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At Large: A mind is a terrible thing to lose

At Large: A mind is a terrible thing to lose

Scratching his head until it hurts, Matthew JC. Powell begins to wonder if anything else is happening in the world . . .

Bill Gates should be ashamed of himself. No, I'm not talking about that silly thing with the US Government and all. That's not what I want to write about this week at all. Not even a little bit.

But that's my problem. I sat down to write this thinking "every columnist on the planet is going to be having a field day trying to find a new angle on kicking Bill Gates while he's down". I didn't want to join in the fray and be just another one of those columnists. I wanted to be different, fresh, invigorating. Like a cold shower, only warmer. I wanted to write about all the other stuff that's going on that you might be interested in.

Then I couldn't think of anything. Honestly, I sat down and tried to think of interesting stuff, and it all ended up coming back to Bill Gates and the US Government. I even tried reading stuff, to see if I could find anything else. It seems all anyone wants to talk about is Microsoft's trouble, and its ramifications for everything from the applications industry to fruit growers in Wisconsin. I'm not making that up, either.

So what happened to everything else? Can it be that as well as exercising monopolistic marketshare in the software industry, Microsoft has somehow managed to acquire a monopoly of mindshare, even from me? How could this happen? Has Microsoft included some vicious code in a press release that deactivates neurons in my head that are interested in other stuff? Is my daily use of Microsoft Word 98 slowly eroding my knowledge of other companies?

Pick over the pieces

Dammit, where did I put that WordPerfect CD?

I don't want to write about Microsoft, at least until the trial is settled. Then I'll pick over the pieces and say why the verdict should have gone the other way. (This will happen regardless of which way the verdict goes. I feel like being difficult).

You want to know what I mean by mindshare here? I'll tell you a story: a couple of weeks ago I went to Apple's launch of the latest revision of Mac OS. As I was heading up in the lift, a fellow wearing janitorial coveralls and carrying a mop asked what function I was going to. "Computer operating system launch," I said. "Oh," he said, "Y2K compliant, is it?"

Now that is mindshare. The year 2000 problem has become so widely discussed that even a guy in a lift with a mop is interested in it. Or at least, is able to feign interest in it for the sake of conversation. Had I feigned interest in his mop, we may never have had our little conversation.

And if the launch had been a few days later, after the beginning of the Microsoft trial proper, the conversation would probably have been different. He would most likely have made some astute observation about the implications of a viable competitor to Microsoft's chances of winning the case. For all I know, the guy was a Linux developer and the mop was a memento of some tragic lost love. There's a million stories in the big city, and all that.

Monolithic furball

It's time I had a change of scene, dear readers. You may never have suspected this, but the picture of hirsute splendour you see on this page week after week was taken more than two years ago. You may still have recognised me if you attended an ARN breakfast recently or if I sneaked into your shops looking to make mischief, because I still look like that.

Unbelievable, isn't it? I've been locked in this perpetual state of never-changing hairstyle, like a repeat of the Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Well, it's got to change. The problem is, I haven't the will to do it. I try to be brave, but asking a hairdresser to cut what I've nurtured so long is anathema to me.

So I'm calling on you to help. I'm looking for sponsorship to remove my hair. How much money I make governs how much hair I lose. I don't want to set a target, because I don't want there to be an upper limit on this.

All the money will be donated to charities supporting cancer research, since that disease has robbed me of some people who were very dear to me and I want to take revenge by eradicating the thing.

If I have to go bald doing so, I will. Phone me on (02) 9902 2729 by Friday, October 30. Every little bit helps, and I'll be much cooler for the summer.


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