Marquee de Sells: Chris's insight outlet for category 'fun' via ATOM 1.0 csells on twitter

You've reached the internet home of Chris Sells, who has a long history as a contributing member of the Windows developer community. He enjoys long walks on the beach and various computer technologies.

The Downside Of Working At Home

I've been working at home off and (mostly) on for 16 years...

From Recommended!


Working Hard: WhirlyBall

What my team does on an average Wednesday afternoon:

It was surprisingly fun.


Helping to set up fireworks for the 4th of July?

Last year right after the 4th of July, one of my kind readers offered to let the me and the boys help set up and set off this year's 4th of July show in or around Portland. However, I can't find who offered. If that kind reader is still out there, can you drop me a line? I'm sure my 60-year-old father would like to help, too. Thanks!


Flinging My 60-year-old Mother High Into The Air

My mom came to visit to celebrate my 40th birthday and her 60th birthday. She and the Sells Brothers and I spent yesterday afternoon wandering along the waterfront, checking out exotic animals, ditching lame cowboy comedians and eating elephant ears. And then, to put a point on the day, we launched ourselves 100 feet into the air on a giant bungle cord machine.

As part of this, my eldest son decided at the peak of our arch to spit in spite of my objections. You can see in the video us reacting to our falling at the same rate at his glob of saliva which is the clearest demonstration of Galileo's gravity experiment from the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa that I've ever seen.

Enjoy. We did. : )


I love Microsoft's terrible automated voice attendant

Long-time readers may recall when I got an angry caller from a Vista user that had trouble configuring it the way they wanted it. They got to me because they were looking for "sales" using the automated voice attendant that matched my last name instead ("Sells") and forwarded him to me in the middle of a 1:1 in my office. Not wanting to let a customer go away angry, I stopped what I was doing and did my best to try to help.

It happened again today, except for an angry middle-aged guy, I got a call from the sweetest 12-year-old girl you'd ever want to talk to. Her Word CD had gotten scratched and she needed a replacement so she could write a big paper due next week. I considered telling her that I wasn't in sales or support or getting her number and calling her back (I was IM'ing with four other people at the time and I was late for a meeting), but she was so earnest that I just couldn't turn her away.

Instead, I took her name, address and email, went to the MS store and purchased her a copy of Office 2007, which I then had sent to her place via 2-day shipping, all the time assuring her that it wouldn't cost her a dime. I ended up using my own personal quota for discounted software and charging $60 to my MS AMEX, but I would've spent my own money (and still might if my boss reads this and rejects my expense report : ).

She was so grateful and it made my day to solve her problem. I love our customers and I hope the terrible robot on the main MS line keeps sending 'em my way.


There once was a man from Duluth

nearly 40 years old; past his youth!
But tonight with a smile,
he swam non-stop for a mile.
First time in his life - that's the truth!

I swam a mile when I was 17 and again last summer, but never non-stop before. I know it doesn't compare to real swimmers (it took me 45 minutes), but I've been swimming for less than a year. Plus i found two meaningful rhymes for "Duluth." I rock. : )


The Poker Brat

You may or may not know it, but I'm a big poker fan. For a while, I thought about quitting my job and being a Texas Holdem poker player. I've studied a stack of poker books and every once in a while, I get to be at a table when there's a "moment" -- somebody gets cocky and gets beat in just the way they deserve. I've been the cocky guy and I've been the guy that does the beating. Here's an example with poker brat Phil Hellmuth of what I'm talking about:


I love seeing Phil get trounced here, but the only thing that makes me wonder is, why is Dragomir so upset? I can't help but gloat when I get to beat someone like that. : )

From Anne Dempsey,
Tue 12/16/2008 8:59 AM


DVDFab + My Own DVDs = Couch Convenience

I don't know if it's legal or not, but if you use DVDFab with the Mobile option set to XVID video + MP3 audio (both supported by the XBOX 360 if you have the latest updates installed), you can rip the movie from your DVD (no menus, extras, etc) onto a network share (I use my Windows Home Server box), scroll through them on my XBOX 360 and play them back with a/v quality high enough that I can't tell the difference (and I don't have the quality cranked as high as it goes by any means).

Each movie takes roughly 1GB, so I can get all of my DVDs stored for the cost of two weeks' worth of lattes (although I'm really just using the spare space on my 1.4TB of WHS storage). Plus, since I'm still in the 30-day trial period of DVDFab, if I hurry, I could rip them all for free (although for the $40, DVDFab Gold is definitely worth the price). It generally takes about 45 minutes per movie, so I'll be flipping a lot of DVDs during the next 30 days and I haven't bothered to figure out how to get DVD metadata, e.g. cover art, etc, but other than that, the experience is a wonderful one. In fact, since I hate going through all the previews and menus, just picking the movie from a list and having it playing immediately is a better experience that a DVD in many ways.

