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Sun's on a roll while 3Com takes a poll

I've been doing this gig for four years and figured it was time to cash in on some of my seniority in the newsroom. But for what? I considered requesting a nice, long, paid sabbatical or a swank Rumor Mill retreat for the whole gang.

I've been doing this gig for four years and figured it was time to cash in on some of my seniority in the newsroom. But for what? I considered requesting a nice, long, paid sabbatical or a swank Rumor Mill retreat for the whole gang. Ultimately, though, I decided to go for gusto and scored a perk most technology journalists can only dream of.

I skipped Comdex.

What, no Comdex? you gasp. That's right, folks: The third week of November has gone by with no demo dorks, no techie trinkets, no tacky marketing or technical mishaps, no foam hats or fliers or parties or costumes, no visions of Vegas under siege by an army of cell-wielding, product-hyping, press-hounding Visigoths who can sail through polygraph examinations while professing their "passion" for technology.

Don't get me wrong--I love Comdex. But I'd rather balance PSINet's checkbook than be forced to attend it.

Since I didn't have to do either, I read my fan mail, much of which concerned the extremely large advertisements being displayed on this page.

"What's the story with that huge, &$%*# ugly advertisement in your column, Skinny?" queried a longtime reader and devoted fan of the Rumor Mill.

It happens that I owe this particular correspondent more than I can say--some say I owe him my life--and so for him and for the others who wrote to ask (however more delicately) about the new ads, I did some digging around. Turns out the ads are running in the Rumor Mill as a beta, and if all goes well you'll soon see them cropping up across News.com and beyond sometime next year.

But why, you might ask, when everyone was so happy with the way it was before? I can't get this confirmed, but rumor has it that those little banner ads blinking spastically at the top of the Rumor Mill and Web pages everywhere work about as well as a Hotmail spam filter. So someone over here got the bright idea to make the ads bigger and move them down a bit, like somewhere in front of your eyeballs where you might chance to see them.

Skinside information has it that the newspapers have been doing this sort of thing for years now but cleverly managed to keep the dot-coms from finding out about it.

Personally, I kind of like the new ads. I like the way my text wraps around them, especially if the ad from Sun Microsystems is still running when you read this. "It's big and it's headed this way," reads Sun's copy. Saved me all the trouble of saying it myself! Sun must be talking, of course, about its elephantine real estate move on downtown San Francisco.

According to commercial real estate developer Wilson/Equity Office, Sun is leasing more than half a million square feet of the Foundry Square project at First and Howard streets in downtown San Francisco. That's spitting distance from Microsoft's upcoming San Francisco digs at One Market Street--so if you're out for a stroll in the neighborhood, bring an umbrella.

Sun's keeping mum on the details, but a friendly flack said the company would have more to say about its new digs in the next two weeks. A local business rag says the real estate deal "may turn out to be the biggest in city history," adding that Sun may opt for another building in the same development that will bring its square footage to about 855,000.

How must that make Microsoft feel with the measly 41,000 square feet it's reported to have leased on Market? Eclipsed, to be sure.

But these San Francisco real estate shenanigans are small potatoes compared with 3Com's global ambitions. 3Com is the sponsor of Planet Project, "an event that may become a part of history," as it cautiously speculates on its Web site.

What the planet needed, decided 3Com and co-sponsors (including Oracle, AT&T, Macromedia and Sun), was more polling. So the Planet Project designed an online survey system and has come up with some profound findings:

"WEIGHT IS A FULL-TIME OBSESSION WITH WOMEN AROUND THE WORLD, ACCORDING TO THE PLANET PROJECT," proclaims one of its bulletins. "Internet Poll Also Finds That Three-Fourths of Americans Say They've Had Sex in Cars."

This exercise in global self-examination further concludes that "Brazilians are the most self-conscious about their weight (43 percent thinking about it constantly), while people in Spain are the least self-conscious," with 9 percent thinking about it constantly.

What on earth could the other 91 percent of Spaniards be thinking about? Comdex?

"Meanwhile, our self-image plays out in other ways as well. Thirteen percent of the poll participants said they never look into a mirror, while at the other end of the spectrum, 35 percent look just because they enjoy seeing themselves."

These findings were based on contributions from 380,000 participants based in 225 different countries.

Lest we fear that the Planet Project will let its vital portrait of the human psyche disappear into the sands of Internet time, 3Com CEO Eric Benhamou promises us otherwise.

"This is growing into a tremendous data base (sic!) of information that is going to be a great resource for people everywhere," Benhamou says in the bulletin.

The Rumor Mill did some light data mining and came up with some more tidbits from this global profile of humanity:

"Swinging singles do not have the best sexual relationships," reports the Planet Project. "In fact, people who are living together have the best sex lives--more so than those even who are married. Sixty-seven percent of those living together said they are satisfied with their sex lives, while only 59 percent of married people are satisfied. Only 37 percent of single (people) not living with a partner are satisfied with their sex lives.

"While 72 percent of Americans taking the poll have had sex in their cars, Italians top the list at 75 percent...One out of every four Americans report that they have had sex in a room in the presence of other people."

The poll has been picking up endorsements like a $100 million presidential candidate. World leaders who have given their official nod to this inquiry include United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Aherne and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The Planet Project "will contribute to a greater understanding among peoples and help create a worldwide dialogue across cultures and geographic boundaries on issues of interest to all humanity," Annan's office said, according to a 3Com statement.

If all humanity isn't interested in the proportion of Italians having sex in their cars, what could they possibly be interested in? Oh, yes, of course. Comdex.

You know me and my one-track mind--all I'm interested in is your rumors.