E-Mail Gets Microsoft In A Jam

Chances are Microsoft employees won't soon forget Oct. 14. That was the day the company's e-mail communication system went bonkers.

To understand the foul-up, nontechies need to know that electronic mail systems make use of "distribution lists." Using a code name, managers can send the same message to a predetermined list of individuals, perhaps to all staffers within a division.

Distribution codes customarily are guarded, given only to those who need to know. This prevents mischief.

Except in the case of "Bedlam3."

The Bedlam3 list, intended for testing purposes only, covered thousands of Microsoft employees. Perhaps as many as 18,000.

Somehow someone goofed, sending a message to the Bedlam3 thousands.

That prompted recipients to respond, asking, "What is this list?" And "Why am I on it?"

Those responses went not just to the sender but to thousands on the list. Others added their multiple messages, saying, "Take me off this list."

Still others echoed, "Me, too."

A tie-up resulted. Informants say it delayed more-urgent communications for as long as two days.

Microsoft spokesman Adam Sohn confirmed the Bedlam3 episode. He said, "We corrected it as soon as we found out. It took several hours for the logjam to clear. Some people experienced delays, some didn't."

It wasn't a crash. But it certainly was Bedlam.

Port of the matter: Inquiring minds want to know: What happens if Port Commissioner Paul Schell, whose four-year term runs until 2000, is elected mayor of Seattle?

Who would be appointed to fill his position?

Pundits have been saying that, to balance the Seattle-centric Port Commission, the appointee should be an electable Eastsider.

So far two names have surfaced. One prospect is long-time King County Councilman Kent Pullen. A less-well-known possibility is Bob Edwards, a Renton city councilman and the immediate past president of the Association of Washington Cities.

Edwards' supporters say he's a good bet. He has contacts in Olympia and Washington, D.C., and labor backing.

On the other hand, maybe it's premature to start talking about filling Schell's position. There's still the matter of the Nov. 4 election.

Time off: King County Executive Ron Sims and Rep. Suzette Cooke, his Nov. 4 opponent, were debating before the South County Chamber of Commerce at the Renton Holiday Inn Select.

The candidates each were asked, "What's your biggest weakness?"

Sims confessed he's a workaholic who seldom takes a day off.

When Cooke's turn came, she said, "Ron, may I suggest you take the next 12 days off?"

Hot stuff: Trendiest new drink to hit town is the El Nino. Frank Bedash, bartender at Sazarac restaurant, dreamed up the potion, which combines warm Absolut Currant, warm Midori, fresh lemon and lime juice. The cocktail is steamed and served with a twist of lime.

One caveat: Don't touch it if there's a marlin swimming in it. Jean Godden's column appears Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday in the Local News section of The Times. Her phone message number is 206-464-8300. Her e-mail address is: jgod-new@seatimes.com