Ups and Downs of the past month

It’s sometimes hard to hold a completely technical blog, particularly when you have long absences from one post to the next. You feel you have to explain yourself to your readership each time you take more than a week or two between posts. This is no different. Despite having a ton of stuff to blog about, I haven’t posted since December. Much of this has to do with regular holiday planning, but much more has happened. For me, this past month has had some major ups and downs for me emotionally and I’m still a little mixed up.

This post will have a great deal of personal information in it, and much of it has nothing to do with IIS, but it should give you some insight into Microsoft if you are interested in that sort of thing.

If you’ve been paying attention to the weather in the Pacific Northwest, you know that on December 14th, we had a major windstorm that knocked out power to over 1 million customers. The bad news is that on December 15th, I had a flight scheduled to go visit my family on the west coast. United Airlines cancelled several flights, which put their check-in line in complete disarray. My flight wasn’t cancelled, but no thanks to United Airlines, I was not able to board my flight, and no other flights could be found for me along with my two cats. My trip was cancelled.

Since I was still in town, I helped put the finishing touches on a “Think Week” paper I had been writing along with two other employees here at Microsoft. Despite the power outages, we were able to make it into one of the buildings at Microsoft and submit our paper by the deadline. It was an interesting experience to submit a paper that every full time employee of the company can read and comment on, including Bill Gates.

I also took the opportunity to work on writing a UI module for IIS in that time. The module was actually finished, but after consulting with one of the developers, I decided to modify the sample and I haven’t had time to clean it up and submit it yet. More on that later.

On December 28th, I got a phone call saying that my grandfather had passed away. My family has always been important to me. My grandparents hold a special place in my heart because they gave me a lot of my determination. My grandfather was a tail-gunner in World War II, had seen more inventions and re-inventions in his lifetime than I could fathom. He always chuckled when I came home to visit and told him about this great “new” thing in technology that would change the world unlike anything else ever had. I didn’t get the joke then, but I do now. I don’t mean to downplay the importance of technology. When putting it in perspective, we are not the first people to change the world and we will certainly not be the last. I’ll miss my grandfather terribly and there are no words to describe how this has changed my world.

It was good, however, to go back home for my grandfather’s funeral. I got to help my dad clean up and set up his workshop. I also got to see one my best friend since I was 8 years old. I haven’t seen him in 10 months since I moved out west to work for Microsoft. I returned from my grandfather’s funeral on the 8th and have tried to get 100% back into the swing of things. I really hadn’t been able to focus on work the way that I usually do until Thursday. I was finally making some headway on a few projects at work.

Before I continue, I need to give some of you some background on me. 20 years ago, when I was in 5th grade, I taught myself Microsoft BASIC and Atari Assembler. I remember telling my parents back then that I was going to work for Microsoft one day. My mom told me to finish my homework first. Of course, I have finished my homework and 20 years later, here I am working for Microsoft and submitting a paper to the very man that started the company. A few weeks had gone by and we received a LOT of feedback about our paper, but none of that feedback is from Mr Gates. We sort of expected that. Bill doesn’t respond to many papers in a year.

However, the other day I got a barely coherent message on my cell phone. It was from one of the co-authors of the think week paper. He was an excited statement about Bill Gates reading our paper. I tried to connect to the VPN to go read the feedback but had some issues because my home network was, shall we say, “in flux”. It drove me nuts that there was feedback from the very man that we addressed the paper to, but I couldn’t read it. I jumped in the shower and then rushed into work to read it personally. During the entire ride to work, I was forcing myself to watch my speed carefully. However, my heart was racing so fast that I think it pushed 10 extra pounds of blood into my right foot. I got to work and quickly opened up the Think Week site and scrolled to our paper. When I read the comment, I couldn’t help but become giddy. The feedback was favorable and verbose — about a page and a half. I was elated and sitting here today, I’m still in shock about the entire thing.

I have to say that I’m extremely thankful for the opportunities we have inside our company. Inside the company, you can tackle any problem that you want. You simply need to apply your efforts in an area, and you’ll likely get the support of your managers, team, and friends. I know there are many people out there who like to point out some negative issues inside Microsoft. Some anonymous blogs out there take a rather candid look at company issues and seem to err on the side of complaining. My experience inside the company so far has been spectacular. It helps that I knew people inside the company before I moved out here. That said, there are many opportunities inside the company to make recommendations and get involved. I can’t be happy enough with that.

So, while this was not a technical post, I felt I owed it to you all to explain where I have been and why I haven’t been blogging (again). Thanks for putting up with me.

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