I haz a new Trophy!

Posted on May 30, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Those of you that don’t know (likely two or maybe three in the world don’t know that…. and, they were born today) I work for Microsoft. Being a Verizon customer, I was really, REALLY anxious for Verizon to get their act together and deliver a Windows Phone 7 to the Verizon faithful. (This is the one area that I have any empathy for iPhone fanatics – Verizon and Apple took their time on that one too.)

What I don’t get is what is the deal with Microsoft’s “Marketing Machine”? You’d think if you were launching a new phone to a new carrier, you’d advertise the crap out of it. The phone goes to general release in Verizon locations June 2. You remember the advertising blitz with the iPhone, right? The one that has never ended? Oh, you may have read this.

OK, enough complaining about the advertising we’re not doing. The phone itself is pretty light. It feels nice in the hand, with the power/activate button on top. Camera button for pictures and 720p video (5MP camera) is on the lower right. There are three buttons on the face – more like sensors, because there is no physical button – that are the three mandated buttons for the Windows Phone 7 operation. A back button, which takes you back to the previous page you were on, a search button (a magnifying glass – get it?) which launches search for most things – and defaults to the Bing search engine (naturally), and finally – the middle button which is a ‘Windows’ button that returns you to the main tile screen.

Windows Phone 7 is built with a new interface, known as Metro. Metro is designed around the idea that most of the main elements has a tile associated with it. Want to go to Messaging (text messages)? Tap the messaging tile. Want to make a phone call? Tap the phone (or, surprisingly – Verizon Wireless) tile. Easy, peasy. And, about those apps. Once you load apps onto the phone (no, there isn’t an Angry Birds yet… It’s coming, for crying out loud), just ‘left flick’. Want to move through messages? Move your finger on the screen up and down. I KNOW! How easy!

Oh, and if you don’t like that picture in portrait, turn the phone 90 degrees. Yeah – landscape – much better.

I know, I know. iPhone has had this for a long time. But, this is the first FUNCTIONAL Windows Phone that I’ve had. Yeah, I said the same things about Windows Mobile 6. But, this is so much cooler! Because, well, it’s new. And, it’s got some apps. And, well, it’s really nice.

Oh, and for those of you that don’t yet have the NoDo update for YOUR Windows Phone 7 – you know, the update that delivers the incredibly hard to do ‘cut and paste’ feature? Talk to your carrier. WE (Microsoft) don’t actually deliver them until they are approved and provisioned by your carrier. But, the cut and paste in the NoDo update works really well. Funny – I had the update on my phone when I got it. So, I have no idea what other things are missing when you don’t have the NoDo update.

To my colleagues at Microsoft marketing and my peers at Verizon: How about some commercials? I see an iPhone ad every 5 minutes on TV. Certainly, we could get one a night, don’t you think?

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Hi, my name is Rick (“Hi, Rick….”) and I have cancer….

Posted on October 4, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

OK – the elephant in the room now has a name, and everyone knows what it is.  If this comes off sounding like a rant, I’ll apologize in advance.  My only real intent with this post is to hopefully put more of you at ease with the fact that I have cancer, and that – God willing – everything is going to be OK.

But, I have a confession to make. I’m human, just like everyone else. My daughter-in-law’s uncle passed away from cancer not that long ago, and now her other uncle is fighting it. In fact, my own father passed away from cancer. The confession? I didn’t really know how to deal with any of these three cases – relating to each of them exactly they way that I did the day BEFORE I found out that they were sick.  It’s odd, that we as humans, find it difficult to know how to act or what to say when someone we have known, laughed with, partied with, is all of a sudden….  Different.  It’s hard to find the words to express your feelings – because you typically don’t have a context in which to talk to the person.  You, yourself feel mortal, and uneasy. What if I say the wrong thing? What if he doesn’t want to talk about it? What if he doesn’t want to talk at all?

That’s my mission today.  I want to put you at ease. I want you to be able to talk to me and know that I’m interested – just as if I was never diagnosed with cancer.

Rule #1: I know you care.  Thank you.  Say it, or give me a hug, offer encouraging words, whatever you are comfortable with.

Rule #2: I have cancer – not leprosy, smallpox, H1N1.  I’m not contagious. I might have athletes foot, so please don’t play with my feet.

Rule #3: I love to talk about computers, Xbox, video gaming, science, technology, cars, and racing.  Formula 1 and Drag Racing preferred, but I can get my arm twisted into talking about NASCAR.

