Flamethrower  by Alex Gordon

Waldo Wears Thin

I was in a rut; surf, eat, sleep, surf, eat, sleep.

Then I heard about a possible cure for my blahs. Andersen Consulting was starting a new service on the Web that, among other things, promised to find the Web sites that I secretly desired. I never even knew I "secretly desired" Web sites, but I figured what the heck, why not try it?

After all, businesses pay billions of dollars to consulting companies like Andersen every year. Andersen comes in and studies the situation and then makes recommendations as to how the company can bust out of its rut. And here I was, going to get their expert advice for free!

Admittedly, the service was in its infancy when I tested it, but again, it had the Andersen name on it. A prestigious multimillion dollar firm isn't going to sully its good name by putting some half- baked idea up on the Web, right? Right?

So, I punched in the URL (http://lifestyle.cstar.ac.com/ lifestyle/) and behold! I was greeted by Waldo the Web Wizard, who claimed he could see my future, my dreams, my hopes and the Web sites that I "secretly desired."

"Wow! Waldo's finally going to get me those URLs with doctored GIFs of Alicia Silverstone," I thought to myself.

All Waldo asked in return was that I answer "a few soul-revealing questions from the mystical archives of wisdom." Hmmmmm, soul- revealing questions? Was Waldo going to probe my feelings on religion? Politics? The meaning of life? This guy seemed serious. I hesitated for a moment. I'm not one of these privacy nuts, but still-- "soul-revealing questions"--I don't usually like to give out my home phone number when registering at a site. Still, Waldo was promising me a lot: "Do this--and Waldo will guide you straight to the Web sites you'll find so interesting you'll think they were created just for you...after showing you the Web sites you really want to see most, Waldo will reveal to you the secret reasons how Waldo the Web Wizard's LifestyleFinder will help change your life--forever."

Change my life? Web sites tailored just for me? And all I had to do was answer some soul-probing questions? Sign me up!

flame you! Waldo My appetite keen, I clicked on Waldo's crystal ball. But before we could get started, Waldo fired back with a disclaimer. Something about being only a prototype and how Andersen doesn't guarantee the results. Whatever. They were just trying to weed out the rubes. I believed in Waldo and no legal mumbo jumbo was going to rain on my parade. I desperately clicked forward.

"Behold! Waldo senses one of these scenes resembles what you watch on television...kindly show Waldo what you watch most on the tube."

This was soul-revealing?Anyway, I had to choose one of six cheesily-drawn cartoons (by comparison, Hi and Lois is DaVinci) that pigeon-holed my viewing tastes. There was no choice that said "NBC on Thursdays except for the new Brooke Shields show and The Single Guy, plus X-Files, The Tick, The Simpsons, and Cubs, Bears, Bulls, Michigan and Northwestern games," so I picked the category "sitcoms." Since "sitcom" is a pretty loose category encompassing everything from Seinfeld and Frasier to Full House and Family Matters, I must say at this point, I was starting to have my suspicions about this Waldo fellow. Still, I decided to give him another chance.

Next, Waldo asked me what I like to do after coming home from work (it's noteworthy at this point that, after professing my taste for sitcoms, Waldo gleaned that I was gainfully employed). Again, I was given six choices about "preferred activities" in the form of six cheesy cartoons. Since "sitting in front of the TV with a cold Rolling Rock" was not one of the options, I informed Waldo that I liked to participate in sports.

I can see by my word count that I'm running out of space, so I'll have to cut to the chase. Waldo went on to ask me what kind of house I live in, what kind of beverage I like to consume, what my favorite part of the newspaper is and what kind of music I like. Each time I had my pick of six cheesy cartoons.

Anyway, in the end, here is the portrait Waldo drew of me: "Waldo can see your apartment...which to you is a welcomed haven after a long day of work. It's a place to relax with friends, listen to music and eat jerky-based snacks. Waldo knows you enjoy the sun, friendship and chewy chunks of dried beef."

And what about those Web sites tailored specifically for me? Waldo came up with 15 sites. Of those 15, I can say I was realistically interested in only three. Some of Waldo's misses: sites for Bell motorcycle helmets, Chase Bank credit cards, Kelly- Springfield tires, Majerle's Sports Grill (in Phoenix), the National Automotive and Truck Museum and Shooter's Billiards Supplies & Sales.

These were the Web sites I secretly desired? Please. Using URouLette, I had a better chance of finding enjoyable sites. OK, so maybe this is an exaggeration. The first site URouLette sent to me was for the Scrap Plastic Depot, but you get the point.

My advice? Don't waste your time with Waldo.


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