Usage guidance for a popcorn machine in the kitchenette

My colleague KC Lemson tipped me off to a sign hanging next to a popcorn machine in one of the kitchens:


Please do not leave
popcorn kettle on

while unattended.
The fire truck will
, and they don't
want any popcorn.


A friend of mine happened to have a chat with a fire fighter who used to be assigned to the fire station nearest to Microsoft main campus. According to him, the top three reasons for being called to a Microsoft building are (in no particular order)

  • Burnt popcorn.
  • Somebody has a panic attack and mistakes it for a heart attack.
  • Somebody pulls the fire alarm because they are under a lot of stress because they missed a deadline, and they think pulling the fire alarm will buy them some time. (Where do they think they are, college?)

This week is Fire Prevention Week.

Comments (34)
  1. (for those like me who don't have any font installed that supports the 01f692 code point that Raymond used:…/screenshot1se.png )

  2. Adam Rosenfield says:

    U+1F692 can also be found in the "Transport and Map Symbols" section of Unicode here:…/U1F680.pdf .

    Interesting use of stylesheets to use either the Webdings font with the private use code point U+F066 or the real Unicode character to maximize accessibility, though I'm not convinced it wouldn't be better to just use an image here.  The usual arguments (search engines & text-to-speech) don't seem to apply here.

    [You forgot the main argument "Raymond's content management system doesn't support images." -Raymond]
  3. Joshua says:

    @Adam Rosenfield: It helps me tremendously. I depend on core web accessibility, and the results are usually far more readable than if he had used images.

  4. Raphael says:

    I was wondering why there was a big red square …

  5. Adam Rosenfield says:

    Oh right, that.  There have been past posts with images (like…/10343683.aspx ), but those appear to be hotlinked, not uploaded.  And you probably don't want to hotlink non-Microsoft-hosted images, I'd wager.

  6. Lockwood says:

    TRWTF is having a combined ambulance service/fire brigade, amirite?

  7. this also brings the question says:

    Who thinks popcorn is a suitable snack food to have around a bunch of computers? What's next candy floss and ice cream?

  8. JDP says:

    Well, you eat the food in the kitchenette or break room. Because you are taking a break.

  9. Joe says:

    Ah. Reminds me of the day at Novell when someone set a microwave on fire cooking popcorn for too long. The burnt smell lingered for days.

  10. Antonio Rodríguez says:

    I love how many non-technical articles lead to a discussion about Unicode and the limitation of the blog system. But, who am I to mess with imperfection? :-)

  11. John says:

    We had a similar incident here, but it wasn't popcorn, it was a burnt poptart. There was a freak out while we tried to find the source of the 'burning smell' and the building was evacuated. Needless to say that was the last time that particular person left their poptart unattended.

  12. Joe says:

    @JDP…most people take it back to their office.  the break is the walk to and from the break room.

  13. Harsh Marker says:

    Article rating 1 star. xpclient

    Rated the Usage guidance for a popcorn machine in the kitchenette contribution on the MSDN Blogs.

    Blogs | 16 minutes ago

    C'mon XPClient, that fire-truck was worth a couple of stars all by itself…

  14. @Harsh Marker: so it's him? That's ridiculous…

  15. David Walker says:

    @Joe, there are not many things that smell worse than burnt popcorn.  I don't mind the smell of popcorn in a movie theater, but whenever anyone makes microwave or stove-top popcorn at home, even when it's not burned, the smell seems kind of unpleasant to me.

  16. DAVe3283 says:

    We get free popcorn at our office, from a fair-style machine (none of this microwave popcorn nonsense). One of the many little perks (indicative of how employees are treated) that makes me love working here.

    I'm glad no one here is bothered by the smell :)

  17. codekaizen says:

    I think it's important to highlight the fact that the enumerated top reasons were in no particular order, which means that the 3rd bullet may in fact be the most frequent cause. Since there is also no information on the frequency of the occurrences, it may also be the most frequent cause by a very large margin. I now think of life on the Microsoft campus differently than I did before this post.

    [I think it's important to evaluate this information in context. Was this (1) a research paper or (2) anecdotal information from a casual conversation? -Raymond]
  18. Daveyk says:

    Popcorn?  We heat meat pies in the microwave here. (yes they can catch on fire too!)

  19. cheong00 says:

    That reminds me of someone who want to warm his eggtart, so he put that in micrwave oven at set to heat for 10 seconds, and POP, the egg tart explodes.

  20. Miff says:

    My (web-based!) RSS reader displays the graphic character fine, but my web browser dosen't. Odd.