The only thing that could make this better is if WHS or Windows Media Center Edition had this feature built in. I'm guessing I'm breaking some laws by doing this, but to me, it sounds like fair use. I'm backing up the DVDs that I already own to a HDD. The fact that I can watch them without getting out of my couch doesn't change the fact that the DVDs are right there on my shelf, purchased fair and square.

Oh, well, if the police want to come for me, they know where I am. : )


I woke up today and decided to win the lottery

And so I did the only thing I could to do increase my odds -- I actually played the lottery. (I blame my inability to apply this strategy for my lottery losings in the past.)

I did a little research and then went to two local Plaid Pantries to purchase the Oregon Lottery "Trio."

At the first Plaid Pantry, an thin, stringy haired older lady behind the counter blinked in surprise when she saw me and then laughed to herself.

"I just saw your geek pin. It's so subtle... geek..." she said. "I wish I would've paid more attention to geeks when I was growing up. I only paid attention to the rockers."

"Well, that's pretty common," I said.

"But they're dumb and self-centered!"

"Yeah, but they get all the girls..."

"Well, I'm not a girl anymore and I prefer nerds. They're more stimulating!"

"Well," I said. "On behalf of the geek community, thank you."

She smiled, handed me my tickets and I left proud of my geek heritage.

At the second Plaid Pantry, a crowd had formed at the front desk. I got to the front of the line and a little old lady with a plastic tiara was cutting into a homemade chocolate fudge cake. The lady behind the counter said, "It's her birthday! And we love her!"

"Your birthday!" I said.

The birthday girl said, "Yep, don't you see my 65-year-old birthday crown?"

"Lovely," I said. "Happy birthday!"

The lady behind the counter said, "Well, no one was going to make a cake, so I did. That oughta be against the law."

I agreed and placed my Trio order. On the way out, I was happy to have been even a short part of that woman's birthday at the local convenience store where she was loved.

I decided to walk across the street to the locally owned coffee shop, tucked away off the main streets, fighting for survival against the Starbucks juggernaut. I walked in, said good morning to Ju, the owner and proprietor, who immediate started making my standard order. I haven't been there for months, but he still remembered what I wanted.

It's already been a good day. Think how much better it'll be after they announce my winning numbers? : )


Poetry Proclivities

I'm not a big poetry fan in general, but notable exceptions are Poe's The Raven (especially the Simpson's version), Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein.

However, I have to admit a certain fondness for the lowly limerick. I've done some composing, but the subject matter is often not something I'd want to post on my blog ("Hi, Mom!"), so when I ran into the rare clean one, I had to share:

A Limerick packs laughs anatomical
In a space that is quite economical
But the good ones we've seen
Very seldom are clean
And the clean ones so seldom are comical

I've seen geek poetry, geek activities as song parodies, programs as songs (genius!), but I've never seen a geek limerick. Got any?


Fingerling Potato Baby Jesus

This is what happens when my relatives get together and the wine flows freely... : )


Here Comes Another Bubble sttto some Billy Joel song...

This is hilarious!


Win a Trip to NYC + WPF Dream Machine with Your WPF Application Stylings!

The nice folks at Lab 49 are throwing a contest for WPF programmers.

The goal: take the financial data they provide and build a kick-ass WPF app around it.

The grand prize:

Final submission is 2/29/08, but there are other prizes for early submission (by 2/14/08).

The judges (Charles Petzold, Rob Relyea, Josh Smith and yours truly) will be looking for "your use of WPF, innovative display of financial data, the quality of your code, performance, appearance, and overall functionality."

I'm a bit of a financial nut, so I'm very much looking forward to the results of this contest. Dazzle us!


From Mommy, Why is There a Server in the House?:

"When a mommy and a daddy love each other very much, the daddy wants to give the mommy a special gift.

"So he buys a 'stay-at-home' server."

I wish more of the rest of Microsoft had this kind of humor when dealing with the world! I thought I was going to wet myself...


Amazon Kindle Real-Life Review

I've posted about ebooks before (e.g. I Hate Books). It sounds like the Amazon Kindle has some real potential. All we need is a product with enough critical mass to create a market and then we can have real competition ala the music player market.

Has anyone used an ebook reader before? I have some friends with the Sony version and they love it. Are we there yet? Does anyone have a Kindle?


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