I’ve spent the last two years leading a PM team that has been part of building software experiences that make me immensely proud. The team has built software experiences that millions of people will use in Windows 8 and a developer platform will enable thousands of developers to build great software. Over the course of the past year we’ve delivered

  1. The social experiences in the Windows 8 People app. With Windows 8 you get a great browse and share your friends’ updates on Facebook and Twitter. The feedback we’ve received about this functionality has been extremely positive which has been quite humbling.

  2. A straightforward way for Metro style apps to take advantage of Single Sign On in Windows with the Live SDK.

  3. A developer platform for SkyDrive which has enabled developers to integrate SkyDrive across multiple apps, websites and devices.

This has been one of the most exciting and fulfilling times of my career. After about eight years working in the same organization at Microsoft, first as part of MSN and now Windows Live I’ve decided to move to another part of the company.

Over the course of the past few years, I’ve looked on at Microsoft’s search competition with Google and often wondered why although there’s been a lot of focus on beating or matching Google in search relevance and experience, there hasn’t been as much heard about how we’d compete with AdWords especially since that’s actually how we make money in the space.

Recently I was giving one of my friends who works in our ads space feedback after using a number of ads products including Facebook ads, Google ads and Microsoft’s. He asked if instead of complaining about what I wouldn’t rather just come join the team and actually help out. I thought “why not?” and since then I’ve become a lead program manager on the Bing Ads team.

My new team will be responsible for a number of things including the Bing Ads API. Regular readers of my blog shouldn’t expect any changes. If anything I’ll try to increase my pace of posting once I’m ramped up in my new gig and can come up with a sane blog posting schedule.

Note Now Playing: Big Boi - Fo Yo Sorrows (featuring George Clinton and Too Short) Note


Categories: Personal

April 13, 2009
@ 12:14 AM

Note Now Playing: Jay-Z - A Dream Note


Categories: Personal

March 18, 2009
@ 12:31 PM

I still dream about being back in the Nigerian military school which I attended two decades ago. Wow, two decades.

Wow, even trippier is that the school has a web site.

Note Now Playing: Supremes - Stop! In The Name Of Love Note


Categories: Personal

Below is a chart of home prices in my zipcode taken from Zillow 

We bought our house around the peak of that chart. According to Zillow our home seems to have lost about $50,000 in value since we bought it. That seems high on the surface but I know of at least one house in our neighborhood that just sold for $60,000 less than what the owners paid for it around the same time we bought our house.

I don't expect that the recently announced home owner rescue plan by the Obama administration (which is covered in a great Q & A in the New York Times blog) will have any effect on us given that we can afford our house and aren't in dire financial straits. Unless I end up one of the 3,600 waiting for the other shoe to drop and can't find a new job. At least I'm no longer an H-1B so I don't have to worry about needing to leave the country within a week or two if laid off.

I expect house prices to drop even further before we hit the bottom. This is a rational expectation when you look at the following chart

None of this would be a concern if we plan to live here for the next 20 – 30 years. However I have a horrible daily commute and as a new dad I'm not enamored with the schools in the area. 

So I punched some numbers into Pay Or Go: Walk away from your mortgage calculator and the result was a recommendation to walk away if we don't expect the house to appreciate back to the price we paid for it in the next 5 – 7 years. Given the historical chart above, I don't.

Articles like Silicon Valley 'underwater' homeowners: Should I stay or go? point out that the biggest consequence of walking away is having a blemish on your credit score for up to seven years. This implies to me that if moving to a neighborhood whose schools I feel better about is important then it makes sense to take the credit hit now, rent a place and put away the cost savings over the next seven years so we can have a great down payment when we want to move to that house in the great school district when Nathan will be about 7 years old.

On the one hand, I feel like I'm shirking some financial responsibilities even thinking about this but on the other hand I want to do what's best for my family. What do you guys think?

Note Now Playing: Bob Marley & The Wailers - Redemption Song Note


Categories: Personal

I've been hearing the term deflation being bandied about by TV news pundits with Japan being used as the popular example of this phenomenon for the past few months. The claim is that if the trend of price drops in the U.S. continues then we will be headed for deflation. When I first saw these stories I wondered what exactly is wrong with falling prices? Well…

Everywhere you look assets are worth less than they were a year ago. Gas prices are lower, house prices are lower, and stock portfolios are lower. At first I considered this a net positive. According to Zillow my house is now worth 10% less than what we paid for it almost two years ago and my 401(k) lost about 35% during the 2008 calendar year. However I treated this as a "correction" since these were in effect paper losses since I bought my house to live in not to flip it and I'm not planning to spend out of my 401(k) until retirement. On the other hand lower gas prices and cheaper consumer goods at Christmas time had a real and positive effect on my bottom line.

In addition, despite the media's claim that people were hoarding we planned to ignore the hype and help the local economy by continuing our plans to have our bathroom remodeled and get a new car later in the year (my wife has her eye on the Ford Flex).

As each week passes I've been less sure of our plans to "help the local economy" and last week's announcement by my employer to eliminate 5,000 jobs within the next 18 months began to make the plans seem downright irresponsible. At this point we've decided to hold off on the purchases and are debating the safest way to hold on the money and still retain value. My behavior sounded familiar and I looked up Wikipedia for information about deflation in Japan it was interesting to see the parallels

Systemic reasons for deflation in Japan can be said to include:

  • Fallen asset prices. There was a rather large price bubble in both equities and real estate in Japan in the 1980s (peaking in late 1989). When assets decrease in value, the money supply shrinks, which is deflationary.
  • Insolvent companies: Banks lent to companies and individuals that invested in real estate. When real estate values dropped, these loans could not be paid. The banks could try to collect on the collateral (land), but this wouldn't pay off the loan. Banks have delayed that decision, hoping asset prices would improve. These delays were allowed by national banking regulators. Some banks make even more loans to these companies that are used to service the debt they already have. This continuing process is known as maintaining an "unrealized loss", and until the assets are completely revalued and/or sold off (and the loss realized), it will continue to be a deflationary force in the economy. Improving bankruptcy law, land transfer law, and tax law have been suggested (by The Economist) as methods to speed this process and thus end the deflation.
  • Insolvent banks: Banks with a larger percentage of their loans which are "non-performing", that is to say, they are not receiving payments on them, but have not yet written them off, cannot lend more money; they must increase their cash reserves to cover the bad loans.
  • Fear of insolvent banks: Japanese people are afraid that banks will collapse so they prefer to buy gold or (United States or Japanese) Treasury bonds instead of saving their money in a bank account. This likewise means the money is not available for lending and therefore economic growth. This means that the savings rate depresses consumption, but does not appear in the economy in an efficient form to spur new investment. People also save by owning real estate, further slowing growth, since it inflates land prices.
  • Imported deflation: Japan imports Chinese and other countries' inexpensive consumable goods, raw materials (due to lower wages and fast growth in those countries). Thus, prices of imported products are decreasing. Domestic producers must match these prices in order to remain competitive. This decreases prices for many things in the economy, and thus is deflationary.

The crazy thing is that this sounds like a description of the United States of America today. That's when I understood that the threat of a deflationary spiral is very real. If people like me start hoarding cash then businesses get less customers which causes them to lower prices in return. With lower prices, they make less money and thus need to cut costs so they have layoffs. Now the local situation is worse giving people even more conviction in holding on to their cash and so on. The bit about imported goods kicking the butts of locally produced items in the marketplace is also especially apt given the recent drama about the automobile bailout

Anyway, it looks like we are at the start of a deflationary spiral. The interesting question is whether there is anything anyone can do to stop it before it fully gets underway.


Categories: Current Affairs | Personal

A few days ago someone asked how long I've been at Microsoft and I was surprised to hear myself say about 7 years. I hadn't consciously thought about it for a while but my 7th anniversary at the company is coming up in a few weeks. I spent a few days afterwards wondering if I have a seven year itch and thinking about what I want to do next in my career. 

I realized that I couldn't be happier right now. I get to build the core platform that powers the social software experience for half a billion users with a great product team (dev, test, ops) and very supportive management all the way up the chain. This hasn't always been the case. 

I went through my seven year itch period about two years ago. I had always planned for my career at Microsoft to be short since I've never considered myself to be a big company person. Around that time, I looked around at a couple of places both within and outside Microsoft. I had some surprisingly good hiring experiences and some that were surprisingly bad (as bad as this thread makes the Google hiring process seem, trust me it is worse than that) then came away with a surprising conclusion. The best place to build the kind of software I wanted to build was at Microsoft. I started working in online services at Microsoft because I believed Social Software is the Platform of the Future and wanted to build social experiences that influence how millions of people connect with each other. What I realized after my quick look around at other opportunities is that no one has more potential in this space than Microsoft. Today when I read articles about our recent release, it validates my belief that Microsoft will be the company to watch when it comes to bringing "social" to software in a big way. 


In my almost seven years in the software industry, I've had a number of friends go through the sense of needing change or career dissatisfaction which leads to the seven year itch. Both at Microsoft and elsewhere. Some of them have ended up dealing with this poorly and eventual became disgruntled and unhappy with their jobs which turns into a vicious cycle.  On the other hand, I know a bunch of people that went from being unhappy or disgruntled about their jobs to becoming happy and productive employees who are more satisfied with their career choices. For the latter class of people, here are the three most successful, proactive steps I've seen them make

  1. Change your perspective: Sometimes employees fall into situations where the reality for working on product X or team Y at company Z is different from their expectations. It could be a difference in development philosophy (e.g. the employee likes Agile practices like SCRUM and the product team does not practice them), technology choice (e.g. wanting to use the latest technologies whereas the product team has a legacy product in C++ with millions of customers) or one of many other differences in expectations versus reality.

    The realization that leads to satisfaction in this case is that it isn't necessarily the case that what the organization is doing is wrong (e.g. rewriting an app from scratch just to use the latest technologies is never a good idea), it's just that what the employee would prefer isn't a realistic option for the organization or is just a matter of personal preference (e.g. the goal of the organization is to deliver a product on time and under budget not to use a specific development practice). Of course, these are contrived examples but the key point should be clear. If you're unhappy because your organization doesn't meet your expectations it could be that your expectations are what needs adjusting.

  2. Change your organization: As the Mahatma Gandhi quote goes, Be the change you wish to see in the world. Every organization can be changed from within. After all, a lot of the most successful projects at Microsoft and around the software industry came about because a passionate person had a dream and did the leg work to convince enough people to share that dream. Where people often stumble is in underestimating the amount of leg work it takes to convince people to share their dream (and sometimes this leg work may mean writing a lot of code or doing a lot of research). .

