Occupational hazards unmasked!

Every occupation has its hazards. Lawyers go on humility binges. Postal workers suffer from dog bites and homicidal tendencies. Channelers face secondhand bad karma.

But what's the worst an IS professional has to worry about? A swivel chair spinning out of control and knocking coffee onto his lap? Hardly! I've combed articles rejected by the New England Journal of Medicine and come up with the following IS-related occupational hazards. After reading this column, many IS professionals will want to seek a safer position - as a mercenary soldier, perhaps, or a parachute tester. Maybe even a presidential adviser.

Boolemia. The boolemic constantly regurgitates complex "and" and "or" structures in his speech and thought processes, which makes life overly complicated. A typical boolemic: IF (popcorn buttered) and (Julia Roberts stars in) and not (Paulie Shore) OR (art film) and (Sly Stallone has cameo) or (body count > 100) see movie.

Algolholism. Sufferers can't stop writing Algol programs, even though no one has sighted a working Algol program since 1977. Victims spend their days rummaging through old computer output recycling bins looking for a line or two of pure Algol code. The best treatment? Wean addicts off Algol with a synthetic derivative called Cobol.

Hacking cough. An incessant seal-like bark, it's often precipitated by an FBI interrogation of three to five hours and may be exacerbated if the latest killer computer virus is named after the suspect's girlfriend.

Post-traumatic stress test syndrome. Strikes dedicated system testers who do their utmost to break unyielding online systems. The trauma of an intact system after the tester has pounded keyboards, thrown coffee at the PC and fruitlessly applied the latest cryptography is sometimes too much to handle; traumatised testers may suffer flashbacks just by punching in at an automated teller machine. The only cure is to break a system. And with year 2000 looming, there's hope that a magic bullet will be found.

Unemployed coder's eye. A rare condition in which the IT professional can't pick up misplaced periods in programs, resulting in numerous abends. The remedy is to strength-train eyes by watching ice hockey, which features a highly mobile, period-like dot called a puck.

Toxic schlock syndrome. Germinates from an IS shop's purchase of a turnkey vendor package that, upon closer examination, performs only one function: opening Pandora's Box without a close routine. Toxic schlock can poison the atmosphere of an entire IS organisation as demoralised staffers call in sick (of work). A highly recommended antidote is to never buy a client/server package retailing for $99.99.

Sleeping sickness. IS workers with this ailment fall asleep right at their PCs. Not even a six-pack of extra-caffeinated cappuccino can prevent a victim from nodding off at work. This unnatural slumber is usually caused by either working at a start-up Internet company in any city whose name begins with "San" or reading footnotes in product documentation.

Object disorientation. Encountered by mainframe developers when faced with object-oriented tasks. One victim describes the illness this way: "You get dizzy, all the drop-down menus appear stuck, dialogue boxes begin to talk back to you, and radio buttons start giving you a lot of static."

Doctors say the best way to fight the affliction is to put your head between your legs and repeat, "It's only a passing technological fad. It's only a passing technological fad. ..."

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Bill Levine

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