Rule #4: I still eat lunch, dinner, and have a beer or glass of wine now and again.  If you would want to invite me out to talk (I’ll pay my own tab, please!) about whatever – call me, drop an email…. etc.

Rule #5: During my treatment, I might lose my hair.  I’m OK with it, and so should you.  There are lots of cool looking bald guys out there.  I won’t be a cool looking bald guy.  Just bald, with the familiar ‘chemo peach fuzz’.  No worries – I’ll pretty much wear a hat or one of the really cool Marcus Fenix skull caps from one of my favorite games, Gears of War.

Rule #6: I’m still Rick.  Nothing has changed, except I’m going to be going through some radical treatments in the coming months, and (hopefully) one surgery. I’ll have good days and bad days.  If I get cranky (most of you that know me might not be able to tell the difference anyway…), it’s just because I’m not feeling great today.  I’ll be better.  And, as time goes on, I’ll be MUCH better.

Rule #7: If you really, really want to get comfortable talking to other people that have cancer and are fighting it, I’m likely to be your best possible opportunity to get more comfortable with everyone else that you know that has cancer. As mentioned above – I don’t mind talking about it.  I’m a relatively easy guy to get comfortable with, I don’t bite, and as mentioned – I’m not contagious.

The net of all of this is simply – please don’t ignore me, feel uneasy, or otherwise think I don’t want to talk.  I do…  If you are at all apprehensive, know that I make this promise to everyone – spoken or not: If I feel good, I’ll talk with anyone.  If I’m not feeling good, I’ll be kind enough to let you know that I’m really not wanting to talk just now, and I’ll call you / IM you / drop you an email.

Just please – do not be afraid or uneasy around me.  Believe it or not – I can tell…  Because, I recognize those very same traits in others that I exhibited to relatives and friends BEFORE I fully understood all that they wanted was to be treated just like they were the day before they told anyone they had cancer.

My name is Rick, and I have cancer.  And, it’s OK.  :o)

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When “Kinda bad” is REALLY “Great news!”

Posted on October 1, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

The second colonoscopy and ultrasound went very, very well yesterday.  The first “OK, that’s awesome news!” was that the rest of the colon is fine – no apparent other lesions, polyps, etc.  It’s clean.  That is really, really, good news.

So, the rest of the story is now centered on the one known mass. Dr, Schafer did an ultrasound of the mass and the surrounding tissue. The tumor has invaded the wall of the colon and beyond to a couple of small lymph nodes.  That’s the worst of it.  Which, is actually pretty good.  Why?  It’s actually not as bad as I thought it might have been.

The upside is this: It’s treatable.  Because it has not compromised the lymphatic system (short of just a couple small nodes) radiation and chemo will shrink and kill off the cancer before it gets worse and proceeds any farther.  After that, we get into surgery to remove what’s left of the tumor and the colon wall.

The next step is to meet with the Oncologist and consult with him as to the treatment, what order or chemo/radiation/surgery, and to get things going.  I’m looking forward to moving quickly with this, and know that I’m in good hands for the care and the fight ahead.  Radiation and chemo is going to suck – I know that.  But, I’m ready for it and I know that there will be good days and bad days.  Being a realist about what is to come is the best way to get prepared.  The bottom line is that I’m going to be OK, and my “bucket list” can wait a little bit longer.  Or, better yet – I can work on what’s there currently and add new items.  Yeah, that’s a better plan.

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Orange, Lemon, and Lime – Oh my!

Posted on September 29, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I’m really not sure what the big thing is about reds, purples and blues, but when you are preparing for a colonoscopy – they are completely forbidden.  I can eat/drink a number of CLEAR liquids (in other words, if I can see through it, I can drink it….), including Gatorade, Chicken broth, Jell-O, water, tea, coffee, soft drinks.  But, none can be of the forbidden colors. 

My question then, is why can’t I have a green cherry Gatorade, or a orange colored raspberry Jell-O?  Oddly, these aren’t hard questions – I’m sure that it’s the dye that is used causes some coloration of the colon and bowel – which certainly isn’t good when you’re looking for things by color, shape, etc.

So, today I pretty much drank my weight in coffee (black – no cream or milk!) and Gatorade, with a few glasses of water and some yummy Lime Jell-O…..  What I found the other day is fun, to say the least: Margarita flavored Jell-O – and it’s GREEN!  W00t!

Well, maybe more later on.  I have to go start round two of the ‘colon blow’ (a massive infusion of purging medicines to clean out the bowel….  Right.  Fun – NOT!), and the next round (and hopefully final for a while…) begins tonight at 12:30 AM.

