Carlton Egremont III has returned home to the coin operated doorbell and remote control elevators of the famous Egremont estate. The place is large enough to make Bill Gates' mansion look like one of those little green houses on Baltic Ave (not that this is the only thing Mr. Gates has in common with Monopoly). Carlton has several indoor helipads just to get around the house. As large as the Gates mansion is, I bet you can't land an Apache attack helicopter in the laundry room.
Carlton has become quite reclusive. His doorbell now requires exact change. And he is very security conscious. He can be contacted only via his fax shredder, which shreds all documents on receipt. You'll get a quick response only by faxing him some smoked turkey. He says it makes a tasty julienne salad.
When he phoned me a few weeks ago to request some more lunch meats, I asked his opinion of the U.S. Government's difficulties with Microsoft and Bill Gates. I was surprised by his response for two reasons. First, because he had actually heard of the U.S. Government. ("Aren't they the guys who pick up my trash?"). And second, because he felt Bill Gates has been much maligned.
"Bill Gates has been much maligned," he told me. (Bear in mind that Carlton has written a computer book from the point of view of a talking rabbit. I generally take his opinions with a grain of salt and a tablet of Gaviscon.)
"Bill's entanglements with the Department of Justice are part a conspiracy involving Sun Microsystems, Janet Reno, and Socks the cat," he explained. I asked how he could be so sure. "Mr. Bunny has a 'buddy' in the White House," he replied mysteriously.
In general Carlton does not believe in conspiracy theories. He feels all such theories are simply part of a large conspiracy. So I found his viewpoint a bit hard to swallow. (Make that two tablets of Gaviscon.)
When pressed further, Carlton said only that having failed to declaw Socks, the government now wished to declaw Microsoft. "All we really need to do is get Bill his own scratching post," he said. "Keep him away from the furniture and we'll be fine."
On the inclusion of the Internet Explorer as part of the operating system, Carlton said, "I have nothing against it. I like getting free stuff. In fact, I'd like to include a free 3.5" crayon with each copy of Mr. Bunny's Guide to ActiveX, but then I would need to charge more for the book."
That conversation took place a few weeks ago. Mr. Egremont may now be changing his mind about the benevolence of Bill Gates. Recently I received and decoded a rather strange email message. (All of Carlton's email is in Morse code, the result of a spilled vanilla frappe that rendered his keyboard nonfunctional except for the period and hyphen keys. This explains the figure numbers in Chapter 6 of Mr. Bunny's Guide to ActiveX.) His message said: "Today as I landed my chopper in the computer room, I saw my favorite recliner being sucked into the computer monitor, where it disappeared into Microsoft Office. When I called for tech support, I was told my Barcalounger was now part of the operating system."
His message went on to propose an even more novel solution than the Microsoft scratching post. "If companies are unable to compete with Microsoft, I think we should establish an endangered species list for software products."
He may have a point. If Microsoft starts logging in your forest, simply release Spotted Owl 1.0 and at least you'll have the environmentalists on your side.