    For example, when you go from reading Harvard Business School articles like Microsoft vs. Open Source: Who Will Win? in 2005 to seeing an Open Source at Microsoft portal in 2008, you have to wonder what happens behind the scenes to cause that sort of change. It took the prodding of a number of passionate Open Source ambassadors at Microsoft as well as other influences to get this to happen.

  3. Change your job: In some cases, there are irreconcilable differences between an employee and the organization they work for. The employee may have lost faith in the planned direction of the product, the product's management team or the entire company as a whole. In such cases the best thing to do is to part ways amicably before things go south.

    Being on an H-1B visa I'd heard all sorts of horror stories about being the equivalent of an indentured servant when working for an American software company but this has proven to be far from the truth. There is an H-1B transfer process that allows you to switch employers without having to re-apply for a visa or even inform your current employer. If you work at a big company and are paper-work averse, you can stick to switching teams within the company. This is especially true for Microsoft where there are hundreds of very different products (operating systems, databases, Web search engines, video game console hardware, social networking software, IT, web design, billing software, etc) with very different cultures to choose from.

These are the steps that I've seen work for friends and coworkers who've been unhappy in their jobs who've successfully been able to change their circumstances. The people who don't figure out how to execute one of the steps above eventually become embittered and are never a joy to be around.

Note Now Playing: Estelle (feat. Kanye West) - American Boy Note


I spent the last few days hacking on a side project that I thought some of my readers might find interesting; you can find it at http://hottieornottie.cloudapp.net 

I had several goals when embarking on this project

After a few days of hacking I'm glad to say I've achieved every goal I wanted to get out of this experiment. I'd like to thank Matt Cutts for the initial idea on how to implement this and Kevin Mark's for saving me from having to write a Twitter crawler by reminding me of Google's Social Graph API.

What it does and how it works

The search experiment provides four kinds of searches

  1. The search functionality with no options checked is exactly the same as search.twitter.com

  2. Checking "Search Near Me" finds all tweets posted by people who are within 30 miles of your geographical location (requires JavaScript). Your geographical location is determined from your IP address while the geographical location of the tweets is determined from the location fields of the Twitter profiles of the authors. Nice way to find out what people in your area are thinking about local news.

  3. Checking 'Sort By Follower Count' is my attempt to jump on the authority based Twitter search bandwagon. I don't think it's very useful but it was easy to code. Follower counts are obtained via the Google Social Graph API.

  4. Checking 'Limit to People I Follow' requires you to also specify your user name and then all search results are filtered to only return results from people you follow (requires JavaScript). This feature only works for a small subset of Twitter users that have been encountered by a crawler I wrote. The application is crawling Twitter friend lists as you read this and anyone I follow should already have their friend list crawled. If it doesn't work for you, check back in a few days. It's been slow going since Twitter puts a 100 request per hour cap on crawlers.

Developing on Windows Azure: Likes

After building a small scale application with Windows Azure, there are definitely a number of things I like about the experience. The number one thing I loved was the integrated deployment story with Visual Studio. I can build a regular ASP.NET application on my local machine that either used cloud or local storage resources and all it takes is a few mouse clicks to go from my code running on my machine to my code running on computers in Microsoft's data center either in a staging environment or in production. The fact that the data access APIs are all RESTful makes it super easy to go from pointing the app running on your machine to cloud storage or local storage on your machine simply by changing some base URIs in a configuration file. 

Another aspect of Windows Azure that I thought was great is how easy it is to create background processing tasks. It was very straightforward to create a Web crawler that crawled Twitter to build a copy of its social graph by simply adding a "Worker Role" to my project. I've criticized Google App Engine in the past for not supporting the ability to create background tasks so it is nice to see this feature in Microsoft's platform as a service offering. 

Developing on Windows Azure: Dislikes

The majority of my negative experiences were related to teething problems I'd associate with this being a technology preview that still needs polishing. I hit a rather frustrating bug where half the time I tried to run my application it would end up hanging and I'd have to try again after several minutes. There were also issues with the Visual Studio integration where removing or renaming parts of the project from the Visual Studio UI didn't modify all of the related configuration files so the app was in a broken state until I mended it by hand. Documentation was another place where there is still a lot of work to do. My favorite head scratching moment is that there is a x-ms-Metadata-ApproximateMessagesCount HTTP header which returns the approximate number of messages in the a queue. It is unclear whether "approximate" here refers to the fact that messages in the queue have an "invisibility period" between when they are popped from the queue but before they are deleted where they can't be accessed or whether it refers to some other heuristic that determines the size of the queue. Then there's the fact that the documentation says you need to have a partition key and row key for each entry you place in a table but doesn't really explain why or how you are supposed to pick these keys. In fact, the documentation currently makes it seem like the notion of partition keys is an example of unnecessarily surfacing implementation details of Windows Azure to developers in a way that leads to confusion and cargo cult programming.

One missing piece is the lack of good tools for debugging your application once it is running in the cloud. When it is running on your local machine there is a nice viewer to keep an eye on the log output from your application but once it is in the cloud, your only option is to have the logs dropped to some directory in the cloud and then run one of the code samples to access those logs from your local machine. Since this is a technology preview, it is expected that the tooling shouldn't be all there but it is a cumbersome process as it exists today. Besides accessing your debug output there is also seeing what data your application is actually creating, retrieving and otherwise manipulating in storage. You can use SQL Server Management Studio to look at your data in Table Storage on your local machine but there isn't a similar experience in the cloud. Neither blob nor queue storage have any off-the-shelf tools for inspecting their contents locally or in the cloud so developers have to write custom code by hand. Perhaps this is somewhere the developer community can step up with some Open Source tools (e.g. David Aiken's Windows Azure Online Log Reader) or perhaps some commercial vendors will do step in as they have in the case of Amazon's Web Services (e.g. RightScale)?

Outside of the polish issues and bugs, there was only one aspect of Windows Azure development I disliked; the structured data/relational schema development process. Windows Azure has a Table Storage API which provides a RESTful interface to a row-based data store similar in concept to Google's BigTable. Trying to program locally against this API is rather convoluted and requires writing your classes first then running some object<->relational translation tools on your assemblies. This is probably a consequence of not being a big believer the use of ORM tools so having to first write objects before I can access my DB seems backwards to me. This gripe may just be a matter of preference since a lot of folks who use Rails, Django and various other ORM technologies seem fine with having primarily an object facade over their databases.  

Update: Early on in my testing I got a The requested operation is not implemented on the specified resource error when trying out a batch query and incorrectly concluded that the Table Storage API did not support complex OR queries. It turns out that the problem was that I was doing a $filter query using the tolower function. Once I took out the tolower() it was straightforward to construct queries with a bunch of OR clauses so I could request for multiple row keys at once.

I'll file this under "documentation issues" since there is a list of unsupported LINQ query operators and unsupported LINQ comparison operators but not a list of unsupported query expression functions in the Table Storage API documentation. Sorry about any confusion and thanks to Jamie Thomson for asking about this so I could clarify.

Besides the ORM issue, I felt that I was missing some storage capabilities when trying to build my application. One of the features I started building before going with the Google Social Graph API was a quick way to provide the follower counts for a batch of users. For example, I'd get 100 search results from the Twitter API and would then need to look up the follower counts of each user that showed up in the results for use in sorting. However there was no straightforward way to implement this lookup service in Windows Azure. Traditionally, I'd have used one of the following options

  1. Create a table of {user_id, follower_count} in a SQL database and then use batches of ugly select statements like SELECT FROM follower_tbl WHERE id=xxxx OR id=yyyy OR id=zzzz OR ….
  2. Create tuples of {user_id, follower_count} in an in-memory hash table like memcached and then do a bunch of fast hash table lookups to get the follower counts from each user

Neither of these options is possible given the three data structures that Windows Azure gives you. It could be that these missing pieces are intended to be provided by SQL Data Services which I haven't taken a look at yet. If not, the lack of these pieces of functionality will be sticking point in the craw of developers making the switch from traditional Web development platforms.

Note Now Playing: Geto Boys - Gangsta (Put Me Down) Note


Categories: Personal | Programming

November 5, 2008
@ 06:10 PM

It feels good to realize that I can tell him that he can grow up to be president with a straight face. Congratulations to Team Obama.

Note Now Playing: Young Jeezy - My President (Feat. Nas) Note


Categories: Personal

October 18, 2008
@ 02:18 AM

At 4:58 AM this morning, Nathan Omotoyinbo Obasanjo became the newest addition to our family. He was a healthy 9 pounds 6 ounces and was born at the Eastside Birth Center in Bellevue. His journey into our home has been fraught with delays and some drama which I'll recount here for posterity.

