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June 94 - View From the Ledge

View From the Ledge


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Dear Tao,

Someone at work is stealing all my pens. I know it doesn't sound like a big deal, but it's getting to the point where I'm going through dozens a week. Even more frustrating is that I'm certain it's happening during normal business hours, not at night.

I just know the Internal Revenue Service isn't going to believe a huge deduction for office supplies at the end of the year. What can I do?

Pound Wise But Pen Foolish

Dear Pound,

You are in one of those unique positions where you can not only solve the mystery of the missing pens, but also spruce your office up a bit.

The first thing you need to do is cover your walls with blacklight posters. As a minimum you should get a tiger, a Jimi Hendrix, and a flaming dirigible. What's really great is that although interior design has taken huge leaps forward since the 60s, blacklight art has remained remarkably the same. Any investment you make now is sure to be preserved for years.

Once you've got the posters, you naturally must have a blacklight to properly show them off. I would recommend the most powerful one you can get, but you should stay away from the strobes -- although rare, there are some people who experience seizures from strobe light.

At this point the trap is set. Now all you need to do is dust your pens with ultraviolet powder (available from any burglar alarm shop). Make sure that you leave the light off for the first day or two. Then turn it back on and watch the people who come back and forth from your office. The one with the glowing yellow hands is your best suspect.

Note that if you're going to spend much time working under these lamps, you should get yourself a pair of UV goggles. It's not a bad idea to have a pair anyway; they make a great fashion accessory to spice up any wardrobe.

If things ever get a bit dull around the office, you can always set up your own security desk. Imagine the thrill you'll get saying things like "Excuse me, miss, you'll need to be stamped in order to reenterthe building." Putting up a sign that reads "No bottles, cans, knives, or tape recorders" will just add to the ambiance.

Dear Tao,

Lately I've been pondering a real big question that I'm not making any headway with: what, exactly, is it that people are trying to accomplish? Sure, all these software companies are trying to change the world, make profits, and all of that, but why?


Dear Puzzled,

You're asking the question that has plagued people from time immemorial. It's been phrased lots of different ways, usually by big people thinking big thoughts and wearing strange clothes, but the crux is always the same: just what is the deal?

Different religions and philosophies will give you different answers. Buddhists will tell you about enlightenment, Christians will expound on heaven, existentialists will ask "Why do you even care?" and a ten-year-old kid will point to a candy store. Unfortunately, all of these solutions look too far forward into the future, are too imbued with concepts of the human spirit, and still are not answering the basic question as it concerns computing.

I know the answer, but as part of the fraternity of philosophers, advice columnists, and magicians, I'm not supposed to release our secrets. However, I've never been comfortable with being a part of the "in" crowd, so I'll tell you the answer: it's Pac-Man.

From Day 1 people have wanted to be entertained, but for millennia this need was never truly fulfilled. Then in the 1980s Pac-Man came along and there was a brief period of bliss. Money could actually buy happiness -- assuming you had at least a quarter and a Pac-Man machine nearby.

Of course, a person can take only so much of any given kind of happiness, especially one that goes "wokka, wokka, wokka, GOINK!" People became burned out, and the search has been on ever since. That's right: this $200 billion-a-year industry, and all those government think tanks, are actually doing nothing more than searching for the next Pac-Man. Most experts agree that the next big breakthrough will be in a driving game of some type, which explains why you've been hearing so much about the digital highway lately.

Dear Tao,

Believe it or not, I actually like wearing a suit to the office. I've tried the standard jeans and T-shirt outfit, but I just don't feel comfortable in them. My problem is that when I do dress up, my colleagues continually criticize me for it. What can I do?

Pinstriped in Pennsylvania

Dear Pinstriped,

Unfortunately, you're in a very difficult situation that probably isn't "curable." The ailment was discovered in the 1950s and is most commonly referred to today as the "Liberace Syndrome." The studies of the human genome seem to indicate that there's some sort of defect in the appearance gene that will make affected individuals want to start dressing flashier and flashier. It's not clear what causes it, although chronic exposure to jewelry, candelabra, or Las Vegas clearly will make the condition worse. You'll also find that your condition will become more severe with age.

The disease starts very mild. At first you'll shun sneakers. Then you'll start thinking that cotton has too rough of a feel. As things progress to the final and most outrageous stages, you'll find yourselfwanting to wear sequined capes and feather boas. Thousands of people have been afflicted by the Liberace Syndrome: Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Elton John, Madonna, James Brown, and Rip Taylor, to name a few.

So it's bad news and good news about your affliction. The good news is that it's possible to live a full, relatively happy life. The bad news is that you'll never be able to do so in the computer industry. My recommendation is to start singing every morning in the shower, find an agent, and figure out which colors best match your hair and complexion.


  • The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary by Selchow & Righter. Great words from aa to zyzzyva.
  • Pop Art Book of 30 Postcards by Magna Books. High time to send your friend a Lichtenstein.
  • School's Out by Alice Cooper (Warner Bros. Records). Try to find a used copy of the LP, which includes paper panties that were banned as a "fire hazard."

TAO JONES paid his way through college by volunteering as a subject for psychology experiments. He became obsessed with trying to figure out what the experiments he was participating in were trying to determine and then defeating them. One day he was told to go to the testing room down the hall and on the right. He went down the hall and entered a room that was completely dark. Figuring it was an experiment in sensory deprivation, he went in and sat down. Two days later, he emerged, nearly dead from dehydration. It was then that he discovered he'd gone down the hall and turnedleft only to end up in the janitor's closet. *

Tao Index: A person's belief in the truth of a particular argument is inversely proportional to their emotional fury in delivering it. *

You can determine the future of Tao Jones. Simply put, this may be Tao's last column. If he receives no more questions, we will put him in a job better suited to his skills: repairing Lisas and Apple IIIs. Will Tao be saved? Only if enough of you AppleLink DEVELOP with a question on office survival. *


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