Packet Rat: The Rat draws a line in the sand
Michael J. Bechetti
When last heard from, the Rat was flirting with the idea of applying for an IT position with the transitional Iraq government. Then he was stirred from restless sleep by a phone call telling him to pack a bag.
His ensuing flop sweat dried up only a little when he recognized the voice at the other end as his better half, calling from the kitchen on her cell phone.
'You did put in for time off this week, right?' she asked. 'I've got a burrow reserved in a sand dune somewhere so we can go offline for a while.'
'Anywhere there isn't a SARS outbreak is fine with me,' the whiskered one replied, collapsing back onto his sweaty pillow.
The ratlings were off from school for spring break, and the Rat had indeed put in for leave'and none too soon, in view of his itchiness for a change of station. So he happily threw together a bag of sun gear and packed up the family's motorized beast of burden for a trip southward to North Carolina's Outer Banks.
But before leaving, the Rat did a bulk e-mail download. He anticipated that his wife's definition of offline was much more literal than his own. Much more so than, say, the Navy'Marine Corps Intranet user who recently sent a quip that NMCI stands for 'No More Computer Information.'
The wired one also suspected he would be out of range of the 'Wish you were here' Short Message System e-mail he'd been getting from military colleagues over in the Gulf.
Furthermore, he suspected he wouldn't be getting a chance to play around with his brand-new copy of Microsoft Windows Server 2003 during the trip.
And perhaps that was just as well. Who wants to develop ulcers while relaxing on the beach?
The Rat was still a bit unnerved by his wife's little phone prank, however. Given past history, he reminded himself, 'Just because I'm paranoid does not mean someone isn't out to get me.'
And so, after a low-profile jaunt down back roads to the Wright Memorial Bridge, the Rat family arrived at their vacation destination. On cue, the skies opened up and it rained. For two solid days.
Just as the Rat suspected, his spouse had taken the family completely off the grid. A check of his Internet provider's dial-up access points showed there wasn't even a 14.4-Kbps connection available within three area codes.
As the rest of the family started yet another game of Boggle, the cyberrodent was reduced to skimming his downloaded e-mail cache.
And there, highlighted in red by the mail filter, was a message from a certain spook acquaintance. The subject line read, 'Wire-puller required in Basra.'
The sun came out. The family headed for the beach for seashells. But the Rat had other plans.
'Dear, isn't it a little chilly to be burying yourself in the sand?' his better half inquired.
'Just trying to avoid getting burned,' replied the Rat, from beneath a beach pail. The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at email@example.com.