Tuesday – October 14th
At around midnight his mother let me know that she'd been having contractions for the past few hours and was ready to call the midwives. We drove to the birthcenter and arrived sometime before 2 AM. We were met by the midwife on call (Loren Riccio) who was later joined by two interns (not sure if that's what they're called). We also called my mother-in-law and she joined us there about 30 minutes later.  After a few hours and some time spent getting in and out of the tub (we planned to have a water birth) it became clear that my wife was either going through pre-labor or false labor and we were sent home at around 6AM.  We got home and I slept for about three or four hours then had to rush into work because I was scheduled to give a talk on the platform we built to power a key feature in Windows Live's Wave 3 release at Microsoft. I got there on time, the presentation was well received and I got to chat with my management folks about some blog drama that blew up the previous night. When I scheduled the presentation, I'd assumed Nathan would already have been born since the midwives gave us a due date of October 7th. Thankfully, my wife's mom stayed with her at home so I didn't have to make the choice between leaving my wife by herself at home and giving the talk. Later that day we went in for our previously scheduled midwife appointment with Christine Thain. She suggested that we come in the next day if the labor didn't kick in that night.
Wednesday - October 15th
We actually went in to see Christine twice that day. We went in early in the morning and she gave us some herbs (Gossypium) that are supposed to encourage the onset of labor. So we had a delicious lunch at Qdoba and ran a bunch of errands before going back to see Christine later that evening. She checked Jenna's progress and it didn't look like the baby was ready to be born yet. At this point we started questioning whether we wanted to stay the course with a natural childbirth and wait possibly for another week before the baby was born or if we wanted to go to a hospital and have an induction of labor. To take our minds of the waiting game, we decided to watch Don't Mess with the Zohan as a lighthearted diversion to keep our spirits up. It didn't help much especially since the movie was awful. During the movie, Jenna started having contractions and after confirming that they seemed more productive than from Monday night we called the midwife and the mother-in-law then rushed to the birth center. Unfortunately, it turned out to be another false alarm. At this point we started feeling like the boy who cried wolf especially since we'd had the two interns get up out of bed twice during the past two days.
Thursday - October 16th
Around 5AM Jenna woke me up and told me that she'd been having contractions for the past hour. Since we'd already scheduled an early morning checkup with Christine for 8AM we didn't feel the need to call the birth center's emergency number. When we got to the birth center there was already someone else going through labor in the birth suite. So we had to have an office visit where we learned that these contractions weren't productive either. At this point we made the call that we'd go in to the hospital on Friday to have the baby induced and had Christine make an appointment. Later that day we were grocery shopping and we got a call from Christine. We decided to go in one more time to the birth center to see if we could get one last checkup before going to the hospital on Friday. When we got there the lady from the morning was still in labor almost eleven hours later. So we had another office visit and discussed the pros & cons of going to the hospital versus trying to wait out a natural birth. At the end of the talk we stuck with the decision to go to the hospital although that was dependent on there being available beds.
Friday - October 17th
At about 1:30 AM I'm awoken by my wife who's going through very painful contractions. After timing the contractions for a while we decide to go into the birth center. This time I don't call my mother-in-law until after we've arrived at the birth center and the progress of the labor was confirmed. I also send a text message to my mom telling her yet again that we're having the baby and this time it's for real. Nathan was born just over 2 hours after we arrived at the birth center. Later on we found out that the lady who'd been in the labor or the entirety of the previous day ended up being sent to the hospital and had her baby at around the same time Nathan was being born.

So far, our previous addition to the family has been getting along great with Nathan.

Note Now Playing: Jadakiss - The Champ Is Here Note


Categories: Personal

October 12, 2008
@ 08:24 PM

Bloglines stopped polling my feed over a week ago probably due to a temporary error in my feed. I've been trying to find a way to get them to re-enable my feed given that for the 1,670 subscribed to my feed on their service my blog hasn't been updated since October 3rd. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a way to contact the product team.

I sent a mail via the contact form but didn't get a response and their support forum is overrun with spam which leads me to believe it has been abandoned. Any ideas on how I can get Bloglines to start polling my feed again?

Note Now Playing: Babyface - When Can I See You Note


Categories: Personal

Yesterday there was a news article on MSNBC that claimed 1 in 6 now owe more on their mortgage then their property is worth. The article states

The relentless slide in home prices has left nearly one in six U.S. homeowners owing more on a mortgage than the home is worth, raising the possibility of a rise in defaults — the very misfortune that touched off the credit crisis last year. The result of homeowners being "underwater" is more pressure on an economy that is already in a downturn. No longer having equity in their homes makes people feel less rich and thus less inclined to shop at the mall.

And having more homeowners underwater is likely to mean more eventual foreclosures, because it is hard for borrowers in financial trouble to refinance or sell their homes and pay off their mortgage if their debt exceeds the home's value. A foreclosed home, in turn, tends to lower the value of other homes in its neighborhood.

Among people who bought within the past five years, it's worse: 29 percent are underwater on their mortgages, according to an estimate by real-estate Web site Zillow.com.

According to Zillow, our home is one of those that is currently "underwater" because it's estimated value has dropped $25,000 since we bought it according to their algorithms. Given that we bought our home last year I don't doubt that we are underwater and in fact I expect our home value to only go down further. This is because the disparity between median house values and median incomes is still fairly stark even with the current depreciation in the neighborhood.

Here's what I mean; according to Zillow the median household income in the area is about $46,000 while the median home price is around $345,000. This disparity is shocking when you apply some of the basic rules from the "old days" before we had the flood of easy credit which led up to the current crises. For argument's sake, let's assume that everyone that moves to the area actually pays the traditional 20% down payment even though the personal savings rate of the average American is in the negative. This means they need a mortgage of $276,000. Plugging that number into a simple mortgage calculator assuming a 30 year loan at 5.75% interest gives a monthly mortgage payment of over $1600.

Using the traditional debt-to-income ratio of 0.28 a person with $46,000 in gross income shouldn't get a mortgage that over $1100 because they are hard pressed to afford it. Using another metric, the authors of the Complete Idiot's Guide to Buying and Selling a Home argue that you shouldn't get a mortgage over 2 1/2 times your household income which still has us with around $150,000 being the appropriate size of a mortgage that someone that lives in my neighborhood can afford.

However you slice it even assuming a 20% down payment, the people in my neighborhood live in homes that they couldn't afford to get a legitimate mortgage on at today's prices. That is fundamentally broken. 

Things get particularly clear when you look at the chart below and realize that house prices rose over $100,000 dollars in the past five years. 

A lot of people have started talking about "stabilizing home prices" and "bailing out home owners" because of underwater mortgages. In truth, easy credit caused houses to become overpriced especially when you consider that house prices were rising at a much faster rate than wages. Despite the current drop, house prices are still unrealistic and will need to come down further. Trying to prevent that from happening is like trying to have our cake and eat it too. You just can't.

I expect that more banks will end up having to create programs like Bank of America's Nationwide Homeownership Retention for CountryWide Customers which will modify mortgage principals and interest rates downwards in a move that will end up costing them over $8.6 billion but will make it more likely that their customers can afford to pay their mortgages. I'm surprised that it took a class action lawsuit to get this to happen instead of common sense. Then again it is 8.6 BILLION dollars. 

Note Now Playing: 50 Cent - When It Rains It Pours Note


Categories: Current Affairs | Personal

October 7, 2008
@ 03:37 PM

I logged in to my 401K account today and was greeted by the following message

Personal Rate of Return from 01/01/2008 to 10/06/2008 is -23.5%

Of course, it could have been worse,  I could have had it all in the stock market.

I've been chatting with co-workers who've only posted single digit percentage loses (i.e. their 401K is down less than 10% this year) and been surprised that every single person in that position had hedged their bets by having a large chunk of their 401K as cash. I remember Joshua advising me to do this a couple of months ago when things started looking bad but I took it as paranoia, now I wish I had listened.

Of course, I'd still have the problem of having to trust the institution that was holding the cash like the guy from the MSNBC article excerpted below

Mani Behimehr, a home designer living in Tustin, Calif., isn't feeling reassured after what happened to WaMu and Wachovia. After he heard the news that WaMu had been seized and sold to JP Morgan, he rushed out to withdraw about $150,000 in savings and opened a new account at Wachovia only to learn about its sale to Citigroup two days later.

"I thought this is the strongest economy in the world; nothing like that happens in this country," said Behimehr, 46, who is originally from Iran.

At least I don't have to worry about living off of my 401(k) anytime soon.

Update: A commenter brought up that I should explain what a 401(k) account is for non-US readers. From wikipedia; in the United States of America, a 401(k) plan allows a worker to save for retirement while deferring income taxes on the saved money and earnings until withdrawal. The employee elects to have a portion of his or her wage paid directly, or "deferred," into his or her 401(k) account. In participant-directed plans (the most common option), the employee can select from a number of investment options, usually an assortment of mutual funds that emphasize stocks, bonds, money market investments, or some mix of the above.

Note Now Playing: Abba - Money, Money, Money Note


Categories: Current Affairs | Personal

March 5, 2008
@ 04:00 AM

I’ve been writing a personal weblog for almost seven years. It’s weird to go back and read some of the posts in my old kuro5hin diary such as my early postings about interning at Microsoft and see how much my perspectives have changed in some ways and stayed the same in others. Anyway…

Although I’ve found this weblog to be personally fulfilling, the time has come for me to put it aside for the time being. This will be the last post on http://www.25hoursaday.com/weblog.

In addition, I’ll be cleaning up my Twitter and Facebook profiles by removing anyone who I haven’t personally met from my list of followers and friends respectively.

I will continue to work on and blog about RSS Bandit. I haven’t yet picked a location for a new blog for the project. However this shouldn’t impact subscribers to my RSS Bandit feed since it is already hosted on Feedburner and a redirect shouldn’t be noticeable.

Thanks for everything.

PS: See also The Year the Blog Died.

Now playing: Boyz II Men - End of the Road


I was recently reading a blog post in response to one of my posts and noticed that the author used my wikipedia entry as the primary resource to figure out who I am. The only problem with that is my Wikipedia entry is pretty outdated and quite scanty. Since it is poor form to edit your own Wikipedia entry I am at a quandary.

My resume is slightly more up to date, it is primarily missing descriptions of the stuff I worked on at Microsoft last year. Thus I saw two choices. I could either change the “About Me” link on my blog to point to my resume or I could implore some kind soul in my readership to update my entry in Wikipeda. I decided to start with the latter and if that doesn’t work out, I’ll be updating the “About Me” link to point to my resume.

Thanks in advance to anyone who takes the time to update my Wikipedia entry (not vandalize it Smile ).

Now playing: Ice Cube - Ghetto Vet


Categories: Personal

December 26, 2007
@ 05:21 PM

Justin Rudd writes in his blog post entited Your Attention Please

After 3 years and 3 months, I am leaving my position at Amazon.com on December 31st.
My next “gig” is one that I am extraordinarily excited about.  I’m going to Microsoft to be part of the Live Labs team.  This group really excites me because it gives me a chance to find new areas for Microsoft Live to get into, to expand on what Microsoft Live already has, work closely with Microsoft Research, etc.  This is a job that really excites the tinkerer side of my brain.  I can’t wait to get started.

Many thanks to Dare Obasanjo for being my employee referral

Justin is my second official referral of someone I've "known" via reading their blog. I hope he ends up working at Microsoft a little longer than the last blog friend I referred. :)


Categories: Personal

December 19, 2007
@ 03:14 PM

I’m now at the point where I really, really, really want to blog but have too much going on at work and at home to take the time out to do it. To deal with this I’ve created a Twitter account. You can follow me at http://twitter.com/Carnage4Life.

Things I’ll eventually write about in my blog

  • Amazon Simple DB
  • A new release of RSS Bandit shipping this weekend
  • Thoughts on integrating RSS Bandit and Google Reader based on information found from the pyrfeed documentation 
  • Expressiveness of Python vs. C# 3.0

In the meantime, you can get my thoughts on various topics in 140 characters or less from Twitter.