  21. Dimmik says:

    "Please do not miss a deadline. Fire truck will come and they won't help to find one."

  22. ThomasX says:

    How to avoid a missed deadline: realistic planning.

  23. Tim Dawson says:

    I find it hard to believe that the fire people don't want popcorn. They're people too.

  24. Ben says:

    @Lockwood, are you a UK person by any chance?

    Lots of countries have combined paramedic/firefighter services. This makes sense as they are often called out to the same incidents. Fires often (usually?) require paramedics in attendance, and RTAs often require firefighters to help extract patients.

    TRWTF is not combining them.

  25. Simon Farnsworth says:

    @Ben Combining them makes no sense; the London Ambulance Service back in 1990 dealt with more calls on a Saturday than the London Fire Brigade dealt with in a month, and I doubt the ratio of calls has changed much since then. By separating them, you can have the fire service use big heavy vehicles equipped with heavy kit, and firefighters trained in their specialities all brought along to any incident. The ambulance service needs to be more agile – it attends many more calls, for a wider variety of problems.

  26. Neil says:

    @Adam Rosenfield: Stylesheets? Looks to me like it's done by comparing character widths using a script.

  27. Random832 says:

    @Tim Dawson: Nobody wants burned popcorn.

  28. Brian_EE says:

    A few years back I worked in the basement of one of my company's buildings (they prefer to call it the "Lower Level"). Our security department was also located in the basement. At the elevators' call button there was a placard that said "In case of fire, use stairs", complete with a graphic of a person walking down the stairs.

    The head of the security department didn't appreciate when, while both waiting for the elevator, I pointed to it and declared "You know, if there's ever a fire, I think I'm going to go UP the stairs, not down."

  29. Bob says:

    @Joe: One place I worked used extremely small cameras, think pin-hole with wide-angle lense, in the normal course of their business. Some people apparently had a bad habit of setting the time too long on microwave popcorn and walking away, intending to return to get their popped popcorn after they visited the bathroom, etc. When the bag in the microwave caught on fire, triggering the fire alarm, the people would of course not own up to what they had done.

    So, the logical thing to do would be to install one of the extremely small cameras to monitor each microwave oven and identify the people incapable of properly operating microwave ovens. Instead, the company removed all the microwave ovens from the campus. And the company wondered why people felt like they were being treated as small children instead of adults.

  30. Ben Cooke says:

    At my old company there was a guy who traveled to work in heavy rain and was uncomfortable in his soaked socks, so he decided to put them in the microwave to dry them. I told him it was a bad idea before he did it, but he went away and did it anyway. Needless to say the kitchen smelled of burning and feet for several days afterwards.

    When things like this happen I'm not surprised that companies treat employees as children rather than adults.

  31. foo says:

    If I could stomach it I'd run hot chips and popcorn once a mid week around 1045 or 1400…. Aroma well not really

  32. Bob says:

    @Ben Cooke: "When things like this happen I'm not surprised that companies treat employees as children rather than adults."

    Whatever happened to handling the problem individuals instead of punishing everyone? There were over 3,000 employees on the campus where I worked. Is it proper to punish 3K people who did nothing wrong rather than the few that did?

  33. Ben says:

    @simon, that may (possibly) make sense in London where the density of incidents of both types is high. In Yorkshire it makes no sense at all.

    Actually I doubt it makes sense at all anywhere. In London the fire service is horrendously overmanned, and by sharing space with the ambos could probably be cut to a fifth of its current size with no detriment to service. But of course it is all about dinners at the Cinnamon Club for fire brigade union chiefs and nothing to do with helping people.

    Dangerous Jobs: Fire service distantly trails lumberjack, deep sea fisherman, soldier, travelling salesman, and policeman. It's barely more risky than the average deskbound commuter's drive to work – but bu heck, the ladies love 'em!

  34. @Ben says:

    In Germany, you call 112 for both (see…/112_%28emergency_telephone_number%29).

    The statement "Lots of countries have combined paramedic/firefighter services" just mean that there is only one telephone number for both types. They do not use a big fire truck to rescue someone with a heart attack, and they do not send ambulance cars to deal with a burning recycle bin.

    [In the United States, fire stations vastly outnumber hospitals. (For example, when my friend took a nasty spill off his bicycle, there was a fire station less than a mile away, but the nearest hospital was 26 miles away.) Therefore, if you want to have quick response from "people with medical training driving a vehicle capable of transporting a person to a hospital", you can do that by placing ambulances at each fire station and training two fire fighters as paramedics. -Raymond]

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