I did get the lawn mowed – that was good to get outside and sweat a bit.  It’s going to be winter soon, and… well – not quite as nice outside as it is today.


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A lot of techno-jargon…..

Posted on September 28, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

and none of it coming from my mouth.  I got a call from the Dr.  I now at least know what I have, but don’t have a full diagnosis yet.  The pathologists that reviewed the biopsy from the tumor described it as:

“High grade of dysplasia with features suspicious of carcinoma”

So, what does that REALLY mean?  It really means that I have a cancerous tumor.  How bad?  Don’t know yet. I still have the second colonoscopy on Wednesday and Endoscopic Ultrasound to determine the size and spread of the tumor.  With luck, it hasn’t gone through the membrane wall (meaning hasn’t spread any further than the mass itself).  That’s best case.  The next cases are less wonderful, but it obviously starts becoming really bad if the tumor is into the lymph nodes or other organs.  All very possible, I suppose. For each type and stage, there is a treatment, with levels of success.

But, I guess that’s why the Drs. get the big bucks.  I also have an appointment with an Oncologist on October 8th. I’m fairly sure he’s well-paid, too.

One step at a time….  It’s the best any of us can do.


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Halo 3:ODST Wow….

Posted on September 28, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Halo 3:ODST takes place shortly before the events of Halo 3, and shortly after the events of Halo 2.  That might seem obvious and trivial, but for people that really follow the story and the mythology of Halo, that’s pretty important.

Without giving up much detail or secrets, our protagonist, “The Rookie”, is an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper (ODST, for short).  The ODST drop in pods that are released from space and all but crash into the ground and can then be opened to let the trooper out.

Key thing – these guys and gals have minimal armor – nothing like a Spartan.  What this means is that your tactics change completely.  There is no dashing into a firefight and simply ‘blasting it out’ with the Convenant soldiers.  If you’ve played Gears of War – your strategy has to be much more like that of Marcus, Dom, or any other gear.  You have no regenerating shields, only medi-kits that you find in New Mombasa, where the story takes place.  And, there is a big story here, with lots of mystery.  You dropped with the rest of your team, but because the Convenant battlecruiser went into slip-space (think warp drive in Star Trek) as you were dropping towards it, everyone is scattered – and possibly killed during earth entry.

You start out on your own with a silenced pistol and a silenced machine gun – and your wits. And, a bunch of Covenant that don’t know you’re there yet…..

This is one awesome game – find me on Xbox Live it you want to play co-op, or the new Firefight mode, which seems to be a heck of a lot like Gears of War 2’s Horde mode.

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Monday…. And, for Rick –it’s not a bad day!

Posted on September 28, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I’m truly blessed to work for who I work for.  Microsoft cares for their employees more than any company I have encountered.  Last year, when I transitioned from being a Consultant with Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS) to working as a Technical Writer I never knew how much of a profound impact this would have on my professional and personal life. One, who thought I would *LIKE* writing?  I hated documentation so much in my earlier career, that I would do nearly anything to avoid it. However, when I did finally buckle down and do it – I think I did pretty well.  So, instead of advising customers on how to implement our solutions, my audience is much bigger – Microsoft Field people, Microsoft Partners, and our entire customer base.  It’s fun – but editors can be a pain.  But, in the end, editors are my best friend.  I get to write things the way that I want to – and they make sure that it’s presentable to an international audience.

Let’s make no mistake – the past months have been somewhat rocky.  Sue has been used to me being gone 80-100% of the time.  Now, I’m here 100% of the time.  Often, I’m not sure me being here all of the time is such a good thing.  And, I’m pretty certain she has no idea what to do with me on some days. I work from home in my office in the basement.  The only company I have during the day is the two cats that Sue gave me for Christmas in 2008.  Milo and Abby are truly the best daytime friends I could have here.  They sleep most of the time, crab to go outside, and poop.  Well, and now and then Milo decides he has to crawl up on my shoulders to see what I’m doing.  He just lays there and watches me work.  The only problem – he’s about as subtle as a bulldozer.  I have the scars on my arm, neck, head and shoulders to prove that he jumps up with all claws ready to grab whatever is there.  But, he’s such a sweet meatloaf of a cat.  Picture Garfield.  Milo *IS* Garfield, in every sense.

