to deal with weather conditions that you may not have. Their experience would be a wise choice for you to follow. What I am saying is that if you have doubts in reading the road and you are nervous, get behind a trucker and follow them to safety. Not only do they have the experience, they also have a higher view of the road ahead and can see warning signs that you may not be able to see. With truckers though, you want to have an even bigger distance between you and them. This will allow you time to react if they “Jack-Knife” the rig. This will allow you enough time to navigate around them.

In addition to all this, it is a good idea to have chains for your vehicle in the trunk. If you have time to prepare, consider snow tires, they help nicely.

All this information is good for fresh snow fall, but if you are heading home today, you have a new enemy to deal with and the road conditions will be different. Instead of powdered snow you will have ice and sludge on the sides of the road, this may not be good. Look for dull grey areas in the path. This is the dry pavement. Use the powdered idea if you are in a situation where you cannot find dry pavement. If you find dark wet appearing areas, that can either be water on the road or it may be black ice. This is the worst ice condition to face. Black ice is hard to see at night and is even more slippery than fresh snow ice conditions. You still use the same techniques above, but you need to identify it quickly and approach it with even more caution. This ice will usually be found in the normal vehicle tracks in the pavement, so try and keep your wheels straddled on either side of the vehicle tracks. This condition changes when you deal with curves, it can be a strip that goes from the top of the curve incline to the bottom. Just ease off the accelerator and let gravity do it’s thing. Don’t fight it, just glide it. Always keep your tires pointed in the desire direction. When they grave some of that dry pavement, it will pull you right out of the situation.

Rear wheeled vehicles, put extra weight in the back, this will help you with traction.

If you find you are still nervous after all this information, stay mostly to the right lanes, except to pass, provide extra space between you and others when passing.

Overall, gentle actions will provide you with time to address the situation. Speed does effect you, but not as severely as the news broadcasters would have you think. Today, a King5 news reporter called a people lunatics who were driving faster than others on the ice. While there may be some really bad drivers out there, to generalize a faster driver as a lunatic may not have been called for. Personally, if this was his opinion, I am concerned about any other advice he had to offer about how to drive in this weather. If you are driving along and comfortably under the speed limit and you feel the conditions in the road and listen to what it tells you, you should be able to make a healthy decision and address the issue by adjusting your speed (taking your foot off the accelerator). This does not make a person a lunatic, just knowledgeable.

Hey I hope you have a safe and wonderful holiday. I also hope these tips are helpful to you. Trash them if you want, your call, just some things I learned growing up in Alaska that have saved my life many times on the freeways. That says a lot when you consider that I have been contracting here off and on for 10 years and 8 contracts and I have spent most of it commuting from Mount Vernon or Puyallup. I have endured ice, snow, water over the roadways where I found myself in a 360 spin, etc. Take it for what it is worth.

Larry E. Hayes (Volt)
Lab Run Manager
Microsoft Visual C Sharp Team


Seriously. The whole Puget Sound campus is shut down because of the weather.

Yesterday I left work at 5 and got hit with some curious hail on the way home. No biggie, the commute wasn’t longer than usual. It was weirder, but not longer. Then, around 8, I get a call from Suresh, saying that he can’t leave work. Apparently, he’s been sitting in the car 15 minutes and hasn’t moved an inch. People of Seattle must realize that this is snow and it’s nothing to be afraid of.

Today, it’s worse. Seems they have no idea that ice on the roads helps melt the snow so that Microsoft can stay open. So, the roads are iced over, half the team has already e-mailed saying they won’t be in, while the other half just read the e-mail with the subject “BUILDING NOTICE: CAMPUS CLOSURE” and decided to stay home, playing their Xbox 360’s. Which is what I should be doing! That e-mail mentioned a few more things (none of which I hope are corporate secrets):

  • Building lobbies are closed, no receptionists
  • The shuttle service is not operating
  • No mail
  • No food in the cafes (which is the reason that I’m staying here until 2 or 3)
  • Corporate calls are automated. I think this means that I’ll get a machine if I try and call to find out about Health Benefits or my stock options.

All because of a bit of ice? True, I lost control of the car twice (for like half a second each time), andI saw one guy trying to go uphill and not making it. He was slowly spinning his wheels and unfortunately slipping down the slope. Whoops. But all those people who have SUV’s and Hummers, what is keeping you from work?

Now, the part where I’m pissed off: What the hell is this crap?! I left Chicago only to get Chicago weather in Seattle? Apparently, according to the Verizon Wireless techie who has no idea what she’s talking about (in respect to my Treo 700p), this snow is very unusual. Winters are supposed to be 62 degreess, not the 23 that my car says it is. 23!

So far, half my team sent e-mails along the lines of “WFH”, working from home, “WAH”, work at home, or “OOF”, out of office (don’t ask me, they tell me that’s the acronym and that I should RTFM and STFU). One of the guy was more original: My reindeer are on strike. I think this is the older guy with a white beard, the one I’ve been internally referring to as Santa.

