Oracles and Dreams

Copyright © Mark Langenhoven 10 May 2000.

The Past

Joe and Victoria crested the hill with the sun warm on their backs.
'Wow, what an altavista!', cried Victoria.
'Yes,' Joe agreed, 'on a clear day a man can seek forever.'
They sat on a patch of grass and admired the wonderful scenery, but mainly drinking in the peace and quite one can only experience when you leave the fortunecity behind.
'Yahoo!' Joe shouted with joy. 'Is this the best or what?'

Later that afternoon, feeling considerably more relaxed, they decided to head off home. Arriving there, they unpacked the car together, with the unpacking rapidly evolving into something much more serious. Joe, flung aside the bag as soon as the door closed behind him and they rushed to undress each other. Joe's momentum, however, was broken when Victoria suddenly burst into tears.
Joe's voice was full of concern. 'What's wrong my dear?'
She looked at him through tear blurred eyes. 'Am I not attractive to you anymore?'.
Joe was puzzled. 'What do you mean love?' Victoria pointedly looked down. 'You are - um - micro-um-soft.' It hit Joe like a shockwave. In a flash he understood why Victoria had been so withdrawn lately.
He grabbed her shoulders and pulled her closer. 'No Victoria, you don't understand, it is not you.'
She pulled free from his grip and ran, sobbing, from the room.

The Present

Joe knew he needed to do something and he needed to do it quickly. Life without Victoria simply was not life anymore. He stopped his car and confirmed that the address was the same as the hideously scrawled note Frank had penned for him. What was wrong with the man, couldn't he type?

The previous evening Joe had poured out all his troubles to his closest friend. It was at this point that Frank simply intoned 'You need to see the Oracle .'
'The oracle?'.
'No dummy, the Oracle. This man is unbelievable. He managed to get me out of my slump last year. He put me back on track man. Look at where I am today.'
Joe dutifully looked around to see where Frank was today and grudgingly admitted that the absolute chaos that surrounded them was at least expensive chaos. Which, by Frank's standards, meant that he had "made it".

So, now, here he was about to see the Oracle. He rang the doorbell and almost left when the person answered the door. Hiking boots were topped by bright green pants, a yellow shirt, a round - albeit friendly - face and finally a totally ridiculous red hat. The man stood sideways and waved his arm inside.
'You must be Joe. Frank told me you would swing by today. It was good to hear from him again. He is one of my real success stories.'
Joe nodded numbly and followed him in while googling at all the utter nonsense that cluttered the man's house. They seated themselves in a couple of old garden chairs near the pool in the back garden. After a while Joe realised that the chap was not going to say anything, so he decided to get cracking. After all at 90 bucks an hour he could think of better things to do with his time.
'So, we were not properly introduced. My name is Joe Inktomi.'
The chap nodded pleasantly while offering him an apple from a bowl on the table between them. 'I am the Oracle.'
'The oracle?' Joe questioned.
'No, the Oracle.' The Oracle appeared to be a bit annoyed, so Joe decided to drop it and plunged straight into his problems.

'It all started about a year ago. I had launched my own startup company which allowed people to stay in touch by adding GPS facilities to their mobile phones. The idea was that you could go to our website and log on with your phone number. It would then produce an immensely detailed satellite photograph of your current position. You could then email this to your friends as a sort of ultimate wish-you-were-here.'
Joe glanced at the Oracle to see if he was impressed by this. The silence finally seemed to get through to him and he glanced up from the funny webcrawler that he had been studying under a potplant nearby.
'Yes, so you started this net-thingy and then?'
Joe was a bit miffed at his brilliant idea being waved aside as a net-thingy, but continued his story anyway. 'Well, next thing we attracted enough attention and got huge wads of venture capital and went IPO. From there on things were just on the up-and-up. I am now driving my dream car, living in my dream house and I have my dream bank-balance.'
Finally the Oracle seemed to shrug himself out of his torpor. 'But somehow it feels as if something is missing in your life?'
Joe was somewhat taken aback. 'Yes, that is exactly how I feel! How did you know that?'.
The Oracle gave him a knowing look. 'I am the Oracle.'
He settled back in his chair after giving Joe a suitably withering look. 'I deal with you types all the time. Luckily it is quite simple to solve and I also accept visa.'
Joe looked blankly at the Oracle's gleaming teeth until he suddenly realised and pulled out his credit card. He placed it in the speedpoint which magically appeared from beneath the table and managed to avoid choking when he saw the figure. The speedpoint disappeared again just as magically and the Oracle leant back in his chair with a contented sigh.
'Ok, you must listen carefully and follow my instructions to the letter.'

