NOTES FROM THE FIELD: Happier than Larry

Randi spent much of our 4th of July weekend fretting about "poor Larry". Now I don't have anything personal against Larry Ellison, but I had been looking forward to a romantic getaway in Sonoma County (north of San Francisco) with Randi rubbing my back and cooing "poor Bobby", not "poor Larry".

Admittedly, Ellison's streak of bad breaks continued last week as his Number two guy, Oracle COO and president Ray Lane, abruptly resigned. (Larry, if you're reading this, is still available.)And Ellison faced a tough crowd at a press conference where he grappled with questions about having hired a private detective firm to investigate Microsoft. Reportedly, a very conspicuous bodyguard accompanied Ellison. I know we reporters can get aggressive with questions sometimes, but really, a bodyguard?Rumours have been floating around about another company that's been under fire lately. Corel, which has dabbled in many technologies, most recently Linux, has hit a rough financial stretch. The company's recently launched stock offering, available only in Canada, raised something like $US30 million for operating capital and to pay for workforce reductions.

None of that money, however, went into the company's booth design for PCExpo. According to the directory for PCExpo, the company had been booked to show its wares at the show. But the space that Corel had reserved contained only a few folding tables and someone hawking mobile phone services.

Some are speculating that the company is on the sales block and that both IBM and Hewlett-Packard are potentially interested in the weary Canadian company.

Farther south, Big Brother is alive and well. Employees at Universal Studios have been informed that their PCs will soon be monitored for Napster use. Does this new policy implemented by the folks in IT show concern about the network's bandwidth capacity? Or is it from the business side, concerned about Napster's potential to suck revenues from the music division?In another instance of employee appreciation, Verizon, the company created by the Bell Atlantic/GTE merger, recently sent out a note of welcome to workers.

"To commemorate the launch of Verizon, we've enclosed a special souvenir that we hope will serve as a constant reminder of the promise of our great new enterprise. Keep your eyes on Verizon. We think you're going to like what you see," it reads.

So what did the employees receive? Was it a BMW? A brand new PC? DSL Internet access? A caller ID telephone?Well, no. Workers got a lovely refrigerator magnet to remind them of the great company they work for and the promising future ahead.

I spent the whole weekend reassuring Randi that "poor Larry" would be just fine and it was really quite unnecessary for her to send him a list of recommended psychotherapists.

"He's the richest man in California," I told her. "He owns boats and airplanes. That's all a man really needs to be happy.""Oh, Bobby!" Randi huffed in disgust.

Robert X. Cringely is a regular contributor to ARN's sister publication Infoworld