We Made it to Nice

TB and I arrived in Nice, France yesterday around 9:45AM after leaving Seattle on a 8:40AM flight.  Nice is 9 hours ahead of Seattle so our total travel time was roughly 14 hours from airport to airport including a one-hour layover in Chicago and a two-hour layover in Frankfurt, Germany.

As you may recall, I am here to present three sessions at the ASP.NET Connections Europe conference followed by a little R&R since we haven’t had a true vacation since going to Maui last September.

We are staying at Palais de la Mediterranee which is right on the Mediterranean Sea.  The hotel is very well appointed with courteous and friendly staff which is great because mon Français est mauvais (my French is bad).  Thankfully, after allowing me to fumble around their language for a few moments (“Uhh, je veux allez…uhh…a…uhh…l’hotel…Umm…La Palais de…uhh…Mediterranee…s’il vous plait.”) everyone we have encountered has been willing and able to speak enough English to help us out.

We did have one incident at Cote d’Azur airport as we couldn’t figure out where to catch a cab and the traffic cop we decided to consult either couldn’t (unlikely) or wouldn’t speak English even as I was failing horribly in my attempts to communicate in French.  TB tried to come to the rescue with the “English for dummies” translation of what we wanted: “Taxi to hotel?”  I knew enough French to know he was directing us to Terminal 2 instead of answering her question.  I finally tapped into all my Intro to French training from 16 years prior and we were able to get where we needed to be.  Madame Duffy would be proud.

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Music Review: Insomnia

I have had plenty of time to listen to Asheru‘s album Insomnia since I purchased it back in February.  While the album has a lot of creative content and top-notch production scattered throughout, it just is not as good as I had hoped.

One aspect of the album I find particularly irksome is the mixtape feel which persists throughout.  For example, there is gratuitous, unnecessary use of echo effects and repetition of verses on many of the songs.  Each of these elements done once or twice wouldn’t be too bad but I found myself fast-forwarding and skipping songs after these novelty-starved “techniques” went from mere nuisance to full fingernails-across-the-chalkboard distraction.  I consider myself a patient person and I became annoyed waiting over 1 minute for the lyrics to start in a song that is only 3.5 minutes long.

With that said, Asheru uses the album to tackle many topics either avoided entirely or treated superficially at the hands of lesser rappers.  My favorite song is “If” as it is an example of the trait mentioned in the previous sentence with great delivery and a knocking beat.  Microphone fiend extraordinaire, Talib Kweli, makes a guest appearance on the song to liven things up as well.

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Month Four on the Job: Spokesperson

Today marks the four-month mark of my job change at Microsoft.  My focus over the last month has been on establishing myself as a spokesperson for the products I look after: ASP.NET, ASP.NET codename “Atlas” and Visual Web Developer.

My ramp-up as a spokesperson started just before the MIX conference, on March 16, 2006, with Spokesperson Training courtesy of Microsoft’s public relations firm, Waggener Edstrom.  The day following my training I did a series of press pre-briefings via telephone to convey the messages and announcements journalists could expect regarding “Atlas” on the coming Monday, the first day of MIX.  Those pre-briefings resulted in the series of articles which I wrote about here and here.

Since MIX, I have started traveling the countryside talking about our products with our developer community.  This has included presenting breakout sessions at the ASP.NET Connections conference in Orlando and presenting technology overviews to the Orlando .NET User Group and the Inland Empire .NET User Group (in San Bernardino).

I also participated in my first podcast at MIX and it was recently posted on the ASP.NET Podcast site.  (You can spend an hour of your life listening to a colleague and me talk about tools for web developers…yay!)

One last but hugely important aspect of being a product spokesperson is the Executive Briefing presentations I get asked to do about once per month for key Microsoft customers and partners.  These customers/partners (which include corporations, academic institutions and government/military entities) and their Microsoft-assigned field representatives, come to Microsoft’s corporate campus for 2-4 days to get briefed on how our current and planned product portfolio can help their business operations.  It is very different discussing our products with developers than discussing them with business decision makers (e.g., CIO, CTO, VP of Engineering, VP of Operations, etc.)  Coming from a developer background, I have to be mindful of how low-level I get and resist the urge to spend most my time with these high-ranking representatives writing code. :nerd:

The press/analyst briefings, conferences, user groups, podcasts and executive briefing presentations have each allowed me to build and hone a different set of skills while leveraging my experiences from the engineering side of the product development process.  After all I have been exposed to these past four months, I am curious to see what new activities and opportunities come my way in the coming months.

Ninjas & Pirates

Apparently, some jumpy ATF agents thought a guy running around the University of Georgia campus dressed as a ninja was a threat and pounced on him “Cops” style.  The link to this gem of an article was sent to one of the discussion aliases at work today.  Here’s an excerpt:

“The [Wesley Foundation pirate vs. ninja] event is designed as an offbeat way for students to meet others…’Ninjas’ were to say, ‘Hi-YA doing?’ and ‘pirates,’ ‘How arrrrrghhh you doing?’”

My reaction: :sarcastic:

This has to be one of the lamest (I think “offbeat” is a euphemism for “lame”) social networking concepts I have ever read.  It must be slim pickings when college students are seriously “meeting” each other with their faces covered.  They may as well stick to the chat rooms and avoid getting tackled by ATF agents.

The Known World

I decided to look into Edward P. Jones’ Pulitzer prize-winning novel, The Known World, after seeing him on an episode of “Oprah” — TB makes me watch. :ashamed: The subject matter of Jones’ first novel, black slaveowners in the American South 20 years before the Civil War, definitely intrigued me so I decided to read it.

“Tour de Force” would not be an exaggeration in describing this work of fiction which, like most novels, is based on many disturbing, real-life events.  At times the scenery, dialog and action is so palpable it seems more documentary or biography than fiction.  Reading the poignant narrative had me at various times recalling the most powerful scenes from “Roots,” “The Color Purple,” “Glory,” “Rosewood” and just about every other movie set immediately before, during, or after that period of American history.