Victoria pushed open the door to her favourite salon. In her mind there was nothing quite as relaxing as doing some shopping and then stopping off to talk to some mothers who think at the salon. Betty, her closest friend for the past eleven years, was there. She immediately realised that something was amiss in Victoria's life.
'What is wrong dear? Are you and Joe still having problems?'
Victoria started crying all over again. 'Yes, I think he is seeing someone else. He is so distant lately. I cannot seem to get him to open up to me like the old days. He really seems to be a different man now.'
Betty hugged her friend closer. 'I think what you need is a bit of serious pampering. Nobody can discuss problems like these when they are so stressed.'

At Betty's home, both women relaxed on the comfortable sofas in her lounge. Betty sipped her drink and looked at her friend who still appeared to be miserable. 'Have you tried putting up a banner at the front of your house, just to doubleclick him back to reality?'
Victoria looked totally puzzled, so Betty continued. 'Last year Matthew was going through a similar phase, so the one day I made this huge banner which read "Welcome to Betty's homepage. The best bookmark in the world!". I then hung it over the front of the house so that he couldn't miss it when he got home.'
'Did it work?'
'Yes, he finally realised that I needed a bit more attention and now he positively dotes on me. You know what these men are like. They get all wrapped up in their work and forget that us women need a bit more personal communication other than a spammy sort of email from the office to tell us that they are going to be late. They just need a touch of reality from time to time.'
Victoria looked considerably more perky now. 'Yes, I think I might try something like that and see if it does the trick.'

Joe nodded and waited excitedly but with baited breath. This was great. The Oracle was going to solve all his problems!
'At the moment you are finding yourself in a real amazon jungle filled with conflicting emotions brought about due to your success. You feel that you owe the fools in the street something because you managed to pull yourself above him so effortlessly.'
The Oracle glanced at Joe to make sure he was following this. Satisfied, he continued. 'At the same time you want to kick them all in the teeth because somehow you think they are all a bunch of pathetic wimps for not making it as big as you did. If you could leverage yourself out of the primordial ooze, then so can they huh? You are tired of trying to pull them up when they should be doing it on their own?'
Joe nodded in agreement.
'This inner conflict is causing you to keep your ID at ebay. This is extremely dangerous. Your ID must be brought to the fore for your success to continue.' The Oracle motioned with his hands to indicate the seriousness of the action.
'If you don't do this then you are sure to slide backwards.'
'OK, but how do I do that?'
The Oracle silenced him with a menacing look. 'I am not finished with the problem yet, how can we start with the solution? The major part of your problem lies in the nature of your business. For your business to be successful, your website needs a large number of "hits" each month, am I correct?'
Joe nodded, happier now that they were on more familiar ground.
The Oracle in turn nodded sagely. 'Therein lies the biggest problem of all. Your inner man is interpreting these "hits" as attacks on you, so your subconscious is trying to minimise the "hits" to protect you.'
Joe's jaw hung slack. 'You mean sub-consciously I am trying to destroy my own business to protect myself?'
The Oracle smiled happily. 'Exactly!'
Joe was thunderstruck. How was he going to solve this problem? 'What must I do about that?'
'Ok, the second part of the problem, which is the most serious part, is luckily the easiest to solve. You must immediately stop referring to these actions as "hits". Instead refer to them as "e-handshakes". You will have to convince your advertisers and independent page counters to adopt this policy as well for the success to be truly felt.'
'Is that it? I just call start calling "hits" "e-handshakes" and all is hunky-dory?' Joe looked and sounded extremely sceptical.
'My dear boy, do you question my wisdom in this matter? It is not just a question of calling something by another name, it is the entire subconscious perception of the action that is at the core of the matter. Now on to the other part of your treatment. You can choose to lower yourself down to man-on-the-street level again or you can simply decide that they are there for a reason and you are here for a reason and get on with life. This, however, is not so simple to achieve as their is a lot of guilt we are going to have to work through here. I would suggest a series of sessions over the next couple of months.'
The Oracle pulled a palm-sized computer from his pocket. 'If you will give me your calendering ID, then I will slot you in for the remaining sessions automatically. You can amend the appointments at my website if you cannot make it later on.'
Joe was still feeling a bit dazed by all this information and slowly got out of the chair. 'What? Oh, I will have to send you a mail with the info, I have forgotten my calender ID.'
The Oracle looked deeply troubled by this. 'You have forgotten your calender ID? My boy you are repressing yourself even more than I initially thought. We will have to get together again very soon.'

