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Would you like some fries with that merger?

My 12-year-old son Vermel caught me red-handed eating a bag of In-N-Out burgers the other night. He left the room only to reappear a few moments later with a tape measure, which he threw around my waist.

My 12-year-old son Vermel caught me red-handed eating a bag of In-N-Out burgers the other night. He left the room only to reappear a few moments later with a tape measure, which he threw around my waist.

"That's 44 inches, pops. Not looking good," he said. "What happened to the diet?"

"Research, mon fils," I replied, wiping my lips and heading to the freezer. "These are no ordinary hamburgers. I hear they have remarkable curative powers for famished would-be high-tech deal-makers, especially when combined with gourmet ice cream bars."

It seems that the way to an engineer's head is not through stock options alone. The stomach may play a supporting role, or so Skinsiders at home-entertainment start-up Moxi Digital tell me.

Moxi, started by WebTV founder Steve Perlman, shot out of the gate with a buzz-prompting product in January. But the company quickly found itself fending off reports that it was running low on cash.

Once valued at a high-flying $267 million, sources close to Moxi say the company turned down a $100 million bid that would have made AOL Time Warner the exclusive licensee for Moxi's home-entertainment technology. Two weeks ago, the start-up agreed to merge with little-known Digeo, which has received financial backing from Paul Allen's Vulcan Ventures.

According to sources, other companies that had at least a passing interest in Moxi included computer maker Apple Computer and Vivendi Universal's TV arm, Canal+ Group.

Moxi has steadfastly maintained that it is on solid financial footing, even as it sought to line up additional funding--a process that had been cloaked in secrecy, and by extension, considerable speculation.

Moxi and Digeo didn't put a price tag on the final deal or give public details about the talks. But the courtship produced some interesting sideshows.

Midway through the Digeo negotiations, Skinformants say, an In-N-Out burger truck rolled up to the Moxi building and provided free burgers to employees. The lunchmobile, courtesy of Digeo, apparently set off an obscure game of one-upmanship. Days later, another delivery truck from unknown origins arrived at Moxi headquarters bearing free ice cream, according to one Moxi insider.

The dueling snacks set off speculation among some employees. Was AOL behind the ice cream delivery and thus back in the bidding? Or was it all just a bizarre ploy to generate some last-second buzz before the Digeo deal closed?

While the motive for the deliveries is not entirely clear, sources say the food was eaten by a potentially powerful constituency with a say in any pending sale: Many Moxi employees are shareholders, and together they control a sizable stake in the company.

A call to Moxi's PR firm last week elicited a quizzical response. The company declined again to reveal the sale price and dismissed the burger delivery as a working lunch, albeit one bought by Digeo. Knowledge of the ice cream delivery was disavowed, along with rumors that AOL may have been sniffing around for a deal with the company.

Skinformants, however, insist ice cream was on the premises and that regardless of the supplier, it was delicious.

Apple checks out
Heated exchanges are no less so when they occur on ice, as I recently discovered at the JavaOne conference in San Francisco.

During the show, attendees took to the rink to test their mettle in the pugilistic sport of hockey, a game more closely associated with toothless Canadians than mild-mannered software engineers. I took my seat just as Apple skated out to do battle with Sun Microsystems.

Style-leader Apple was the hands-down winner in the fashion department. The players' jerseys--white and black with the Apple logo--were fabulous. I suspect they had a crack team of designers, maybe the same people who came up with their new computerized desk lamp. But style isn't everything: The experienced Sun team won the game 6-4, helping assuage some of the shame of a 7-0 defeat at the hands of Microsoft shortly before.

Already the Mac attack is looking for a rematch. The company hopes to have a game lined up by the first week in May when it hosts its annual developer conference.

Despite the outcome of the JavaOne game, one member of Apple's team snatched a victory in defeat.

Coach Phil Schiller, Apple's marketing guru, said his wife has always ridiculed the idea of pulling the goalie, calling it a useless strategy. Ignoring her opinion, Schiller pulled Apple's goalie in the final moments and his team scored--making the tally 6-4 instead of 6-3.

A futile gesture? Perhaps. But it was still satisfying.

There's only one way to satisfy my sense of futility: Send me your rumors.