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Gates may pay for Y2K...someday

"The year 2000 is coming. When it does, the enlightened will rise while the slaves will remain slaves," he said, darting off into the Daly City fog.

Last weekend, as I was strolling through the parking garage at Target on my way to find a pink cashmere sweater for good Grandma DuBaud, my cell phone was ringing up the latest Silicon Valley scuttlebutt. I then eyed an older gentleman with a prophetic expression who had snuck out from behind a red iron pillar.

"Heed this warning, follower of silicon and data frequencies," he muttered at me. "You have been incarcerated by the demon of souls, and your time of repentance will come."

I snapped the StarTAC shut and stared back. "And when will that be, mon ami??" I asked.

"The year 2000 is coming. When it does, the enlightened will rise while the slaves will remain slaves," he said, darting off into the Daly City fog.

I guess this throws a wrench in my plans to party like it's 1999 on Y2K's eve. I would sleep easier at night knowing that our binary masters were gearing up for a smooth transition. Apparently, that's not the case with Bill Gates.

The software kingpin recently turned down an open invitation by Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah), who is chairman of the Senate Special Committee on the Y2K problem, to be the poster boy in a Y2K media event. The Senate-sponsored event would basically have Bill rally the techies to take the problem seriously.

But one of my Skinsiders says the Microsoft CEO is avoiding the event because he's afraid to take a stand. My stoolie informs me that, according to COO Bob Herbold, Gates is shunning the spotlight because he fears incurring potential legal liabilities from any Y2K-related glitches. Seems like Bill will be keeping his distance from the issue to avoid blame if any problems pop up in his software.

Gates's conflict avoidance may leave many of us singing the the blues instead of the Artist's tunes on New Year's Eve 16 months away.

Meanwhile, there's more hubbub from AOL's gang of volunteers. Last time, it was the Crockpot Excel file. This time, the online giant appears to have decided to eliminate a group of volunteers called the Virtual Leaders Academy in order to "eliminate redundancies in our Community Leader support programs."

Members of the virtual academy are volunteers responsible for training other community leaders (CLs) in message board management, HTML, and how to publish in Rainman, AOL's proprietary development tool. While the company claims the move would "streamline" the organization by consolidating it into the Community Leaders College, which is also a training body, many CLs are crying conspiracy.

Some leaders say AOL is cutting the group loose to limit CLs accessing Web pages. Other online volunteers have even suggested that AOL may be trying to reduce the number of hacks into its system. Is there still stuff stuck to the Crockpot?

Allow me to revisit some items from the previous week. Many savvy-minded readers have pointed out that the "women.are.evil.and.icky.net" page was not a product page, as I had reported. Many corrected me in that it actually was a default page when loading Internet Information Server 4.0 on any server.

It turns out that "icky.net" hosts a wide range of domain names, including "chihuahuas.are.not.icky.net" and "this.is.not.icky.net," among others, though many also lead to the IIS page. It seems the ickiest page on the Web is owned by a Tennessee company that screens job candidates before their interviews. Probably weeds out the icky ones. Pink cashmere looks icky on everyone except sweet old ladies, and the only way I can shop more for Grandma these days is if you keep me in the pink with your rumors.