PS: I’m amazed at how obnoxious Twitter is about collecting the password to your GMail/Yahoo/Hotmail/etc account so it can spam your friends. At first glance, it looked as if it wouldn’t even let me use the service until I gave up those passwords. This crap has gotten out of hand.

PPS: Anyone got decent recommendations for a Twitter client that works on Vista and XP?

Now playing: N.W.A. - Real N*ggaz Don't Die


Categories: Personal

December 9, 2007
@ 10:30 PM

A few months ago, Jenna and I found out about the Trash the Dress blog which features photo shots from wedding pictures taken in non-traditional locations. The term "trash the dress" is supposed to refer to the fact that the wedding dress is usually trashed at the end of the shoot.

Yesterday we met up with Cheryl Jones from In A Frame Photograpy and proceeded to destroy the Jenna's wedding dress while getting some good pictures out of the process. Below are a couple of pics from the shoot. Click on them to see more pics from Cheryl's blog post.

Now playing: Wyclef Jean - Sweetest Girl (feat. Akon, Lil Wayne & Niia)


Categories: Personal

December 5, 2007
@ 04:00 AM

[Scene: A married couple listening to Prince’s Little Red Corvette while driving back from the grocery store]

DARE: You know what? I think this song is a metaphor for sex.

JENNA: All songs about cars are metaphors for sex.

DARE: True.

JENNA: Well, except for Throws Some D’s…that song is actually about putting rims on your car.

DARE: Perhaps it is the exception that proves the rule?


Now playing: Prince - Little Red Corvette


Categories: Personal

November 14, 2007
@ 01:57 PM

I’ve finally gotten around to uploading a couple of pictures from our wedding day in Las Vegas.  Below are a few of the pictures I liked the most. Click on them to see more pics.

Wedding Favors

Guess Where?

Bride, Maid of Honor and Mom

Groom, Best Man and the Non-Conformist

It was a really nice day

Holding hands

The photographers took several hundred pictures and we’ve sifted through less than half of them. Since it’s taken us so long just to pick out this two dozen or so pictures I though if we waited much longer I’d be posting the wedding pics on around our first or second anniversary. Smile

Now playing: Jay-Z - What More Can I Say


Categories: Personal

October 26, 2007
@ 04:00 AM

Before we got married, Jenna and I talked about pets and both agreed we didn’t want any. We didn’t want some animal that would urinate on the carpet, need to be taken outside for walks where I’d have to pick up it’s excrement, and that would create an additional inconvenience every time we decided to go out of town.

I’m sure you know where this is going…

We pick him up next week. Since I’m so against the idea, I get to name him. So far I’m torn between “Socks” and “Buster” both of which my wife thinks are horrible names for a dog. Any suggestions?

Now playing: Snoop Doggy Dogg - Doggy Dogg World


Categories: Personal

Jenna has uploaded pictures from our wedding weekend in Las Vegas and our honeymoon in Puerto Vallarta to her Windows Live space. Below are a couple of entry points into the photo stream.

Signing the marriage licence

The blushing bride

On the way to the after party

One of the many amazing sunsets we saw in Mexico

We got to release baby turtles into the ocean

Nothing beats a pool with a beach view

These are the pictures that we took ourselves. The pics from the professionals capturing the wedding day and reception will show up in a couple of weeks. 

Now playing: Jagged Edge - Let's Get Married (remix) (feat. Run DMC)


Categories: Personal

We were at Bumbershoot on Monday because one of Jenna's friends is the drummer in the Sneaky Thieves and we came to show our love. Since we were already there we decided to stay for two of the main stage concerts.

We saw John Legend in the afternoon and his set was quite good even though the acoustics weren’t that great since it’s an open air stadium. Once we figured out that we needed to go down in front of the stage instead of sitting up in the bleachers, it went from “aight” to “tight”.

The late show was Wu-Tang Clan and they represented. There were tracks from solo albums, from their classic first and second albums and even some of Ol’ Dirty’s singles rapped by Method Man. It was sick. The main surprise of the show was seeing how many kids who look like they weren’t born when Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) first dropped were in attendance. It was also kinda scary seeing so many kids blowing doja but I tried to remember that it was the same way when I was in my teens. Dang, I’m already getting too old for concerts.

In between John Legend and Wu-Tang, we went to see Rush Hour 3. It was pretty bad. Not only did the plot make no sense at all but they also reused plot elements from the previous movies in a non-ironic way. There were laughs but they came infrequently and the action was heavily toned down [probably because Jackie Chan is now in his fifties]. Overall, I give it *** out of ***** because it was still better than most of the crap Hollywood puts out these days.   

Now playing: Wu-Tang Clan - Protect Ya Neck


Categories: Movie Review | Music | Personal

July 16, 2007
@ 05:08 PM

I dreamt I bought an iPhone. It was one of those dreams that seems so real you wake up thinking it happened. I finally realized it was a dream after I found my old phone plugged into its charger and not a brand new phone.

How weird is that?


Categories: Personal

According to my Feedburner stats it seems I lost about 214 subscribers using Google Reader between Saturday June 16th and Sunday June 17th. This seems like a fairly significant number of readers to unsubscribe from my blog on a weekend especially since I don't think I posted anything particularly controversial relative to my regular posts.

I was wondering if any other Feedburner users noticed a similar dip in their subscribers numbers via Google Reader over the weekend or whether it's just a coincidence that I happened to lose so many regular readers at once?


Categories: Personal

I got an XBox 360 this weekend and I'm now looking for recommendations on what games to get. I tend to favor games that I can get into for short bursts of time without significant time commitment. My favorite XBox games were Soul Calibur 2, the Halo series, the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic series and The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. As you can see my tastes are towards role playing games, shoot 'em ups, beat 'em ups and fighting games.

So far I've purchased Gears of War, Rainbow Six: Vegas, The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and Dance Dance Revolution Universe (for the cardio on weekends). Are there any other games I should be considering or do I have to wait until Halo 3 comes out before breaking out my wallet at the local GameStop again?


Categories: Personal | Video Games

May 1, 2007
@ 06:02 PM

Yesterday I got a reminder that I've been gone from Nigeria a bit too long. I posted the following photograph and caption to my Nigeria 2007 Trip Photo Set on Flickr

One of the servants sitting down on the bed of his one room apartment.
You can see the entire apartment in this shot.

This photo and caption caused a bunch of outrage on certain Nigerian blogs leading to posts like A Presidential Servant and OBJ's Cribs as well as an angry comment on Flickr condemning me for calling the person in the picture "a servant". The person in the picture is a member of the domestic staff in my father's private home (not the presidential villa which is owned and staffed by the Nigerian government) who's responsible for serving guests, cooking and cleaning. The common term for this kind of job in Nigeria is houseboy. However since this term has been taken over by the gay community to mean something totally different (don't go to http://www.houseboy.com) I went for a non-ambiguous term that most of my readers would understand. From the answers.com definition for servant 

ser·vant (sûr'vənt) pronunciation
  1. One who is privately employed to perform domestic services.
  2. One who is publicly employed to perform services, as for a government.
  3. One who expresses submission, recognizance, or debt to another: your obedient servant.

[Middle English, from Old French, from present participle of servir, to serve. See serve.]

What I forgot is that calling someone a "servant" is a derogatory term in Nigeria. I remember hearing the phrase I'm not your servant more times than I can count when growing up. So I've edited the caption and replaced "servant" with "member of my dad's domestic staff". I hope my Nigerian readers appreciate this change.

It's weird to experience culture clash when you're clashing with the culture you were raised in.


Categories: Personal

I've uploaded the pictures from my trip to Nigeria to Flickr. You can find them in my Nigeria Trip 2007 photoset. Below are a couple of entry points into the photo stream

My sister Bunmi and my brother Oba's wife Cynthia dancing at my dad's seventieth birthday party

Nigeria's president (my dad) casts his vote in the presidential elections

A close up of the giraffe that lives in the back yard of the presidential villa

A potrait of my dad from his days in the military


Categories: Personal

April 29, 2007
@ 12:13 PM

I really got into Nigerian hip hop and R&B music while I was there over the past few weeks. Below are links to my favorite songs from my trip, many of which are fairly old but were new to me.

  1. Tongolo by D'Banj: A club banger done in a mix of pidgin English and Yoruba

  2. Raise the Roof by Jazzman Olofin: Don't be fooled by the English title this song is mostly in Yoruba. The song is a general exhortation to dance which is a fairly popular topic for Yoruba hit music

  3. Iya Basira by Styl-Plus: A humorous song about a guy who gets so hooked on food from Iya Basira's (i.e. Basira's Mom) restaurant that he thinks she is using jazz (i.e. magic, voodooo, juju, etc) to make the food taste so good.

  4. Nfana Ibaga (No Problem) by 2Face Idibia: The opening rap is beyond wack but the song itself is quite good. He scored an international hit with a song called African Queen which I really didn't feel that much.

  5. Imagine That by Styl-Plus: This is a fairly crappy video but I love the song. The chorus is a mix of Yoruba and English. Roughly translated it goes "Imagine That! She says she doesn't want us to do this anymore. Imagine That! After everything I've done for her. Imagine That! What does she expect to become of me if she goes. Imagine That! If she goes".


Categories: Music | Personal | Trip Report

I just arrived at London Heathrow and can look forward to another 9 hours or so until my flight to Nigeria. In the meantime, I've found complimentary Web access in the business class lounge so it looks like I won't be bored. I am a little worried about keyloggers and spyware on this computer given how easy it was for me to install Firefox on it. Here are a couple of quick thoughts I had on the way related to links I've seen over the past 24 hours

I'm hungry and need to get back to my book. Holla at y'all later.

I'm traveling to Nigeria next week to belatedly celebrate my dad's seventieth birthday and I'm looking for suggestions on what I should read on the trip. It usually takes about 24 hours of traveling for me to get back home; 8 hours flying to London, 10 hour lay over and another 6 hours to Abuja. I usually go through 2 or 3 of Terry Pratchett's Discworld books on my trip but that often isn't enough. The last time I was back home, I also read Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point and the time before that I read Neil Gaiman's American Gods. Both books were interesting and I'm considering reading their sequels (i.e. Blink and Anansi Boys) on this trip.

However I recently stumbled on a list of the 50 most significant Science Fiction and Fantasy works of the last fifty years and I'm considering getting one or two books from that list. Oh yeah, and then there's Jeff Atwood's recommended reading list of books about software development which has a few entries that caught my eye as well.

