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Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times reporter Sharon Chan.

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September 17, 2008 10:47 AM

'Office' star Rainn Wilson, not Seinfeld, to emcee Microsoft employee meeting tomorrow

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Justin Lubin / NBC

Rainn Wilson, star of "The Office," rumored to be hosting Microsoft company meeting.

A tipster tells me that Microsoft has enlisted local boy Rainn Wilson, star of the NBC sitcom "The Office," to host its annual company meeting Thursday. People initially thought the host would be Jerry Seinfeld, who has recently hitched his wagon to the high-profile Windows campaign. "We were told the host would be 'comedic,'" the tipster says, "so [Seinfeld] was the natural assumption, but Wilson, I think, will be a much more enjoyable emcee. ... [T]he Rainn carrot is enticing some of my co-workers to now go to the meeting."

I'm trying to get confirmation from Microsoft on the logistics of the company meeting, which is typically held at Safeco Field and can surprise some commuters with heavy traffic for a weekday morning in Sodo. Last year, the company also delivered some significant local news on the morning of the meeting, including a major investment in downtown Seattle real estate and a private shuttle network to save employees from driving alone to Redmond.

(Update, 11:40 a.m. and again at 12:13 p.m.: Microsoft spokesman Lou Gellos confirmed that the meeting will be held at Safeco tomorrow morning from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., which is shorter than normal. Wilson is indeed the emcee. Other presenters include Microsoft execs Steve Ballmer, Ray Ozzie and Kevin Turner. No definitive word on whether Bill Gates will be on hand. Bill Gates will not be there.

So far, about 21,000 23,000 employees have registered, which is a few thousand more than in previous years. Gellos noted that the company deliberately scheduled the meeting in the middle of the day to avoid impacting the morning or evening commutes. It also has a fleet of 212 buses to bring employees to and from Redmond and minimize the traffic impact. Buses will leave the Eastside between 9:30 and 10 a.m. and return beginning at 3 p.m.

Microsoft is conducting a food drive at the event to support Northwest Harvest and the Food Lifeline, agencies that are straining under the pressure of higher fuel prices and the slowing economy, Gellos said.)

Meanwhile, we've done some interesting stories on Rainn Wilson over the years, so check out these tidbits about the guy who ran with a posse of "Dungeons and Dragons aficionados" in his days at Shorecrest High School.

We wrote in 2006 about Wilson's rise to fame via "The Office."

Wilson explained his affinity for quirky characters this way: "The posse I traveled with in my Shorecrest days were not exactly the popular crowd. It was a bunch of losers and misfits and band geeks and Dungeons and Dragons aficionados. I just have an affinity for the outsiders and losers and misfits of the world."

Born at University of Washington Medical Center, (he would graduate from UW with a drama degree in 1986), Wilson is a Northwesterner by name.

"My dad wanted to name me Rainer after Rainer Maria Rilke, the famous German poet, but thought that having Mount Rainier so nearby would confuse things, so he went for Rainn. God only knows why he added the extra 'n.' 'Rain' was probably too hippie-ish, even for him."

Wilson was raised in Lake Forest Park and attended Shorecrest High School to age 16, when his parents followed their Baha'i faith to jobs in Chicago at the Baha'i National Headquarters.

He met his wife, writer Holiday Reinhorn, at UW. They later married at the base of Mount St. Helens.

If you don't make it into the tightly guarded Microsoft company meeting, you still might spot Wilson around town this week. He takes annual trips back to the Pacific Northwest. Favorite stops are at Pike Place Market, including his mom's jewelry shop in the North Arcade; Gas Works Park; Green Lake; Wallingford; Fremont; and the University District.

We'll keep our eyes peeled here at Microsoft Pri0 headquarters, which happens to be a stone's throw from one of Wilson's favorite eateries, 13 Coins, about which he described as "right out of 1962. I keep expecting to run into Sammy Davis Jr. there. It's full of fisherman who've come back from Alaska after five months with a bunch of money in their pocket, wanting to blow it all on fettuccini Alfredo, steaks and martinis."

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