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Setting sail from Oracle

It was after dinner last night that I read aloud a news item about Larry Ellison's sailing activities. The Oracle CEO, St. Francis Yacht Club member and bad-weather survivor has reportedly bought the remains of the St. Francis' failed effort, AmericaOne, for $60 million.

    Conversation is a perilous enterprise at the DuBaud household. Not only does my 12-year-old son Vermel have a tendency to talk back, but his playmates have an annoying propensity to be thoroughly informed and passionately opinionated about almost everything.

    Take Vermel's paramour, Ammonia Blossom, (s'il vous plait!). It was after dinner last night that I read aloud a news item about Larry Ellison's sailing activities. The Oracle CEO, St. Francis Yacht Club member and bad-weather survivor has reportedly bought the remains of the St. Francis' failed effort, AmericaOne, for $60 million. He plans to partner with that club for the next race in 2003.

    "I hear he made Ray Lane scrub the decks," sniped Vermel.

    "You're not being funny," replied Ammonia, a member of the Herbert Hoover Middle School sailing club. "Where does this man's megalomania end?"

    "Now be fair," I chastened Ammonia. "Lots of people are crediting Ellison with single-handedly bailing out this country's competitive yachting prospects. It seems to me he's being a model citizen."

    Ammonia shot me denial-of-service attacks with her eyes.

    "It was bad enough when the august tradition of the America's Cup passed almost completely into corporate hands back in the bad old '80s," Ammonia declared. "So now instead of some huge corporation backing a boat, we have one huge ego. This is progress?"

    I was ready to cede the point--it's always safer with a purist--but Ammonia was just getting warmed up.

    "For most of the last, oh, century or so, it's been individual yacht clubs that passed the hat and put up the money to put a 12-meter boat in the race, complete with a crew culled from semi-professionals to college kids," Ammonia propounded. Then America lost the Cup--a clunky-looking thing held by the winner, with a copy in winning skipper Ted Turner's office--to the Aussies in 1983.

    "Well, putting wounded pride aside, the Americans--and every other country out there--started getting serious. Instead of yacht clubs it was 'syndicates' that were racing, backed by a yacht club but almost entirely paid for by corporations that put their awful corporate logos all over the sleek, majestic boats and threatened to turn them into NASCAR lookalikes."

    "Larry Ellison is one of our most aesthetically minded CEOs," I broke in. "I'm sure he would never sully his yacht with Oracle logos."

    Ammonia sighed. "I hope you're right. And at least he has some good sailing credentials under his belt. Sayonara just won Antigua Sailing Week for the third time. And have you seen his motorboat, the 192-foot Izanami he has berthed in Sausalito? It has a basketball court on the aft deck."

    While Larry and his sailing buddies shoot hoops, rumor has it that telecom giant Craig McCaw and start-up addict Jim Clark spent an hour and a half on the phone recently, as McCaw tried to persuade Clark to join him on an America's Cup bid. Clark declined. He'd rather spend the time in the sun, relaxing and scuba diving, he said. Put a corporate logo on that.

    Stop the Netsanity! Workers at info-gadget provider Netsanity are reeling after the top bosses laid off 30 percent of the work force in early July. To add Skinsult to Skinjury, the Redwood City, Calif., layoffs were featured on the home page of a Web site (whose name can't be included in such a family-produced and -oriented column as this one) that allows morbid dot-commers to bet on which company will be the next to expire--kind of like those newsroom "deadpools" in which reporters bet on which world leaders will be the next to kick off.

    Now the brass at Netsanity is rumored to be sharpening the ax again, preparing to slash another 25 percent or so of the company.

    We'd like to help out the pink-slippers by suggesting they apply for the numerous job openings still posted on "www.netsanity.com." The company has a smooth, historically informed pitch to potential employees, impossible to resist in today's IPO climate: "Since this is very possibly the worst period in history not to have equity ownership, you should know that compensation for all of our openings includes stock options."

    Speaking of taking on water, last week we detailed some of the personnel leakage plaguing MicroDesign Resources, the grand dame of technology and semiconductor newsletters. We missed one! Turns out Keith Diefendorff, editor in chief of the Microprocessor Report, is following founder Michael Slater, fellow former editor in chief Linley Gwennap and senior editor Kevin Krewell out the door. I'd offer the departing journalists positions at the Rumor Mill, but we've instituted a hiring freeze pending improved flow in the gossip channel.

    Now here's effective marketing: Guru.com, a site for freelancers and other free agents, is hammering away at its message that it's more fun to work at home than at some stuffy office. One cute slogan: "In: power slippers. Out: power ties." The ingenious part of the ad campaign is that the new banners are covering the entire side of an office building in downtown San Francisco, turning about a dozen offices into windowless cells. Those office workers should be freelancing in no time. I, for one, can't wait to see what's next from Guru.com. Maybe its next marketing ploy will seep in through the air ducts.

    Last week we announced Ammonia Blossom's contest for translating Geeklish to a more human-friendly verbal communication platform. The grand prize goes to our sole entrant, Andre Hazelwood, who turned this submission:

    "Sequoia, a leading provider and innovator of XML-powered e-business software, today announced a technology partnership with Extensibility, Inc., the leader in XML schema management solutions. Sequoia will integrate Extensibility's XML Authority(TM) into its XML Portal Server(TM) (XPS), allowing Sequoia customers to create or edit XML documents from within the XPS administrative environment, saving time and effort."

    Into:

    "Sequoia will be using Extensibility's software to let companies edit XML documents easily."

    Hazelwood also wins first runner-up for his second translation, which reads:

    "Sequoia, because we have a hard time even managing all of the acronyms we espouse, has decided that partnering with Extensibility, another company prolific with acronyms, will help us manage all of our acronyms. This also allows us to add more acronyms to our rather acronym-bare Internet site." The Rumor Mill, a longtime supporter of TGIF, has 86'd its current offering and would like to solicit your rumors PDQ.