Onto the future

Joe called Larry, his CWO (Chief Web Officer), into his office first thing.
'Yeah Joe, what can I do for you?'
'I would like you to remove all references to "hits" on our site and replace it with the term "e-handshake".'
'May I ask why? It seems a bit pointless wasting manpower on something like that when we are desperately trying to break into the B2BNBCTOARB (Business 2 Be Noticed By Changing Terminology On A Regular Basis) market?'
'Yes, you may ask, but the answer is "Just do it". It is crucial to the survival of our business. We will be seen as market leaders in a few weeks and everybody will be following us.'
'OK, you are the boss, but it still feels like an awful waste of manpower.'
Joe struggled to contain his frustration. 'Yes, so please get on with it right away.'
It seemed to him, since he had started adopting the Oracle's IBM(Integrated Business Model) approach, things had been getting worse, not better. If anything he was more frustrated at work and he was now visiting the Oracle on an almost daily basis.
He decided it was time for his twice daily prowl through the cubicles to see what his employees were up to there. It was not that he really wanted to check up on them on such a regular basis, but he just felt really good wandering around out there where he was much closer to the code.
At Wally's cubicle, he stopped to chat about some of the technical problems they were trying to overcome.
'At the moment the main problem we have is improving the resolution of the photos quick enough that we can send them through to the users. If we do it on the fly then it takes forever, and if we do it beforehand then we eat up a huge amount of storage space and processing time for nothing.'
They sat and batted the problem back and forth until they arrived at a compromise which seemed to work for most of the aspects.
It was only when he got back to the office that he realised most of the day had been wasted in Wally's cubicle. However, when he sat down and thought about it he realised that he did not feel the morning had been wasted. In fact he had not felt that good for a long time.

Victoria raised her end of the banner while Betty was laughing so much, she could barely hold her end up.
'If this does not work, then I don't know what will.'
Victoria nodded in agreement while trying to hook the corner of the banner on a tree branch. 'This thing keeps slipping. I think it is too heavy to stay up.'
Betty looked at it and agreed. 'Yes, I think we need a couple of jpegs to hold it up.'
After firmly securing the banner they stood back to admire their handiwork. Both of them were still laughing when they returned to the house.

When Joe arrived home that night, he found a large crowd of people gathered around his house. What has happened here? When the crowd realised that he was trying to park in the driveway they rapidly made way for him amid much cheering and clapping. More puzzled by the minute, he got out of the car and found everybody slapping him on the back and trying to shake his hand. When he reached the front door he realised what the commotion was all about. On the large oak tree to the right of the door was a large banner proclaiming; "Victoria's Secret to be revealed here tonight!". Positively dying of embarrassment, he fumbled with the front door key and finally escaped into the house with a weak wave to the cheering crowd.
Inside he immediately realised why all the curtains were drawn. He dropped his briefcase on the spot. 'Oh boy, I think there has been some conniving going on here!'
Victoria smiled wickedly. 'Indeed, there has. You have been a bit of napster lately haven't you? I thought it might be a good time to give you a bit of a wake up shot.'

The next morning Joe called Larry into his office again.
'First off Larry, I want to apologise for yesterday. I was out of line. Secondly if you have not started converting our pages as I asked you to yesterday, then forget about. It doesn't matter what we call them, we could call them "direct body punches" and it would not change their function.'
Larry nodded quietly, but remained openly suspicious. Joe, not to be put off his stride, continued.
'Finally I am selling you the controlling share of the company. I have decided to live my dreams instead of other people's dreams. I will immediately return to the trenches to face the attack of the code in the front lines.'
Joe handed a sheet of paper to Larry. 'Here is the address and phone number of the Oracle.'
'The oracle?'
'Nooo. The Oracle! You will need his services if you continue in this position.'
With that Joe handed his office key to a completely dumbfounded Larry and made his way to the single, unoccupied cubicle in the building and settled down to some real work.