What The 12th Man Says About Seattle

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Lots of cities get whipped into a frenzy when their team gets to play in The Big Sports Ball Contest. And it’s not entirely unreasonable to view the whole 12th Man campaign as a money-driven marketing ploy. So what is it really that the 12th Man tells us about Seattle?

What the 12th Man demonstrates is the strength of the communitarian impulse in Seattle. More than most major American cities, the people of the Seattle metro area embody a “we’re in this together” attitude that enables the area to unite behind big initiatives, as opposed to the “what’s in it for me?” attitude that prevails elsewhere. Certainly many Seahawks fans will be wearing Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman jerseys on Sunday, but when the 12s are out in force, brandishing an identity that rises above and outlasts any single individual’s, it says that what unites us is more important than what divides us and that we’ll make small sacrifices in service of a bigger goal.

Not that there isn’t a dark side to this, notably the passive-aggressive (and sometimes just aggressive) groupthink that permeates the Seattle area.  Or the rudeness-masquerading-as-politeness, of which is yielding one’s turn at an all-way stop sign is a prominent example. But it’s a key part of what makes Seattle a great place to live and sustains us through these short, gray days of winter.

The Top 10 *Real* Reasons that I’m Leaving Microsoft

Dorothy's ruby slippers

When people leave a job, they tend to spew pablum about “new opportunities” or “spending more time with the family.” Since today is my final day as a Microsoft employee, it’s my chance to set the record straight. Here are the top ten real reasons that I’m leaving Microsoft:

  1. I’m starting a new company to build an enterprise version of Snapchat.
  2. My Microsoft active tenure rank (#63) is now lower than my ladder level.
  3. It took me a week to complete code.org’s Hour of Code.
  4. I must free myself from the tyranny of automated paper towel dispensers.
  5. The Company Store finally sold out its entire backlog of Windows for Workgroups Starter Kits.
  6. I’ve given up trying to figure out what program managers really do.
  7. I only work for CEOs who were at Microsoft when Jimmy Carter was president.
  8. Now that I qualify for AARP discounts, I no longer need the Prime Card.
  9. I can’t bear the thought of not getting a single numeric rating to represent the relative value of an entire year’s work.

And the number one real reason that I’m leaving Microsoft is:

  1. Glinda the Good Witch appeared to me and explained that I’ve had the power to leave all along.

[Updated 25-Jan-2014: Added image and link -- DG]

Launching DannyGl 3.0

Twenty-seven years ago last month, I came to Seattle for the first time for my job interview at Microsoft. If my childhood and college years were the “1.0” of my life, then my Microsoft career has been “2.0.” I am now about to leave Microsoft and begin “DannyGl 3.0.” I’ll be around for a few more weeks to help with the current organizational transition; my official last day will be January 24th.

What most drew me to Microsoft all those years ago were the people; the people I knew already who worked there and the people I met when I interviewed. They were universally gifted, accomplished, and passionate about doing the right thing. While I have received enormous gratification from solving hard problems and delivering software products that hundreds of millions of people around the world use every day, learning from and being inspired by such an exceptional group of people on a daily basis has been my favorite part of working at Microsoft. My strongest sense of accomplishment at Microsoft comes not from any code or docs that I’ve written but from the people I’ve helped hire, develop, and mentor during my time here.

While thanking people individually would take too long, I will make one exception for Michele Weinberger Glasser, my wife and partner for most of these years. She has been my greatest source of support and is directly or indirectly responsible for the happiest moments of my life. I daresay that our combined 47 years of Microsoft FTE tenure is probably a record for a couple, though now that it is coming to an end I look forward to seeing this record broken.

You may be thinking, “What is DannyGl 3.0?” In keeping with a Microsoft-inspired release model, I am commencing a personal MQ and concurrently embarking on the 3.0 planning process. Further information about DannyGl 3.0 will require execution of a verbal non-disclosure agreement; this can typically be procured over lunch, a beer, or on a ski lift.

I invite you to “sign my yearbook” by sending email to danny+yearbook <at> glasserfamily.org, especially if you have a personal story about my contributions to Microsoft. I’ll be sharing this with my kids, so please keep it PG-13.