Given that you now know my taste in in-flight reading material, what books would you recommend gentle reader?


Categories: Personal

March 15, 2007
@ 03:38 PM

My blog has been slow all day due to an unending flood of trackback spam. I've set up my IIS rules to reject requests from the IP address ranges the attacks are coming from but it seems that this hasn't been enough to prevent the trackback spam from making my blog unusable.

It looks like I should invest in a router with a built in firewall as my next step. Any ideas to prevent this from happening again are welcome.


Categories: Personal

March 13, 2007
@ 04:33 PM

One of the links referenced in my recent posting about Wikipedia led me to reread the Wikipedia entry for "Dare Obasanjo". It seems there is still an outstanding issue with my entry according to folks on the Talk page because there isn't a non-blog source (i.e. mainstream media) that verifies that my dad is Olusegun Obasanjo.

For some reason it irritates me that I have a Wikipedia entry with a giant banner that claims I'm lying about my parenthood.Given that I'll be back home in a few weeks to belatedly celebrate my dad's seventieth birthday, I wonder if any Wikipedia savvy folks can point out what kind of "evidence" usually satisfies the bureaucrats on that site. Will a photograph of us together do the trick (if so I already have a few at home I can scan and upload to Flickr)? Will it have to be a photograph printed in a newspaper? Or is the only way that banner comes off is if there is a Nigerian newspaper webpage on the Internet that says he's my dad.

I need to see what strings I have to pull to get my name cleared.


Categories: Personal

March 10, 2007
@ 03:25 AM

Today I was taking a look at my referer logs and stumbled upon a post entitled TechCrunch Resolution on Wikipedia by Jonathan Stokes which contains the following anecdote

A Brief History

The edit war was prompted by the now famous scandal in which Microsoft paid a Wikipedian to favorably edit Microsoft articles on Wikipedia. Michael Arrington of TechCrunch covered the Microsoft story in a post that was largely sympathetic.

Perceiving unfairness in the issue, Microsoft employee Dare Obasanjo, aka Carnage4Life, retaliated against TechCrunch by adding an extensive criticism section to Wikipedia’s TechCrunch article. He then wrote about his “experiment” on his blog, 25HoursaDay.com.

Ensuing Uproar

Michael Arrington was not happy to be slandered by a Microsoft employee, in response to Microsoft coverage. Obasanjo expressed surprise at Arrington’s response, but did not apologize. I blogged this chapter of the Microsoft controversy.

Judging from his blog comments, Dare does not seem to have a high respect for Wikipedia. He has previously violated Wikipedia rules by anonymously writing his own Dare Obasanjo article on Wikipedia. Humorously, it appears to include inside jokes with other Microsoft employees, such as:

Dare has lunch once a month with Don Box to rinse the SOAP off of Don while Don simultaneously attempts to lather up Dare.

Edit War

With traffic pouring into Wikipeda through TechCrunch and Digg, an all-out edit war ensued between long-time Wikipedians and anonymous vandals. The vandals began attacking the userpages of Wikipedians trying to protect the TechCrunch article. It finally escalated to a point where this anti-TechCrunch user was banned for repeatedly blocking out user pages with disturbing death threats.


Wikidemo came to the rescue by establishing a Wikipedia Mediation. She invited all editors involved to the discussion, even going so far as to invite me on this blog, and Dare Obasanjo on his blog.

Anthony cfc handled the mediation. Notably, none of the controversial IP’s showed up to state their case. With help from Anthony cfcComputerjoe, we have now restored the Wikipedia TechCrunch article, and hopefully made a few minor improvements as well. and

In the process, I earned my first Wikipedia Barnstar for Civility from Anthony cfc. Kind of neat to see Wikipedia in action.

Some days the Daily Show just writes itself. I'm crapping myself in amusement at how seriously these people take this nonsense. I am especially amused by all the bits in red font since they are either borderline libel or just straight up hilarious. And I thought Mike Arrington emailing folks at Microsoft trying to get me in trouble after I apologized on his blog was the most absurd turn this story would take.

It's like Nick Carr wrote in his post Essjay's world, Wikipedia seems to be full of the kind of people who used to play Dungeons & Dragons back in the day and now have difficulty separating the real world from the fantasy world they've created in their heads.


Categories: Personal

March 8, 2007
@ 12:56 PM

My website is going to be down for a few days as I make some changes. While I'm gone you can check out some of these blogs instead

I'll see y'all this weekend.


Categories: Personal

February 23, 2007
@ 04:36 PM

I'm back from vacation at Disneyland. My pictures are at http://www.flickr.com/photos/carnage4life

What did I miss?


Categories: Personal

February 15, 2007
@ 04:21 PM

I feel like I've been getting a little complacent about trying out new experiences in recent years. My new year resolution was to learn new technologies outside my comfort zone and try out new experiences. So far I think I'm doing OK on the new experiences front. I've had a podcast interview with .NET Rocks show (Show #218, Scheduled Air Date: March 13th 2007) , I've tried to buy a house and learned why so many people rave about Zillow, and will be going to the happiest place on earth next week.

To keep my programming chops fresh I'd like to spend the next couple of months of my hobby time learning a new programming language and perhaps catching up on old ones which have evolved since I last paid them any attention. But first I have to get a Jubilee release of RSS Bandit out of the door. Torsten and I have been fixing bugs like mad over the past few weeks and I think we're about done with any more major code changes for this release. The last major issue is the fact that the RSS Bandit installer crashes on some versions of Vista. I've talked to Rob Mensching about this issue and my conclusion was to move a bunch of code out of the installer and into the first run experience. I'll be making that change this week and then will publish a Release Candidate 2. This RC 2 of the Jubilee release is to validate that we've fixed all of the issues that were found by our early adopters in the previous release candidate. I estimate that should take about two weeks and then we'll publish the release version of Jubilee release on March 3rd 2007.

Once this release goes out I plan to take 2-3 months off of working on RSS Bandit. During the first month and a half I plan to catch up on changes in Java and C# I haven't been keeping up on by updating my C# From a Java Developer's Perspective article I wrote when I was in college. I'm also interested in catching up on recent debates on concurrency models in programming languages such as the ones references in posts like Neil Mix's What Mean You, Threads?, Brendan Eich's Threads suck and Patrick Logan's Misguided: The Road Not To Be Travelled. I need to resubscribe to Lambda the Ultimate.

During the second half of my RSS Bandit sabbatical I plan to learn the Python programming language, specifically IronPython. To make sure I actually learn the language I need an actual programming project. I plan to build a meme tracker in Python hopefully by combining code from RSS Bandit and [OSS licences permiting] Sam Ruby's Mememe code

Once the summer hits, it'll be time to start work on the Phoenix release of RSS Bandit. My goal with this release is to solve the problems I have with http://blogs.msdn.com due to the monstrous number of posts a day. I'll tackle this in multiple ways including incorporating meme tracking as well as introducing a page model to newspaper view so that I don't have to deal with slowdowns when the embedded browser tries to render the content of 500 - 1000 blog posts at once. There will also be UI work done such as adding a podcast inbox as well as jumping on the Office 2007 ribbon bandwagon.

Now that I've actually written this down in public, I have to actually get it done. :)


Categories: Personal | RSS Bandit

OPTION A: Samurai X - Complete

Vote in the comments below. Bonus points if you justify your vote.


Categories: Personal

My sister is paying me a surprise visit this weekend and I decided to look on the Web for ideas for what we could do together this weekend. My initial thoughts were that we'd go to the movies and perhaps check out the Bodies: The Exhibition. I wouldn't to see if I could get a better suggestion on the Web.

My first instinct was to try Seattle - City Search but had to give up when I realized the only events listed for today were either announcements of what DJs would be at local clubs tonight or announcements sales at local stores. Another thing that bugged me is how few ratings there were for events or locations on City Search. This reminds me of a blog post on Search Engine Land entitled Local And The Paradox of Participation which came to a set of incorrect conclusions about a poll that claimed that people are equally likely to post a positive or negative review of an event or location. The incorrect conclusion was that it is a myth that few people are likely to post reviews. Given that locations and events that are attended by thousands of people tend to only have dozens of reviews on almost every review site I've ever seen seems to make this a fact not a myth. The poll only seems to imply that people are willing to share their opinion if prompted which is totally different from someone attending a nightclub or concert then feeling compelled to visit one of umpteen review sites to share their opinion. What is surprising to me is that there doesn't seem to even be a small community of die hard reviewers on City Search which is unlike most review sites I've seen. Just compare Amazon or IMDB which both seem to have a number of reviewers who are on top of certain categories of products.

Anyway, what does this have to do with Google? Well, I went to Rich Skrenta's much vaunted starting point of the Intenet and tried some queries such as "local events", "seattle events" and "events in seattle" with pathetic results. The only useful links in the search results page led me to a couple of event search engines (e.g. NWsource, Upcoming) that were pathetically underpopulated with event information. None of them even had a listing for Bodies: The Exhibition. Lame. 

I tried Google Local which turned out to be redirect to their mapping site. Shouldn't a local search engine be able to find events in my local area? Double lame.

Before you bother pointing it out, I realize that other search engines don't do a much better job either. This seems to point to an opportunity to add a lot of value in what must be a very lucrative search market. I'm surprised that Yahoo! hasn't figured out how to do more with their purchase of Upcoming.org. Then again Yahoo! hasn't figured what to do with any of the Web 2.0 startups they've purchased so maybe that is expecting too much. Maybe Google will purchase Eventful.com and fix this fairly big hole in their search offerings. Somehow I doubt it. .


December 31, 2006
@ 04:19 PM

Jeff Simmermon wrote a blog post entitled Drowning Kittens In A River Full Of Cash which he seems to have deleted but which is cached here. There was a sentence from that blog post which stayed with me and I have reproduced below

Forget about trying to write under that kind of dread. Writing under family-friendly corporate constraints is a necessary but curious clusterfuck in the best conditions. Sometimes it's like reaching deep within your soul and pulling out a basket of kittens, then quietly drowning it in a river. A man's gotta eat, though, and I never griped about the paycheck. That was my choice, and I made it every day.

This year was the first year I considered ending this blog because I'd finally gotten tired of the hassle of people complaining about what I wrote here. The final straw for me surprisingly hasn't been work related although there have been stretching points from disgruntled coworkers who lashed out because I use competing products to people complaining to my management chain and theirs hoping to get me reprimanded or even fired for not toeing the party line. I stand by everything I've written in this blog but I've now gotten enough heat and taken enough inter-personal communication training classes to realize that some opinions are more trouble than they are worth. So every once in a while, a quietly drown a kitten of a half written blog post because I can't be bothered with dealing with the feedback. However that wasn't the breaking point, since I've considered this experience part of "growing up".

