Try the Phone, Feel the Thag, Obi-Wan

FRAMINGHAM (03/27/2000) - Thag. That is today's topic. "What," you may ask, "is Thag?" A fine question, young Jedi. Understand or not understand. There is no try. Ah, Obi-Wan, feel the farce . . . .

Thag is a concept that was related to me by Ken Baptiste, our exalted development program manager. Thag is actually a creation of the febrile minds of Ken and his brother, Darius. As this is a slippery concept, we'll start with an example:

What is the Meaning of Life? Before half of you jump up in paroxysms of joy shouting "42," let me say that 42 is as good an answer as any because the Meaning of Life is a question that can be sliced and diced, bought and sold, buried in soft peat for six months and then recycled as firelighters, and you will still wind up, at best, staring at your navel, chanting "Om" and waiting for the nice gentlemen to come and fit you for a sleeveless jacket.

The Meaning of Life is just one of those imponderables that you simply shouldn't get too wrapped up in because you will not, under any circumstances other than by acquiring a deep commitment to self-delusion, discover an answer.

In fact, as a side note, if you lined all the economists in the world end to end, they wouldn't reach a conclusion either, but I digress (wow, that felt good).

So the Meaning of Life is a topic that if you think about it too much will leave you more confused and less knowledgeable than when you started. That is the essence of Thag, something you just should accept and then move on because getting into it will have no payoff.

I love the idea! I mean, have you ever noticed how much Thag there is? Take Bill Clinton's involvement with Monica Lewinsky. Perfect Thag! If you should think about this to any depth beyond a derisory snort, you will find yourself concluding that it makes absolutely no sense.

You can't believe that he did it, you can't figure out why he did not tell reporters to mind their own business and you can't figure out how the furor just simply died down. You're left with more questions than you started with.

You are, my friend, dealing with Thag.

And the reason Thag is called Thag? Remember the caveman in Gary Larson's The Far Side cartoons? He was called Thag. But why name the deeply philosophical concept of Thag after a cartoon caveman? Because it seemed right? Because it underlined the deep existential divide that exists between all men and nature?

I have no idea, and the reason for the name Thag is Thag.

Let me give you a great piece of network industry Thag: Web-enabled cell phones. Who can honestly say that they think a black and white, 200-character display is even vaguely adequate for Web browsing? Why is such a poor technology being pushed so hard? Thag.

I say this with passion, as I just tried to live with a Sprint Corp. PCS cell phone that also offers Web access. What a joke! I'm sitting at my desk in Ventura, California, and the phone beeps every few minutes to inform me: "You are now leaving the Sprint PCS area" (meaning no digital service). Then minutes later it beeps to inform me: "You are now entering the Sprint PCS area." All this, and I haven't moved a muscle.

The cell phone didn't work at all at the San Francisco airport, and even though cell phone service is generally poor in Silicon Valley, I couldn't even get a single call through going down the 280. Why? Thag. (My solution: Back to AT&T Corp.)I could make a huge list of industry Thag, but I think you get my point. And the importance of this point is to stop you from wasting time analyzing the unanalyzable. Face it, Thag is part of our world. Can we reduce the Thag? I have no idea because that question is Thag. Ah, young Jedi . . . the Thag is with you.

Send your Thag to nwcolumn@gibbs.com.

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