Thank you for the opportunity to work together. I look forward to our paths crossing again.

How the Seahawks clinched

After last night’s Seahawks victory, people started reporting that the Seahawks have clinched a playoff berth. However, there are more than enough teams who are capable of matching the Seahawks’ worst-case won-loss record of 11-5, and I couldn’t find anybody who had – in the words of math teachers everywhere – shown their work. So I decided to work it out myself, and either prove that the Seahawks did indeed clinch or find at least one scenario where they would not make the playoffs.

Starting with the fact that the Seahawks are guaranteed no worse than an 11-5 record, this limits the analysis to NFC teams whose won-loss records are 7-5 or better.  Apart from Seattle, there are seven of these: Detroit, Dallas, Philadelphia, Carolina, New Orleans, Arizona, and San Francisco.

We know that Seattle has not yet clinched the NFC West, because San Francisco is 8-4 and could finish 12-4.  So it’s possible that Seattle would have to settle for a wild card spot.  In fact, San Francisco could lose its final game to Arizona and still win the division, because if Seattle loses the rest of its games and the 49ers win all but the last, both teams are 11-5.  Then the 49ers would win the tiebreaker based on having a superior division record (4-2 vs. 3-3).  More on this later.

Now let’s go through the other divisions. The NFC North is easiest: Only the Lions can go 11-5, and if they do, they win the division and thus don’t compete for a wild card berth.

In the NFC East, both the Cowboys and the Eagles are 7-5.  Either could go 11-5, but since they face each other in the final game of the season, if one goes 11-5, the other would be at best 10-6.  In this case, the 11-5 team would win the division and the 10-6 team would fall below an 11-5 Seahawks team in the quest for a wild card berth.

In the NFC South, both Carolina and New Orleans are 9-3.  Both have lost to the Seahawks, so they must go 12-4 to beat Seattle for a wild card berth.  This is possible, since though they face each other twice, if they split those two games and each win their other two games, they’re both 12-4.  One of them would win the division – I haven’t bothered figuring out who – and the other would take a wild card spot over an 11-5 Seahawks team.

So that leaves the NFC West: The 49ers, the Cardinals, and the Seahawks, with one wildcard spot guaranteed to be available to an 11-5 team.  One scenario is that the 49ers win their remaining games and the Seahawks lose theirs.  In this case, the 49ers win the division at 12-4, but in doing so they beat the Cardinals, who would be at best 10-6.  So the Seahawks would get the second wild card berth at 11-5.

The second interesting scenario is where the Cardinals win all of their remaining games, the 49ers win all but the Cardinals game, and the Seahawks lose all of theirs.  In this case, all three teams finish with 11-5 records.

Let’s go through the tiebreaker steps under this scenario:

  1. Head-to-head.  All three teams are 1-1 against each other.
  2. Division record.  Currently Seattle is 3-0, San Francisco 3-1 and Arizona 0-3.  In this scenario, San Francisco would end up 4-2, and both Seattle and Arizona 3-3.  San Francisco would win the division, leaving Seattle and Arizona to contend for the last wild card berth using the remaining steps.
  3. Record against common opponents.  There are twelve of these for Arizona and Seattle.  Arizona is 6-3 with three remaining and Seattle is 9-1 with two remaining.  So both would end up 9-3.
  4. Conference record.  Seattle is currently 8-0 with four remaining and Arizona is 4-5 with three remaining.  So Seattle would end up 8-4 and Arizona would end up 7-5.  Advantage, Seahawks!

There you have it!  Even if Seattle doesn’t win another regular season game and every other playoff contender wins every game that it needs to, Seattle is guaranteed at least a wild card berth.  And if they defeat the 49ers next Sunday, they clinch the NFC West and have only one remaining competitor (the winner of the Carolina-New Orleans game) for the top playoff seed in the NFC.

Letter to the Ethicist

Dear Ethicist:

I am a long-time reader of this column and I have never been as dumbstruck as I was by your response yesterday in E-Book Dodge. In both reasoning and conclusion your response was, in contemporary parlance, a great big bowl of wrong.

