For Honor, For Excellence, For Pizza

Hacker News member citizenlow recalls the time I went over after hours to help out the Money team debug a nasty kernel issue. They were running into mysterious crashes during their stress testing and asked for my help in debugging it.

I helped out other teams quite a bit, like writing a new version of Dr. Watson for the Windows 98 team or writing a new version of the MSConfig tool based on a sketch on a bar napkin. And for a time, I followed the official policy for moonlighting to make sure everybody understood that I was doing work outside the boundaries of my official job duties.

When the Money folks asked me for help, I told them that before I could help them, they would have to help me fill out some paperwork.

  • Who will you be working for? Microsoft Corporation.
  • Where will you be doing the work? Office XX/YYYY on Microsoft Redmond Campus.
  • When will the work begin and end? Begin on YYYY/MM/DD at 5pm, ending YYYY/MM/DD at 11pm.
  • How much will you be paid for this work?

The Money folks were not sure how to answer that last question, since they didn't have any formal budget or procedures for hiring an outside consultant, much less any procedures for hiring one from inside the company.

I told them, "Just write One slice of pizza."

Nobody from the Personnel department seemed to notice the odd circumstances of this moonlighting request; they simply rubber-stamped it and put it in my file.

The crash, it turns out, was in Windows itself. There was a bug in the special compiler the Languages team produced to help build certain components of Windows 95 which resulted in an incorrect address computation under a particularly convoluted boundary condition. The Money folks had merely stumbled across this bug as part of their regular testing. I notified the appropriate people, and the Windows team applied a workaround in their code to tickle the compiler into generating the correct code.

As I recall, the pizza was just fine. It was just your average delivery pizza, nothing gourmet or anything. Not that it had to be, because I wasn't there for the pizza.

Comments (18)
  1. lister says:

    Acceptable forms of payment for me:

    1) Money (or gift cards for alcohol)

    2) Alcohol (preferably craft beer but good spirits as well)

    3) Food

    Computer equipment used to be on the list but that got removed over a decade ago. I just don't have any interest in the stuff anymore.

  2. Simon Farnsworth says:

    I was half-expecting the punchline to be an auditor showing up on your doorstep years down the line saying, "We have here a form that says you were paid one slice of pizza for your work on MS Money; can you prove that you paid all appropriate taxes on this income?"

  3. Joshua says:

    @Simon Farnsworth:

    My answer to the tax auditor: This results in a maximum difference of income of about 2 dollars which is much less than the 50 dollar steps in the tax table. Since the necessary records don't exist [no 1099] and the balance of probabilities is no difference, go away.

  4. Anon says:


    The lack of a 1099 is, in itself, a violation of tax law.

  5. 12BitSlab says:

    Raymond, thanks for helping the Money team.  I thought that was a great product and wished it was still around.

  6. Rob says:

    @Anon: Questionable, as Raymond already worked for Microsoft Corp.  Was probably given a W-2.

  7. Nick says:

    @Anon: I don't think the lack of a 1099 is a violation of tax law because the 1099 falls under the threshold that requires 1099 reporting.

  8. Jim says:

    @Simon Farnsworth:

    The income is in-material

  9. Erik F says:

    It's been refunded by now surely :-)

  10. Wayne says:

    I was more impressed with the sketching of msconfig on the Bar Napkin.  Hopefully that story gets posted.

  11. cheong00 says:

    I found it a little bit dumb to have to fill in official paperworks in order to work for another team in the same company, but than remember that Microsoft have been splitted into multiple entities.

    [I bet I was the only person who filled out paperwork for this sort of thing. -Raymond]
  12. Joker_vD says:

    @cheong00: Well, my objects too have to fill in lots of book-keeping structures to work in another part of the program, which is a little bit dumb because it's the same program, but then I remember that the program has been split into multiple modules.

  13. jas88 says:

    I rather like the irony of Raymond, presumably on the Windows team at the time, doing paperwork and getting permission to go and help the Money team … on what turned out to be a Windows problem in the first place. Maybe the Money team should have filed for reimbursement of the pizza from the Windows team budget?

    (Presumably, Money still had to find a workaround of some sort, or wait for a Windows patch then add code to make sure the patch was installed? I recall a frustrating day or two where a program of mine was triggering a BugCheck on Windows 2000 – which eventually turned out to be the fault of the filter driver in the anti-virus program I was using at the time. I gave up on that bit of code, on the basis I'd never be able to guarantee that buggy AV code, or something equivalent, wasn't running on users' machines in future.)

    I was half-expecting the Personnel department to lay claim to a slice of pizza for themselves to cover overheads – or send someone to check Raymond didn't eat a second slice, since that would mean going 100% over budget.

  14. cheong00 says:

    @Joker_vD: Having to fill in the forms does sound ridiculous to someone who used to work in companies that "usually helping some other teams involves just shouting to the next column of cubicle".

  15. <hijack for="MS Money nostalgia">Still a happy camper using MS Money Deluxe Sunset</hijack>

  16. Brian_EE says:

    But… was "Bob" there for the pizza? [Actual name deleted at request of Microsoft HR Department]

  17. John says:

    I love these types of post, a class act all around!

Comments are closed.