I love the moments when Stephenson ridicules the silly formalities of the business world. This particular moment made me laugh out loud (sorry I have the other edition of the book, so I don't know which page number it is): in his opening speech, the sultan contends that "nothing is more natural than that the present-day Kinakutans should run big fat optical fiber cable in every direction parth into every major national telco within reach, and become a sort of digital bazaar. All of the guests nod soberly at the sultan's insight, his masterful ability to meld the ancient ways of his country with modern technology. But this is nothing more than a superficial analogy, the sultan confesses. Everyone nods somewhat more vigorously than they did before: indeed, everything that the sultean was just saying was, in fact, horseshit." Randy's caustic take on business etiquette is somewhat like Bobby Shaftoe's take on "sir, yes, sir!" marine corps etiquette: both are sets of social rules are pretty clearly ridiculous (at least to outside observers, which is sort of true in Randy's case), but they also enable the whole system to keep going. As such, maybe the bigger question is: why do organize ourselves such that these silly rules are necessary? In other words, certain etiquette might be necessary to keep the business world or military functioning, but maybe that says more about how screwed up these systems are to begin with.