First, while an illegal act is not automatically unethical, as we live in a society of laws, deliberate law-breaking should be restricted to situations where ethics demand it. Mere convenience does not meet this bar.

Second, the comparison to “buying a CD, then copying it to your iPod” is invalid, since doing so for personal use is explicitly legal in the United States (see http://mp3.about.com/od/digitalmusicfaq/f/CDripping_legal.htm).

Most significantly, you provide no ethical justification for the statement that "buying a book or a piece of music should be regarded as a license to enjoy it on any platform." Indeed, it appears to be based on the dubious and – dare I say it – anachronistic notion that the primary value of content is in the physical media with which it is transmitted and not the content itself. A sounder ethical principle would be that the individual or organization that owns the right to distribute the content – ideally its creator – decides what the appropriate value is on different platforms. It may be short-sighted of Apple Records to not make “Abbey Road” available for me to download when I’ve already purchased it on LP, cassette, and CD, but ethically speaking it is their right.

Finally, the statement that “no potential pirate will actually realize” when someone downloads an illegal copy is simply incorrect. Basic web site logging enables the provider of pirated content to track the who, what, and when of access to such content.

Sincerely,
Daniel Glasser

My first new car

It was twenty years ago today:  When I bought my first new car, that is.  At the time I was driving a beat-up Datsun B210 that I’d purchased 2 1/2 years earlier for $650, so with some savings in the bank I was able to afford something new.

I looked at a bunch of compact four-door sedans in the $15,000 range, like the VW Jetta and the Mazda 626, before settling on the Acura Integra.  I opted for the "high-end" GS model to get anti-lock brakes.  Acuras didn’t have a lot of factory options at the time (nor do they now) and the main dealer-installed option I added was air conditioning.  I also got my first real taste of the new car purchasing experience, which predictably wasn’t fun.

One of the creature comforts that this car lacked was map lights, which were introduced in the following year’s model (along with the Acura logo).  A friend who test drove my car and ended up buying a 1991 Integra reminded me about the lack of map lights for years.  I had another friend who bought nearly the identical car a few months after I did, down to the color — the only differences were that she opted for a sunroof instead of AC and had a different color dealer-added body stripe — and was afraid I’d be upset with her for copying me.

I drove the car for seven years before replacing it, at which point I shipped it to my sister, who used it for the rest of its natural life.  (The above pictures were taken from the shipping company’s lot in 1997.) The car I replaced it with and the car I replaced that one with both arrived in March, so there must be something about me and buying new cars at the onset of spring.

What Are Those Things Sticking Out of My Car’s Front Doors?

It’s not clear to me that most drivers use their car’s side mirrors.  What is clear is that those who do often don’t have their mirrors adjusted properly.  The notion seems to be that you need to be able to see the sides of your car in your side mirrors to ensure that you can see what’s alongside it.

The point was well made last year in the New York Times in Are Blind Spots a Myth?  People are now spending over $1000 to purchase an option to accomplish something that can be just as easily achieved but adjusting their damn mirrors properly.

More recently Car and Driver covered the subject, complete with helpful illustrations (left).  Like last year’s New York Times piece, it refers to a paper published by the Society of Automotive Engineers back in 1995.  The technique is to adjust “the mirrors so far outward that the viewing angle of the side mirrors just overlaps that of the cabin’s rearview mirror.”  In other words, you get a lot more benefit from your side mirrors when they don’t show you the same thing that your rearview mirror shows.

I don’t know what they teach in driver’s ed these days but when I took it, this was not something that was taught.  We were taught that large blind spots are inevitable and the only way to avoid them is to turn your head at least 90 degrees before changing lanes.  Admittedly, this lesson may have been a throwback to the days when many cars did not come with right-side mirrors.  Oh, yes, and I did take driver’s ed in Manhattan.

Years later I learned about proper mirror adjustment on my own, though when I took advanced driver training through BMW CCA PSR, I observed it taught in practice for the first time.  As the instructor put it, “You know what the side of your car looks like, so why do you need to see it in your mirrors?”