What I didn't expect to have to deal with was people back home in Nigeria reading my blog. Or even worse, certain posts in from my blog being printed out and republished in Nigerian print magazines. That audience which now includes quite a few members of my family is one I hadn't anticipated and one whose feedback on misconstrued posts is one I take more to heart than the other kinds of feedback I'm used to getting about my blog. This has now introduced a new set of filters I have to apply to my blog posts.

I've now begun to question the purpose of continuing to write this blog and considered ending it and perhaps restarting an anonymous one on some generic blog hosting service like TypePad or Blogger. I'm not sure what I'm going to do next but thought it only fair to let the couple thousand folks who read this blog regularly to know why it stopped if it does stop.

Have a Happy New Year.

Categories: Personal

I've been tagged by Nick Bradbury as part of the 5 Things People Don't Know About Me meme. Here's my list

  1. I've gained back 25 lbs of the 60 lbs I lost earlier this year. With the holidays and an upcoming trip to Las Vegas to attend CES I assume I'll be gaining another 5 lbs due to disruptions to my schedule and poor eating habits before I can get things back under control.

  2. I sold all my stock options when MSFT hit 30 last week.

  3. I used to smile a lot as a child until when I was about 11 or 12. I was in a Nigerian miltary school during my middle school years and some senior students didn't like the fact that I always walked around with a smile on my face. So they decided to beat me until I wiped that silly smile off my face. It worked. My regular scowl was mentioned as a dampener in more first dates than I'd like to admit while I was in college. I'm glad my mom decided to pull me out of the military school after only two years. At the time, I thought that was the equivalent of running away. Mother knows best, I guess.

  4. My dad is in New York this week but I turned down an opportunity to fly up and see him. I found out the details of his trip on Saturday evening which meant I'd have had to break of prior engagements such as baby sitting my girlfriend's kids and taking my intern on his farewell lunch if I wanted to see him. I'm sure I'll regret missing opportunities like this later in life.

  5. I have songs from every G-Unit Radio mixtape on my iPod.

I'm tagging the following bloggers to spread the meme; Mike Torres, Shelley Powers, Sanaz Ahari, Derek Denny-Brown and Doug Purdy


Categories: Personal

December 5, 2006
@ 02:53 PM

I'm a big fan of alcopops but it seems like everytime I settle on one I like, it stops being carried in my local grocery stores. Here's my list so far

  1. Mike's Hard Iced Tea [relegated to urban legend]
  2. Brutal Fruit [discontinued]
  3. Bacardi Silver O3 [tasty and hard to find]
  4. Hornsby's Amber Hard Cider [so far so good]
This is just my way of warning you folks out there that if you like Hornsbys Amber Hard Cider you better stock up because given my luck it's going to be discontinued in the next couple of months. :)

Categories: Personal | Ramblings

Joshua Allen has a blog post entitled He Bought Houses for the Whole Village where he writes

In China, nearly everyone has at least one story about, “someone from village ‘X’ started a business and got really rich, so he bought houses for the whole village.”  I’ve heard several variations, from people in different walks of life, over the past couple of years.  Although the details vary widely, the stories are sometimes true, and follow that same basic pattern.

I began to wonder, why is this such an appealing story for people to tell one another, and do we have similar stories in America?  That is, what kind of “good fortune” story is likely to get quickly passed from mouth to mouth among Americans?

I found it interesting reading to see Joshua trying to map this concept to American examples and failing to find a good comparison. Similar stories are quite common place in Nigeria or at least were when I still lived there almost a decade ago. There are lots of reasons why such occurences are common in places like Nigeria & China but not in places like America. My impression is that the top two are

  1. Deeper Sense of Community: People from the same village in Nigeria typically share the same ancestors, the same culture spanning hundreds of years and speak the same language. Neither cities nor small towns in the America have the same history or depth of connectedness between people living in the same area. This sense of community also makes it more likely people will feel an obligation to helping their people from their village when they have good fortune. The closest analog to that sense of obligation being widespread in America has been college alumni associations. When I first moved here I found it surprising that people are more likely to spend money helping the school they went to college than their home town.
  2. A Little Goes A Long Way: In Nigeria, most of the affluent people are a generation or less removed from living in huts in some remote part of the country. When my dad grew up, the richest man in the village was the guy with a bicycle and a radio. In a country where 70% of the population lives on less than $1 a day, it doesn't take much [by American standards] to better people's lives. In comparison, the average income in the U.S. is around $100 a day.

The rest of the reasons are mainly variations on the two mentioned above. The reason that in America
our word of mouth heroes are people who spend their money on incredibly stupid stuff.
as Joshua puts it can mainly be explained by the first point above. In Nigeria, you are expected to help those from where you came from as well as spend money on incredibly stupid stuff. In America, there isn't an expectation to help your roots except for looking after your parents and sending in donations to your college alumni association.


Categories: Personal

October 9, 2006
@ 05:44 PM

Last week I got an email from someone at Microsoft asking if my dad was the president of Nigeria. I almost deleted the email without responding until I looked at the person's email signature and it said "Executive Assistant to Bill Gates". So I responded and it turned out that Bill Gates was going to be in Nigeria over the weekend to meet with my dad and he wanted to chat before his trip.

We met on Friday and according to my mom he met with my dad over the weekend. After our talk I asked if it was OK if I blogged our meeting and he was fine with it. What follows are my impressions from our meeting and the topics we chatted about.

The last time I talked to Bill Gates in person was five years ago at the annual event for summer interns at Microsoft where we get to meet him at his house. When I was an intern they had to split the event into two seperate trips due to the number of interns. After introductions, I mentioned that we'd met before at the intern event in 2001 and asked if the event continued to this day. It still goes on today and has now grown to four separate rounds of visits. BillG said he appreciates hearing from college students about companies and trends they find interesting before their opinions get influenced by their employer when they get out of school.

BillG asked a couple of questions about me and my family such as how long I'd been at Microsoft, where I want to school, if my mom was Stella Obasanjo (she isn't), what my mom did, if I had any siblings back home and so on. I appreciated talking about myself and was put at ease before being asked about Nigeria or my dad. 

BillG had read my dad's Wikipedia entry and thus was a little familiar with my dad's background story. This is my dad's second time around as president. The first time was between 1976 and 1979 when he became the military president because the sitting military president was killed in a failed coup. He made history by being the first African head of state to voluntarily relinquish power by having elections and stepping down once a winner was announced. He became president this time around after spending three years as a political prisoner. After the military president that jailed him died of natural causes, he was released. A number of others who were jailed at the same time as him were not as lucky and died in prison such as Moshood Abiola and Shehu Musa Yar'Adua before the military president that jailed them passed away. I talked about meeting my dad in Atlanta back in 1998 when he was released and hearing for the first time that he planned to run for president. I thought it was an insane idea given that Nigeria had never had a civilian president finish out their term without there being a miltary takeover of government. I can still remember my dad sitting there and saying "If I don't do it who will?". He won the election and also won a second term. My dad still gives me a hard time today because I never called to congratulate him. I did attend both inauguration ceremonies so that should count for something, I guess.

BillG wondered what my dad would do after he left the presidency. He mentioned that he'd had some angst about leaving Microsoft in two years and also gave an example of a good friend of his, Bill Clinton, who also had similar angst when he left the U.S. presidency. I pointed out that my dad had been a retired head of state for almost two decades before this time around and had found things to do. Besides becoming a large scale farmer, he still did the international statesman thing and once was in the running for the position of UN secretary general which he lost to Boutros Boutros-Ghali back in the early 1990s.

He'd read that my dad was a born again Christian and wondered if that extended to the entire family. It doesn't, I'm not terribly religious and my mom is a devout catholic which it turned out BillG's wife is as well. This segued into a conversation about religion and Nigeria. The country is about half Christian and half Muslim but over the past few years, the division has become more stark. Since I've been in the U.S., a number of states in the northern part of the country have embraced Sharia law which has led to some negative international responses. The religion issue is now divisive enough that questions about religion and ethnicity were removed from this year's census. It wasn't like this when I was growing up. Speaking of ethnicity, BillG asked about the national language and whether there was a major ethnic group in Nigeria. The national language is English since we were colonised by the British and although there were three large ethnic groups (Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo) there are hundreds of indigenous tribes with their own cultures and languages.

The reason BillG was visiting Nigeria was to talk about some of the work that the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation has been doing in Africa. One of the issues he wanted to discuss were the efforts they had been taking to eradicate polio in Nigeria via vaccination. There had recently been some rumors about negative effects of polio vaccines in the northern part of Nigeria which had actually lead to at least one state banning them. The problem with polio, BillG said, is that unlike diseases such as smallpox it may be hard to detect so an outbreak could occur with the authorities being none the wiser until it is too late. He said the tipping point is about 15% of the population being infected while containment is when < 5% are infected. He also mentioned that their foundation was working on vaccines for malaria and sleeping sickness. I mentioned having malaria a few times while growing up and thinking how weird it was when I heard people in the U.S. talking about malaria as if it was ebola. However there was a difference between how I grew up in the city and the average Nigerian who lives in the villages and rural areas. The main problem with malaria that BillG wants combated is preventing it in pregnant women. Not only is the chance of infant mortality increased but also if the child makes it, the baby is usually born having a low birth weight which contributes to a lifetime of problems. He feels they are close to breakthroughs in creating vaccines for these diseases especially since not a lot of research has been done in this area due to big pharma not investing a lot in research for diseases affecting the poor in Africa. BillG acknowledged that he was being an optimist when he says this and it may take a little longer in much the same way that his optimism about the future of Tablet PCs and voice recognition software has taken longer than he expected to become mainstream. 

