Two humorous looks at our high-tech world

March 1, 1997
I got two books for Christmas that were so funny and so clued-in to the fads and foibles of the high-tech world we in the cabling industry inhabit that I have to tell you about them.

Arlyn S. Powell, Jr.

Chief Editor

I got two books for Christmas that were so funny and so clued-in to the fads and foibles of the high-tech world we in the cabling industry inhabit that I have to tell you about them.

Scott Adams is the creator of the Dilbert cartoon strip and worked for nine years in the corporate headquarters of telecommunications giant Pacific Bell. In The Dilbert Principle, Adams`s first writing effort that is not strictly comic strips, he one-ups the "Peter principle," that famous dictum that corporate managers always rise to positions above their level of competence. The "Dilbert principle," which Adams says is a Peter principle for the 1990s, is that nobody has any level of competence to rise above.

After asking in the introduction, "Why Is Business So Absurd?", Adams runs through such topics as "Great Lies of Management," performance reviews, pretending to work, management consultants, meetings, downsizing, re-engineering, and ISO-9000. His views of high-tech corporate life had me laughing to the point of tears, and they were liberally illustrated with Dilbert comic strips. In addition, Adams, who reputedly receives more than 200 e-mails a day from readers recounting their corporate woes, includes anonymous anecdotes of real corporate situations that he has developed into strips.

The book ends on a serious note, however, with the "OA5 Manifesto," a model for companies that want to improve their employees` quality of life. OA5 stands simply for "out at 5," and this business model is based on the simple wisdom that workers live their real lives at home, so a caring business does all it can to operate efficiently during the workday so its employees can go home at 5 PM.

The second book I received for Christmas was In Cyberspace, by Dave Barry, a humor columnist for the Miami Herald. Barry, a self-professed computer geek who admits to having 20 antiquated PCs scattered around his home, explains how computers work, how to buy one ("Step One: Get Valium"), how to choose and install software, and what you need to know about word processing. Barry freely admits that none of his advice is worth anything, but it is very funny.

In addition to his "how-to" help, Barry offers some interesting insights into the computer super-show Comdex, the Internet, and e-mail romance--the latter illustrated with a lengthy fantasy about MsPtato and RayAdverb. Perhaps his most scathing commentary is reserved for the Internet, where he does a little research into unusual Web sites. The chapter subtitled "At Last: Proof That Civilization Is Doomed," describes Web sites dedicated to the toilets of Melbourne, Australia; jokes about violas (the musical instrument); banana labels of the world; Captain and Tennille appearances; and cursing in Swedish. And so on, ad nauseum.

If you are interested in visiting any of several dozen quirky Web sites described by Barry, you`ll find their addresses in his book. Both In Cyberspace and The Dilbert Principle can be found at your local bookstore.

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