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Silicon Valley's CEO merry-go-round

Like sentimental scientists with their lab rats, I am occasionally prone to becoming attached to the folks I write about. This sets me up for emotional pitfalls, as proved to be the case earlier this month when Katrina Garnett, geek supermodel, made her graceful exit from the CEO stage.

Like sentimental scientists with their lab rats, I am occasionally prone to becoming attached to the folks I write about. This sets me up for emotional pitfalls, as proved to be the case earlier this month when Katrina Garnett, geek supermodel, made her graceful exit from the CEO stage.

As much as we in the press thrive on turmoil, it does exact its toll, inspiring guilt complexes and keeping the estimable Dr. Helmut Fraeme-Relais, shrink to the rumor-plagued, in Viennese bonbons.

Are the long knives out for Webvan CEO George Shaheen? We are hearing a growing chorus of people who think he should be shown the door, although we take it to be wishful thinking by impatient investors infuriated by his loose lips sinking a Webvan IPO ship. Actually, the IPO was only delayed, but in this age of opulence and instant gratification, that's all it takes to attract an angry mob.

Despite a renewed effort to keep its collective mouth shut prior to the postponed IPO--now expected shortly--Webvan assured us Shaheen isn't going anywhere.

Over in Mountain View, Netscape vice president of communications Maggie Young is off to the wild green yonder, presumably headed for some PR-starved start-up. "I love AOL, and it has nothing to do with them," Young told a News.com reporter, though she kept mum on her exact plans. The three-year veteran, who follows a string of recent Netscape departures, is rumored not to be the last of Netscape's PR defections this season.

But enough about exits--how about the spectacular entrance of Britannica.com? The server's been jammed since the Web site's launch--but as a special service to Rumor Mill readers, we provide you with a special, secret URL that will let you take a gander at the encyclopedic offerings. Just point your browser here.

Speaking of big offerings, how about that alumni donor campaign over at Stanford? SGI, Netscape, and Healtheon founder Jim Clark's not the only one in the Valley dispersing his loose change. Infoseek founder and philanthropy angel Steve Kirsch, for example, is hosting media mogulissimo and billionaire philanthropist Ted Turner in January to give some charity pointers to Valley denizens with money to burn.

"It will be an informal get-together with some people in the community interested in philanthropy," Kirsch told the Rumor Mill.

The invitation list of about 30 lucky, loaded guests had not been determined when we last spoke to Kirsch.

Any chance another billionaire philanthropist will be included to share tips on giving?

"Bill [Gates] has come down here and met with us on issues regarding the United Way," said Kirsch, who helped bail out the organization with a million bones of his own. "His schedule makes it very unlikely that he and Turner would be in the same place at the same time. We're going to rely on having Ted."

Some Valley folk have mastered the art of giving--giving themselves wacky job titles, that is. Jerry Yang, "Chief Yahoo" over at Yahoo, may have sparked the trend, but a lot of the titillating titles these days seem to be emanating from Netscape and its Netescapees. Consider the titles people are touting over at Mozilla.org, the open-source software team with the reptilian mascot:

• "Chief lizard wrangler," held by Mitchell Baker, whose more straitlaced job description is manager and problem arbitrator.

• "Technical bigshot," held by JavaScript creator Brendan Eich, who is responsible for architecture and technical direction.

• "International incident," held by the organization's token Canadian, Mike Shaver, who is in charge of developer relations.

• "Lizard vivisectionist," held by Dawn Endico, who is responsible for content and tools dissection, development, and maintenance.

• "Arborist," held by Daniel (a.k.a. 'Leaf') Nunes, the release engineer in charge of the Mozilla "tree."

• "Stunt double," held by Christopher Blizzard, a programming whiz for the front end of the Unix platform.

• "Lurker," held by Christopher McAfee, who pores over the code.

And then there's more nominal nuttiness from high-tech start-up public relations firm Spark PR, rife with Netescapees:

• "Chief detonator," held by Chris Holten, the company cofounder recently married in a Hawaiian flak extravaganza, who does PR.

• "Chief firecracker," Donna Sokolsky, cofounder, who does PR.

• "Chief blast strategist," Paige O'Neill, who does PR.

• "Propulsion strategist," Marie Gunter, who does PR.

• "Flame thrower," Erica Sokoloff, who does PR.

• "Blaze technician," Jennifer Pierce, who does PR.

• "Supernova," Evrett Kramer, who does PR.

• "Spark barkster," Hannah O'Neill, who, according to the firm's Web site, "can be found most days in Spark PR world headquarters chewing rawhide bones under Paige's desk. She also enjoys chasing tennis balls, sunning herself on the deck, and eating the office plants…Email directly." I don't need a fancy title, just a few rawhide bones, a few billion dollars to throw around, and your rumors.