I’m on Facebook. Yes. No, I’m not an addict. No, it does not run my life. I check it every few days, to see if anyone poked me or wrote on my wall or whatever. I barely ever write on people’s walls. I don’t accept invites to events or groups. In short, Facebook is next to nothing to me.

OK, now that that’s over with, moving on to my actual post.

Taty recently joined this curious group called You know you’re a “nice Russian girl” if… (you have to sign in to Facebook to see this one) There’s a whole list of stereotypical things associated with being a “nice” Russian girl. Sort of like one of my favorites, What Kind of Asian are You? Now, this group sent shivers down my spine. Unlike most foreigners in America (don’t know how foreigners behave in other countries), I don’t hang out or associate with Russian people. You know what I’m talking about. There’s that table in the cafe that you swear is actually Chinese territory. That group of Indian kids in front of you at the movie theater doesn’t include people who’ve never heard of Murli Prasad Sharma. The black-leather-jackets walking by your office are all speaking Russian. I don’t like big gatherings of Russian people for one reason: most of the Russian people I’ve met are nuts. There are a number of exceptions, of course. But there’s such a high rate of weirdness, I just steer clear of that whole group-mingling thing.

What are the things that bug me about these Russians? Lets do it with a nice bullet-point list:

  • The only people they know or socialize with are other Russian immigrants
  • They care more about money than anything else
  • They care more about image than anything else, except money
  • They treat all-things Russian as the best-and-only choice (stick a Russian flag into a pile of manure and they’ll follow it off a cliff)
  • They never try anything non-Russian (try suggesting Italian for dinner or going out to dim sum)
  • They despise other nationalities/cultures/whatever to the point of being offensive and racist (I once heard of a Russian immigrant complaining about immigrants from Mexico)
  • They bitch and moan about how crappy America is and how the old country is the pinnacle of civilization
  • They adore gaudy fashions: purple hair, too much make up, leopard-print shirts and a track suit are perfect church attire

It’s probably because I’m biased and pin my own imperfections on people with whom I can easily associate. But I don’t care. Maybe in a few years, after I’ve spent a considerable amount of time and money on therapy, maybe then I’ll be able to hang out with a bunch of Russian people and not come away with a feeling closely approaching disgust. Not yet.

If you’re Russian and are offended by what I said, ask yourself, do three or more of the traits I’ve listed describe you? If so, maybe you should be more concerned about working on your own issues than with one stupid blog being written by an asshole in serious need of sleep.

Oh, and if you’re one of those people whose opinion of themselves depends on what other people think about them, go jump off a cliff. That’s what we all think you should do. It’s certainly a better alternative to what you have going on right now.

One geek asked another if it was possible to build an Xbox 360 laptop. The second geek took this challenge on and three months later, this glorious monstrosity was born.


Link to the step-by-step assembly blog

This thing weighs 14 lbs. Regardless, I’d buy it in a heart-beat.

I was at Jeem yesterday, for dim sum, and was asked twice if I needed a fork. Whaa? This is the first time this has happened to me in a few years. I think last time someone said this was at Bobo in Champaign.

I wasn’t even struggling with the chopsticks or anything. Certainly I wasn’t sticking them in my nose, confused as to their use. I’m here for dim sum and you assume this is the first time I’ve ever encountered chopsticks? Should I offer my waiters a dictionary when they don’t understand me? Would that be racist? Isn’t their assumption toward my chopstick familiarity also racist?

Here’s a question I got on QuestionSwap:

do you consider even positive stereotypes racism? (ex: black people are good at sports, asian people are good at math)

My answer:

Going strictly by the definition of racism (1. The belief that members of one race are superior to members of other races, 2. The belief that members of one ethnic group are superior to members of another ethnic group, 3. The belief that capability or behavior can be racially defined), positive stereotypes are indeed racist.

Not going by the strict definition, I believe positive stereotypes are still racist. A statement “Asian people are good at math” implies that race determines, to a certain extent, a person’s intelligence. If this is assumed to be true, it follows that while Asians are smart, some race has to be dumb. This is racism.

This is somewhat off-topic: these stereotypes exist for a particular reason. Saying “Asian people are good at math” is racist and inaccurate. However, saying “on average, Chinese students attending urban schools exceed their counterparts from other parts of the world in the subject of math” is not racist and is factually correct. So, there are “acceptable” ways to express your sentiment, as long as you don’t base things on race and present factual arguments.

Minesweeper, originally uploaded by FuzzyGamer.

My dad and I had a little competition over the holidays, trying to beat each other’s time at Minesweeper. When I left, I held the high-score with 131 seconds. My dad just sent me this picture. I responded with “what the hell?”

Honestly, how does one go about getting a score as low as 31 without digitally manipulating the screen shot?

It’s snowing, originally uploaded by FuzzyGamer.

Zoom in to make sure, or just take my word for it.

Guess tomorrow Microsoft will be empty as people try and cope with this disaster.

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