Nobody ever said parenthood was easy, but I faced the challenge of my life as a father when my 12-year-old son Vermel came home from school the other day and announced that he was writing, producing, directing, and starring in the school musical.
"We're staging a big song and dance number at the swimming pool--a big Esther Williams sequence with 100 actors dressed up as technology CEOs," Vermel announced breathlessly. "It's called The Acquisition."
Acquisitions may not make great theater, but they are great for the rumor mill, as the alliance between Lycos and its new content arm Wired Digital proves. While employees are undoubtedly happy that a public company is now the custodian of their stock options, editorial staff are wondering what the flux they're doing under a content aggregator.
No one's quite sure where the rumor started, but from Bob Davis on down Lycos and its new corporate child are refuting the whispers that Suck and RGB Gallery are on the chopping block.
"I don't want to create a precedent of commenting on rumors," Davis emailed my News.com colleague, "but this requires an exception, as any suggestion that Lycos is planning on or considering 'letting go' of Suck.com, RGB Gallery, or any of the other fine properties in the Wired Digital Network is completely unfounded and without substance.
"Chasing and reporting rumor and not fact is not a business we are in, and now that this is cleared up, I trust that this matter is closed," added the portal chief.
OK, case closed. You've got to admire Davis, the head of a billion-dollar company who still takes time to talk to the rumormonger and to the little guy. ZDNN readers may have been surprised to find Davis weighing in on the Wired acquisition in the message board following ZD's story.
ZD readers started off the thread with their take on the buy, which wasn't pretty.
"First Jon Katz leaves, now this! I worry that this will only accelerate the slide of Wired Digital from the forefront of digital culture into the mushy mainstream," wrote one reader.
"I suddenly have the image of the Wired staff opening up a door and putting on a nice warm cardigan and comfy sneakers just like Mr. Rogers," wrote another. Other assessments: "The final nail in HotWired's coffin...I'll bet Jon Katz is glad he got out before having to cozy into the mayonnaise factory of Lycos."
(As for Katz--whose long-running column on HotWired expired with the latest biz-oriented redesign--he hasn't heard anything about Suck and RGB's demise, but opines, "You can bet money it will ultimately be true, if not yet.")
"Lycos is Wired!" exulted the undaunted owner in response to his ZD-reading critics. "Our approach to the business has been to acquire these strong companies and to provide the back-end support that allows creativity to flourish while relieving them of the distractions of building infrastructure."
Wired employees may indeed be relieved. At any rate, they haven't lost their sense of humor, as Webmonkeys showed with a prank they pulled on a colleague who showed up for work after missing a day and found his formerly grungy coworkers suited up with clean shaves and ties.
"He was told that our new Lycos management had implemented a dress code, specifically ordering Webmonkey's HTML whiz kids to set the example for all of us by showing up in appropriate attire first thing this week," reports my Third Street Skinformant. "I hear he was really steamed for the couple of hours it took him to realize he'd been hacked."
OK, enough warm and fuzzy anecdotes and back to the serious business of chasing and reporting on rumor and not fact. A rumor that apparently isn't a fact concerns the acquisition interest of Microsoft in Lexis-Nexis. Sources familiar with the nonexistent negotiations say it's a baseless rumor, and I'm inclined to believe them. No more Lexis-Nexis/Microsoft rumors unless you got proof, ça va?
Another rumor that won't die is that Microsoft employees aren't getting any. To review: A few weeks ago, nationally syndicated sex advice columnist Dan Savage printed a letter from a Microsoft employee complaining of sexual dysfunction. Savage replied that he had received hundreds of similar letters from BillG's loyal soldiers, and asked those well-remunerated but underperforming minions to write in to help explain the dearth of nookie in Redmond.
This week's column on those responses includes so much foul language, sexually explicit bellyaching, and sensitive Microsoft security information that I hesitate to link to it. (Well...OK.) For those of you skittish about downloading such material, here are some sanitized excerpts.
"Working for Microsoft doesn't really destroy your sex drive--it just leaves people too tired for sex. I work in the systems division and I used to be a sexual Tyrannosaurus, but after a few months of seven-day weeks and 16+ hour days, I'm just too tired. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. And office doors at MS don't have locks."
"It's really quite simple. Microsoft employees are so accustomed to getting [use your imagination--SduB] by their managers that they're just too damn tired for their lovers."
Any more and I risk losing any future custody battle with my ex-wife. Time for a family item: SkinnyLabs has finally cracked the secret of AMD's code names. The company's last two chips have carried code names with distinct dental overtones. "Chompers" became the K6-2 while "Sharptooth" will soon be released as the K6-3. Speculation for months was that a high-level executive at AMD had a biting fetish.
It turns out that AMD looks to the engineering group to pick the code names, and the engineering group in turn looks to the young child of one of the engineers. The names come from The Land Before Time, a cartoon movie about dinosaurs.
Chompers is one of the good dinosaurs, according to a source probably too young to be reading this column. On the other hand, she notes: "Sharptooth is a super-bastard. He eats all the little dinosaurs and I think he killed one guy's mom."
Future code names that can be expected: Sara, Ceres, Littlefoot, and Produced By Steven Spielberg.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to have been a while since I've engaged in any CNET navel-gazing. So here's an item: CNET may be headed for the hospital! And not any old hospital--we're talking Letterman, the abandoned complex in the Presidio, which is a former military base and San Francisco's very own slice of heaven on Earth.
Background: The Cold War ended, the Army moved out, and everyone from homeless advocates to Congress has been fighting over what to do with this vast, forested parcel of the California coast (spitting distance from Chief Halsey's Sea Cliff mansion) overlooking the Golden Gate. Letterman, a high-rise eyesore, is slated for demolition, and the site it sits on is up for grabs.
Of 16 proposed development projects acknowledged by the Presidio Trust yesterday, CNET is the anchor tenant for the application by real estate magnate Walter Shorenstein for a 23-acre complex with 900,000 feet of leasable space. Whoever wins this one has their work cut out for them--Letterman still sits there, a doomed dinosaur, hurting the eyes of passers-by. Meanwhile, the winner starts paying rent in October of 2000 at the latest.
I can fantasize all I want about a nice office in the Presidio, but my immediate reality is 100 waterproof CEO costumes that need to be sewn. Have pity on a devoted father and send me your rumors!