Back to Microsoft.  Think for a moment.  If I had been diagnosed while still working for MCS, I really don’t know what the net of that would be.  Working from home, writing documentation on our Office Communications Server(OCS) product, as well as articles for an online presence and continuing my work with the OCS Resource Kit (we’ve produced two editions – and I’ve submitted two and six chapters, respectively) – I can still be productive except for the really bad days.  And, anyone that knows me – you know that a weekend is just another day for me to do what I love.  As I mentioned in another post, it stuns me to no end that Microsoft actually PAYS me to do what I do!  It’s not often that you get to do your HOBBY as a JOB.  And, this is so very passionate for me.  Could I think of a better therapy?  Not bloody likely.

This weekend, I decided to research my current motherboard and other parts in one of my computers, because one of my short-term goals has been to have a Macintosh (Apple) OS X (the operating system – like Windows for PC’s, but for Macintosh hardware) running for test and educational purposes.  Well, last week I found the information I needed.  Armed with a fully licensed copy of the Leopard version of OS X and the help of the really smart folks at www.insanelymac.com I know have a fully functional ‘Hackintosh’.  So, why is this important?  One – if you’re a true geek, you know already.  Two, we (the OCS Product Group) are putting out products to allow Macs to participate in OCS as a client OS.  It means that I can test things against the OS that I would not have been able to before.

So, that was my weekend – doing research on OCS and defining new articles to write, while setting up and testing my very own little pet Macintosh… Err, Hackintosh.

Sometimes life just gives you lemons.  You deal with it and you move on.


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And, sometimes life just gives you lemons….

Posted on September 27, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

You all know the old saying….  “If life deals you lemons, then just make lemonade”.  Sometimes, the potential to come out with lemonade just isn’t possible.  And, that being the case – you take the lemons and you enjoy them.  You’re still alive, surrounded by family and friends, and it just can’t be that bad.

I still don’t think it’s all that bad.  However, my close family is feeling quite a bit more of a sting than I am.

Last Wednesday, September 23rd, a routine colonoscopy (I’m 49 for God’s sake…. they start wanting to do those things anyway!) uncovered a mass.  It’s not pretty – regardless of where it is.  It’s about 5 cm in size. The Dr. took a biopsy and as of today – we don’t have results back yet.  But, the reality is – given the type and location of the tumor – it’s malignant. Probability – for those that are interested in such things – 90%.

However, that’s not the end of the story.  Because of a poor cleaning of the colon, they were only able to get through about 1/3 of it.  So, I’m set for another colonoscopy on this Wednesday at 11:30 AM.  They also plan to do an ultrasound to look at the current tumor and get a better understanding of what we are really looking at (insert your own joke here…. Yes, I have a ton of them at the moment… 🙂 )

The current belief is that there will be surgery.  There will be radiation. There will be chemotherapy. All of this is just fine…. I can get through this and I plan to live a long life yet.  I have a number of things that I want to do, family that I owe time, and a wife that needs much more care right now than I do (I’m going to have Dr’s and nurses…  she’s going to need all of you!)

But, I plan to take control of this and my care.  My hair is going to grow until it starts to fall out.  Then, I’m cutting it off myself (with the help of my hair stylist, of course). If you are familiar with Gears of War, I’ll be in the “Marcus Fenix” skull cap.

Future Postings

The future postings to my blog – this blog – might start looking a lot more like “Twitter” tweets.  If I post something that says “I’m on the patio”, that’s likely exactly what I’m doing that day. Most of you that know me know that the hardest thing to get me to do is to stop working.  Well, that’s not going to change.  This is therapy for me. This is a passion – and Microsoft has provided me with an outlet for my abundance of passion.  The weird thing – they PAY me for the privilege of having THIS MUCH FUN!

My colleagues at Microsoft are some of the smartest people on the planet. We may miss on products, but we always seem to come back with a killer product. There is so much fun, so much potential, so many challenges – I am truly blessed to be able to work here.

So, the intent for this blog from here on out is to collect my thoughts.  There will likely be rants (many of you that know me wouldn’t know me if I didn’t get on the soapbox now and again…), there will be updates on my journey through cancer treatment.  And, there will be gaps.  Not every day is going to be as good as this one.  Some days, I’ll likely not even be able to get out of bed – due to the effects of the chemo, the radiation, or surgery. But, I will be sitting (though where the tumor is, that might not be pleasant either…) in front of the computer.  And, when I’m here, I’ll take a few minutes now and again to post what’s going on with my treatment.

That’s it for now.  Tiger Woods has just won the FedEx cup for 2009, with Phil Mickelson winning the Tour Championship.  It’s a good day today.


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