My comment about the differences growing up in the city versus the life in the villages reminded BillG of a similar contrast in another African country, South Africa. The life in places like Sun City [where most Americans go when they say they are going to South Africa] is radically different than the life in various South African townships. BillG took his children to some townships when they were in South Africa so they could see how the other half lived, his children were resistant to the idea but he thought that it would be a good idea to see what life is like in these places. We also talked about how widespread AIDs is in South Africa (affecting 30% of the population by some estimates) while it seems relatively contained in countries like Nigeria. I mentioned seeing the billboards for the ABC campaign (Abstain, Be faithful, use Condoms) while in Nigeria and he agreed that the campaigns seemed to have been working. Using condoms has seemed to be very effective but unfortunately there are some religious and social objections to the idea. Their foundation is working on creams and gels that can be applied just like spermicidal creams and gels which can be used to prevent AIDs and will be more acceptable to social norms [his exact words were "eliminate the negotiation during encounters"].  BillG also said that there seemed to be a strong correlation between improving healthcare and the number of children people had. This means that there is the double benefit of having healthy children and being able to afford to have them since you don't have that many. In addition to healthcare, BillG was also going to talk to my dad about their efforts around improving agricultural practices to improve crop yield and some of their suggestions for improving education. 

We did talk about Microsoft a little. When I mentioned I work for the Windows Live platform group he mentioned that this would be an interesting area to be in over the next few years and commented on a number of Windows Live services such as Windows Live Spaces, Windows Live Messenger and Windows Live Mail. He also talked about some of the leadership changes we've had across Windows and Windows Live. I asked if he'd continue with his biannual Think Weeks where employees from all over the company get to write him papers about ideas they have. He said he'd continue until he stepped down in 2008 and after that it would be up to Ray Ozzie [who will be replacing him as Chief Software Architect] to decide if he'd continue with the tradition or not. I did mention that I'd submitted a Thinkweek paper which he'd writen a response to, he hoped that he wasn't too harsh in his criticism and I replied that his feedback was quite favorable and has led to some good things happening in Windows Live.

The meeting ran over by 15 minutes and I felt bad for taking up so much of his time. As I was leaving the building I overheard the following exchange between the receptionist of the building and a visitor

Visitor: Where is Bill Gates's office?
Receptionist: I'm not at liberty to divulge that information.
Visitor: I need to see him, I just downloaded Windows Vista and I have a number of complaints.
I wonder how often that happens. :)


Categories: Personal

October 5, 2006
@ 05:03 PM

After my workout this morning, I was in the locker getting undressed to shower when I turned around after locking my locker and realized someone had taken my towel. So there I am in my birthday suit with no towel yet about to take a shower. So I have to make a decision do I

  1. Get dressed and go back to the front desk to get another towel?
  2. Hang around the locker room until an attendant shows up and ask him for a towel?
  3. Take a shower without a towel and "air dry"?
  4. Steal somebody else's towel?

Guess which one I picked? :)


Categories: Personal

I've probably mentioned that in my teenage years I was in a rap group with some friends from high school. Eventually, I became a computer geek and now work at Microsoft. However some of my friends kept at it and some of their friends have as well. Thanks to YouTube, I can now share their music with you

  1. My name is... by Ikechukwu

  2. Delicious by BigLo feat. 2shotz

It's great to see some of my friends living their dream. It's definitely made my day.

By the way, uploading videos to YouTube is ridiculously easy. Any Microsoft competitor in this space will have a hard act to follow. It will be interesting to see if YouTube ends up getting usurped from the #1 spot.


Categories: Music | Personal

July 25, 2006
@ 03:32 AM

Over the past couple of weeks I've been trying to introduce my girlfriend's kids to the cartoons from my childhood. I have volume 1 of Pinky & The Brain on order and it should arrive sometime this week. Even though it technically isn't from my childhood, it definitely is a show I loved back when it was still on. I also purchased Season 3 and Season 4 of Transformers (Generation 1). However once I tried to watch it, I was struck by how bad the show was and couldn't bring myself to watch more than two episodes let alone share the experience with others.

On the other hand, I thought I'd struck gold when I picked up He-Man and the Masters of the Universe - Season One, Volume 1 until the following exchange between my girlfriend's son and me.

Me:  Come check this out, it's a show I used to watch when I was around your age.
Girlfriend's Son: I don't wanna watch this.
Me: Why Not?
Girlfriend's Son: That guy is wearing pink, I'm not watching a show with a guy that wears pink.
Me: That's Prince Adam, he's really He-Man in disguise.
Girlfriend's Son: I don't wanna watch it. Can we watch the midget movie instead? [Editors Note: Midget move == R. Kelly's Trapped in the Closet Chapters 1-12]

Prince Adam of Eternia

After this exchange I've declared defeat and thus have given up on introducing them to cartoons from my childhood. I guess I'll be watching my Pinky & The Brain DVD by myself. :)

Categories: Personal

Since my girlfriend has kids, I spend a lot more time around kids than I expected to at this age. One of the things I've realized is that I'll probably end up as one of those dads that shows strangers his baby pictures. Since I don't have baby pictures to show y'all, you get the next best thing

  1. Scene: On Our Way To Dinner

    Kids: What Does Your Shirt Say?

    Me: I Only Date Crack Whores [see the T-shirt here]

    Kids: Mommy Isn't A Crack Whore.

    Me: I'll Go Change My Shirt

    This explains why my girlfriend made me throw out my I don't have a girlfriend. But I do know a woman who'd be mad at me for saying that T-shirt. I'm guessing she forgot about this one.

  2. Scene: Playing Video Games with one of Their Friends

    Me: I'm too old to play games with you guys

    Kids: You're not old, you're only 28.

    Kids Friend: You're 28? My mom is 28 and she likes black guys. You should marry my mom.

    Me to girlfriend: Should I tell her mom she said that?

    My Girlfriend: No. Dummy!


Categories: Personal

July 2, 2006
@ 06:29 AM

Last week I attended the Kenny Chesney concert with my girlfriend and we even took some photos before the concert. A couple of coworkers answered my call for country duds and I got some hats, shirts and a pair of cowboy boots contributed to the cause. I probably should write a review of the concert but its hard for me to judge the musical quality of a concert that had people singing songs like She Thinks My Tractor is Sexy and Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy. However here are a few observations from the concert
  • There were supposedly over 40,000 tickets sold and it looked like there were tens of thousands of people there. However the crowd wasn't very diverse, it was almost all white guys and white gals. I was the only black person I saw the entire 5.5 hours we were there.

  • Besides Kenny Chesney there was also Gretchen Wilson, Dierks Bentley's, Big & Rich, and a surprise appearance by Uncle Kracker. The crowd seemed to get into all the performances although it was hard for me to since I didn't know most of the songs.

  • I think I saw someone with the worst job in America. One of the concert goers vomited and it seems there were no safety cones available so one of the stadium employees stood over the vomit so that concert goers wouldn't step on it.

  • Unlike hip hop concerts this one started on time. We got there at 5:30PM and we had already missed half of Dierks Bentley's set. Not only did it start early, it ran until 11 PM which means we got our money's worth.

  • This was the largest gathering of people wearing cowboy hats I'd ever seen. This was doubly a surprise given how rarely one encounters cowboy hats in Seattle.


Categories: Personal

June 20, 2006
@ 07:07 PM

I've counted myself lucky to find a girlfriend who has similar tastes in music to me. Most of my friends don't like equal parts Lil Jon, Metallica, G-Unit and Backstreet Boys but my girlfriend does. In addition, she likes the crunk hip hop clubs just like I do. In fact, the clubs we tend to like going to regularly seem to end up getting closed down for being too crunk (e.g. Mr Lucky, Larry's).

So you can imagine that I was quite surprised by her recent request that we attend a Kenny Chesney concert. So I asked here "Who's Kenny Chesney?" and she replied that he was a country singer. I was like "But you don't like country music" and she replied that actually she did. Since this revelation, you are now just as likely to hear us listening to Settle for a Slowdown or What Hurts the Most as you are to hear Poppin' My Collar or Hustlin' as we drive down the street. How times change.

The concert is this weekend and I'm not sure I have appropriate attire. If one of my coworkers who reads my blog has a cowboy hat that I can borrow, I'd greatly appreciate it.


Categories: Music | Personal

That's what I get for not getting financial advice from a professional. :)


Categories: Personal

May 31, 2006
@ 02:30 PM

2006 looks like another good year for superhero movies. I just saw X-Men: The Last Stand and I'm looking forward to Superman Returns and My Super Ex-Girlfriend. I love the annual summer movie season and this year has been pretty decent so far for movies.  Below is a brief list of movies I've seen this year with a mini-review and a rating.

  • Thank You For Smoking (***** out of *****): Excellent satire. Hilarious because you know it is true. The only dark spot was Katie Holmes who just seems unbelievable in any role outside of Dawson's Creek. She ruined Batman Begins for me as well.

  • Mission: Impossible 3 (**** out of *****): An action packed adrenaline rush. Definitely the best movie in the series.

  • Ice Age: The Meltdown (**** out of *****): As funny as the original. I like how the movie was about global warning but they managed to not include any lectures on the topic in the movie.

  • RV (**** out of *****): Funny, if you liked Chevy Chase's vacation movies from years past. I did.

  •  X-Men: The Last Stand (*** out of *****): Not as action packed as the second movie in the series. Having two main plotlines(Jean Grey's Phoenix Saga and a cure for mutants) instead of a single theme didn't help. They definitely tried to go out with a bang but in the final seconds of the movie you could tell that they left the door open for more sequels even if this is the "Last Stand". Lame.
  • The Brothers Grimm (** out of *****): This movie was ridiculously bad, I'm stunned Matt Damon agreed to be in this crap. I didn't bother to finish it.

  • Elizabethtown (** out of *****): Besides the fact that there seemed to be little on-screen chemistry between Kirsten Dunst and Orlando Bloom, this movie was trying too hard to tug at our heart strings. Go watch The Family Stone instead.

  • Date Movie (* out of *****): Rule #1 of parody moies, don't make a parody that is less funny than the original.

What movies have you seen this year that are worth seeing and what would you advise that I avoid given my ratings above?


Categories: Movie Review | Personal

I found a blog post entitled Called Out… by Al Billings who just left the Microsoft Internet Explorer team which is excerpted below in its entirety [in case it gets altered later]

Oops, looks like I made someone cranky

I could respond to this in some detail but it isn’t worth the effort. Let’s just say that Dare has worked closely with the IE team on our RSS features. He was consulted, at least for his opinion, on much of the work. In spit of this, he makes a consistent public effort to talk shit about IE7 and its RSS support while the people that I have worked with, who care passionately about RSS and its role in IE, keep on talking to him internally since Dare works on a partner team affected by the work.

I find Dare to be a whiner and an unconstructive partner who burns bridges with people that he should be building them with instead. The fact that he gives little direct feedback (or confrontation) to coworkers on the IE team but will then turn around, the same day, and make snarky comments in his blog is not cool. In fact, I’ll be slightly bold and say it makes him look like a complete asshole.

