James O'Neill's Blog

May 16, 2008

On knowing your sh*t

Filed under: Exchange,Working at Microsoft — jamesone111 @ 8:43 am

It’s been an interesting few days, Monday was the Glasgow road-show event and Thursday was our day in Newcastle. The team didn’t look upon flying with any great enthusiasm. So rather than returning home, drawing breath and heading North again we decided to stop en-route for an extra day and night: since we’d missed off-site event that the rest of our group had to spend time doing team stuff and thinking about goals for the financial year that starts on July 1st, we used the time for that – while enjoying some of the best countryside the UK has to offer. It was time well spent and  – thinking as a shareholder – I was glad to see a reasonable chunk of money saved (not quite so glad that a quirk of our expense policy means I’m paying a little of the cost myself) 

And so to Newcastle; we’ve visited Newcastle twice and got a good reception both times so it’s a place I’m glad to come back to. (Some audiences seem pleased  that we bother going to them at all. London audiences expect us to go there and are the hardest to please.) Instead of being Travel weary, we were in a good frame of mind and delivered the best event we’ve done on this trip. Last time we were in Newcastle  Jonathan Noble met us and we ended up entering a pub quiz (and got close to winning!), so we gave him the task of finding another one and were joined by half dozen more "community" people. The quiz was fun and we might have won it, but we came in a contented third. There was an end-of-evening Jackpot prize for a one-off question: 25p to buy a slip, a £100 prize and one question asked after the slips were sold. The question. What are coprolites ?

Some years back a friend of mine – another of the Davids – bought the board game of Who wants to be a Millionaire ? Being on a few people’s phone-a-friend list I did fairly well and found myself at the "£1,000,000" question. It was "What date was the battle of Hastings" – everyone assumes 1066, but not what year, but what day-of-the-year.  I’d once sent my Dad a birthday card which said on the outside "Do you know what day it is ?" and on the inside I’d written "The 925th anniversary of the battle of Hastings ? ", because he (and Mrs Thatcher if I remember correctly) both have the day of the battle as their birthday. So when the answers were  "13th of August" , "13th of September", "13th of October", or "13th of November" it was too easy. While we’re on battles and anniversaries a different David celebrates wedding anniversary on Trafalgar day. I don’t know how this stuff sticks in my head, but it’s a useful trait for a technical chap.

I don’t know why I know about Coprolites. But I do know they’re fossilized dinosaur droppings. Whether to para-phrase something from the film broken arrow I don’t know if I was more surprised that dinosaur poo CAN be fossilized, or that it is common enough that we have a word for it it . So £100 came my way. One Geordie – a good 20 years my senior – asked me with a huge grin on his face if "that means you know a lot about old sh*te" quite a few Microsofties would say that was a fair description.  I told my daughter about football that "you win as a team or lose as a team" and I didn’t think of the prize as my money.  The winning team in the main quiz  put their prize in the Pub’s charity boxes (RNLI and RNIB) and when I suggested that we do the same, all of my team agreed. It might be the first time our charity matching scheme has been presented with a pub receipt to support a claim – all being well the two charities should get £50 each; and that still doesn’t wipe out the money we saved.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

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