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The Standard fiddles while staff burns

The Standard, indefatigable chronicler of the dot-com demise, succumbed to its own New, New Economy realities this week when it laid off 36 people.

    The new millennium got off to a bad start this week at the DuBaud household when my son, Vermel, marched into my study and unceremoniously pulled the plug on my Super-Deluxe Mag-Lev titanium bullet train set, a Christmas present from Grandma DuBaud.

    "Hey, what's the idea?" I demanded as the neon train tracks fell into darkness and the levitating train cars fell to the floor.

    "While you were assembling your presents, they declared a statewide Stage 3 power emergency," Vermel informed me. "We're being asked to conserve. And this rail system of yours uses more electricity than the Texas penal system in an election year."

    Much as I dislike being railroaded into conservation, the kid had a point. With the whole state running out of juice, we were only able to avoid rolling blackouts by shutting down train sets from Redding to San Diego. If only they had that kind of discipline at the Industry Standard!

    The Standard, indefatigable chronicler of the dot-com demise, succumbed to its own New, New Economy realities this week when it laid off 36 people, or 7 percent of its staff--including the creator of its own dot-com Layoff Tracker. This month, the Standard ceases publication of the Grok, a separately issued, single-topic magazine that will be folded back into the main pages.

    In light of these lamentable developments, some Standard-bearers found the company's plans to go ahead with a fun-filled editorial retreat to Lake Tahoe, well, unbearable.

    "Editorial is still going on a very posh retreat to Tahoe, while the rest of the company is being hectored about the new austerity," carped one. "People disinvited to the retreat a month ago, as part of cost-cutting, were still subject to the e-mails detailing skiing, sleigh rides and accommodations that the Editorial group gets at company expense."

    But it's such lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you! A Standard representative declined to comment on whether the magazine had implemented any "new austerity" measures and defended the retreat, maintaining it was scheduled more than six months ago.

    Standard Skinsiders say the company is in sound shape, but that investors are "really cracking the whip. They're asking for certain numbers. People are not throwing money at us the way they used to be."

    In keeping with the winter theme, laid-off Standard employees treated San Francisco pedestrians to a blizzard of their business cards tossed from the 11th and 14th floors of their downtown offices. And the Standard's severance package had its own touch of holiday spirit: departing staffers get to keep their state-of-the-art computers.

    Elsewhere in Internet media mayhem, rumor has it that portal also-ran AltaVista will commence its third round of layoffs early next week, after the Martin Luther King holiday, with nearly half the company slated to go. AltaVista would neither confirm nor deny the rumor.

    Over at Macworld Expo, the Apple faithful were up to their usual tricks, begging, stealing and pushing their way into Moscone Center to try and get into Steve Jobs' keynote. But when Jobs traversed the show floor later in the day, many people seemed not to recognize him, despite his signature black turtleneck and blue jeans.

    Jobs was seen loitering around the Apple booth for some time, even giving a private demo of Apple's iTunes software. Yet only a handful seemed to notice or bother to capture some video for their next iMovie.

    At the last Macworld Expo in New York, graphics chipmaker ATI learned the hard way that the aforementioned Mr. Jobs does not like anyone stealing his thunder by preannouncing Apple's new products. Jobs is said to have retaliated by pulling ATI's new card from the demo machines and removing all mention of ATI from the keynote speech.

    So when ATI rival Nvidia was selected for the latest round of Power Macs, the chipmaker decided it would make discretion the greater part of its valor proposition. Nvidia had no booth on the show floor and went so far as to register its meeting room under an assumed name! Skinny's the name, discretion's my game. So send me your rumors.