Since I no longer have to work professionally with him in any capacity and this is my personal opinion, I don’t see a reason to pull any punches. With his attitude, he really should go get a job for the competition. He certainly doesn’t help the company he works for…

I have issues with how Microsoft has done many things but I have the utmost respect for the people that I have worked with, especially on the IE team. There are a lot of very intelligent and talented people there and I am glad that I had the opportunity to work with them.

For myself, it is time for a change. Part of it is motivatated by the desire that my wife and I have to live in the Bay Area and part of it is that I’ve worked at Microsoft for a month shy of nine years. It isn’t the same company that I started at but I don’t doubt it will survive. I’m at peace with that. I’m not so sure that Dare can say the same and, as was commented to me, it seems more likely that Dare is crafting his exit strategy and trying to make a name for himself. He’s no Scoble though so this seems a doomed adventure.

Last week, I got mail from some exec at Microsoft complaining about my blog. Today I read this tripe from Al Billings who has the gall to criticize my corporate loyalty as he ditches Microsoft for [supposed] greener pastures.

I'll write here the same thing I wrote to the exec that complained about. My blog is a personal weblog that precedes my time at Microsoft which will likely outlive my time as a Microsoft employee. In it I talk about things that affect my life such as my personal life, work life and interests. Since I work at a technology company and my interests are around technology, I sometimes talk about Microsoft technology and working at Microsoft. Since everything about Microsoft's technology and work life aren't perfect, sometimes these posts are critical.

If you don't like my blog then don't read it. If you think my blog is so bad for Microsoft, then [please] go ahead and complain to my management. They get enough complaints about my blog as it is, I'm sure there must be some threshold where they'll decide that receiving mail about my blog is more work than keeping me around. Then I'm sure you'll get your wish that I work at some competitor. :)


Categories: Personal

May 8, 2006
@ 06:48 PM

One way I can tell that I am approaching thirty is that I now spend more time watching VH1 than MTV. Not only do I feel too old to watch MTV whenever I happen to surf to that channel, I've felt that way for years. There are other ways things have slowly began to change as I settle into a long term relationship with someone who I believe is the one (to coin an overused cliché). The change that has been most unsettling for me is that I worry about money a lot more than I used to. Over four years ago, when I was fresh out of college I remember looking at my five figure salary and wondering what I'd do with all that money. Being single in a new city with no commitments [not even student loans] meant that I didn't really worry much about money. My friend Michael Brundage captured the feeling quite well in his much linked essay on Working at Microsoft where he wrote

It's hard for people who don't work at Microsoft's main campus to understand just how unreal the experience of working there can become. Some employees forget that most of the world doesn't have broadband wireless networking, high-end consumer electronics, luxury vehicles, and enough money that they don't need to live on a budget. Some employees spend so much time using Microsoft products, that they forget about the competition and/or lose touch with typical customers' needs.

As you grow older commitments begin to show up whether you want them to or not. I live with my girlfriend and she has kids. My mom retires this year and after having her come visit a few months ago, it is clear that I need to find a bigger place to stay. This means I've started worrying about house prices. I recently found out that median house prices in the Seattle area now hover at $419,000 which is a $100,000 more than what it was when I first moved here. A friend of mine just dropped half a million bucks for a house a few streets down from where I live. At first I thought that was crazy until I found out that the median house price in Queen Anne is $505,000. 

After Microsoft's recent stock plunge which resulted in an 11% loss in market value, it took me a while to realize that this affected my net worth by a couple of grand. I now realize that I should actually pay attention to my stock portfolio beyond whatever default actions seemed like a good idea when I was fresh out of college. Stock portfolio? Growing older does suck.

I now worry about the fact that people at work with titles like containing 'Vice President' and 'Chief X Officer' either read my blog or get complaints about it because it is too critical of Microsoft. I don't want my personal weblog to now place some glass ceiling on my career growth at Microsoft. It's bad enough that I'm black. ;)

Speaking of career growth, I saw some interesting comments to the post on the Mini-Microsoft blog entitled FAQ on reviews, promotions, job changes, and surviving re-orgs - Comment Repost. There were a lot of people who agreed with the somewhat cynical advice on how to deal with the review system and climbing up the corporate ladder at a place like Microsoft. There were other comments who described the advice as only being necessary for poorly performing bottom feeders that deserve to be fired. Given that I'm someone who would have benefited from this advice during my first couple of annual reviews at Microsoft, I guess that makes me a poorly performing bottom feeder that deserve to be fired. I remember the review where my naivete was shattered like it was yesterday. I had gotten a lower score than expected and was chatting with a coworker on how our reviews went. I didn't feel I got a clear idea on what I needed to improve on since my manager had made it seemed like I'd been doing a good job. To my surprise, my coworker responded that I had been called out as a role model during his review to which to aspire. The surprise was that this coworker got a better score than me. After a little bit of digging I realized that the corporate review process is primarily a popularity contest. The Microsoft practice of having a bunch of mid-level managers on a team argue about who deserves what score on the team means that anyone who (i) isn't visible to all the mid-level managers on the team and (ii) doesn't have a manager who's good at arguing on their behalf is going to get the short end of the stick. In many cases you can't do much about the latter but the former is completely under your control. For the most part, simply being good at your job doesn't guarantee you'll get a good review score. On a cynical note, it's hard to even define what being good at your job even means at a lowly individual contributor level sometimes. How easy is it to prove or disprove that the lowly developers and testers who work on white elephant projects like Longhorn Windows Vista are actually good at their jobs? Performance reviews at that level of granularity on such monster projects seem mostly subjective anyway. The repercussions of people's actions often can't be seen for years. Like the poster says, Mediocrity - It Takes a Lot Less Time and Most People Won't Notice the Difference Until it's Too Late. Being good at your job is important, however you also shouldn't expect that's all it takes to get a good review score. As I grow older, my lack of faith in human nature seems to grow by leaps and bounds. 

The good thing about going on vacation is that it gives you time to be introspective even if the introspection occurs amid the blare of slot machines and constant booze ups that is Las Vegas. :)


Categories: Personal

April 17, 2006
@ 04:03 PM

Robert Scoble has a blog post entitled Halfway through my blog vacation (change in comment policy)

But, mostly, this past week was about change.

Some things I've changed? 1) No more coffee. 2) No more soda. 3) Xercising. 4) No more unhappy people in my life. 5) Get balance back in my own life.
One of my most memeorable conversations, though, was with Buzz Bruggeman, CEO of ActiveWords and a good friend. He told me to hang around people who are happy. And I realized I had been listening to too many people who were deeply unhappy and not bringing any value into my life. He told me to listen to this recording on NPR about "finding happiness in a Harvard Classroom." He also told me about the four agreements, which are Don Miguel Ruiz's code for life. Good stuff.

Over the past year I've been on a mission to simplify my life piece by piece. Along the line I've made some promises to myself which I've kept and others which have been more difficult to stick with.

Health: I enrolled in the 20/20 Lifestyles program in the health club near Microsoft about six months ago. Since then I've lost just over 60 pounds (27.5 kilos for my metric peeps). This week is my last week with my personal trainer and dietician before I'm on my own. I had hoped to lose more weight but last month was somewhat disruptive to my schedule with my mom being in town for two weeks and travelling for ETech 2006, SPARK and New York to see my dad. I am somewhat proud that I gained less than 2 pounds even though my schedule was complete mess. I've kept two promises to myself about my health; I'll work out 5 days a week and will keep my daily caloric intake to within 2000 calories a day 5 days a week [but never over 3000 calories in one day]. The excercise promise has been easy to keep but the diet promise has been harder than I've liked. Eating out is the hard part. Giving up soda for water was easier than I thought.

Work/Life Balance: I also decided to be better at compartmentalizing my work and home life. I promised myself not to spend more than 10.5 hours a day at work [in by 9AM, out by 7-7.30 PM at the latest] and to stop using the VPN to connect to work when I'm at home. I've also tried to stop checking work email from home on weekday evenings and will check it only once a day on weekends. If I'm in crunch mode for a particular deadline then this may chaneg temporarily. Last week I averaged about 14 hours a day at work because I had a deadline I wanted to hit for Friday. However I didn't want this to mean I got home late since I value spending dinner time with my girlfriend so I left for work much earlier in the day last week. This week I'm back to my regular schedule. 

Professional Work Load: Last year, I worked on lots of things I was interested in simultaneously. I worked on the social networking platform for Windows Live, replacing MSN Member Directory with MSN Spaces Profiles, photo storage for Windows Live services from MSN Spaces to Windows Live Expo, and a bunch of other stuff which hasn't shipped so I can't mention here. This was just the stuff my boss had me working on. There was also stuff I was interested in that I just worked on without being explicitly told to such as organizing efforts around the MSN Windows Live developer platform (see http://msdn.microsoft.com/live AND keeping the spark alive on us getting an RSS platform built for Windows Live. This was a lot of stuff to try to fit into a workday besides all the other crap that fits into your day (meetings, meetings, meetings). At my last review, I got some feedback that some folks on my team felt they weren't getting my full attention because I spent so much time on 'extracurricular' activities. Although I was initially taken aback by this feedback I realized there some truth to it. Since then I've been working on handing off some of the stuff I was working on that wasn't part of my job requirements. Thanks in part to the positive response to my ThinkWeek paper there is now an entire team of people working on the stuff I was driving around the Windows Live developer platform last year. You should keep an eye on the blogs of folks like Ken Levy and Danny Thorpe to learn what we have planned in this arena. The RSS platform for Windows Live spark has now been fanned into a flame and I worked hard to get Niall Kennedy to join us to drive those efforts. Realizing I can't work on everything I am interesed in has been liberating.

Geeking at Home: I've cut down on how much time I spend reading blogs and don't subscribe to any mailing lists. Even on the blogs I read, I try to cut down on reading comment sections that have more negative energy than I can stomach which means skipping the comments section of Mini-Microsoft blog most days of the week. Even at work, I subscribe to only two or three distribution lists that aren't for my team or specific projects I am working on. I don't plan to have concurrent side projects going on at home anymore. I'll keep working on RSS Bandit for the forseeable future. Whenever there is a lull in development such as after a major release, I may work on an article or two. However I won't have two or three article drafts going at the same time while also being in bug fixing mode which used to be the norm for me a year or two ago.

I wish Robert luck in his plan to simplify his life and improve his health.


Categories: Personal