How to win friends and influence people: Create a diversion

After a mandated three-day stress management course with a local Zen master, the Rat
returned to his office and found a cryptic note: "What is the sound of one LAN

The great thing about mandated stress management training is that it gives you plenty
to manage when you come back. With a network dying of congestive router failure and
packets being sent off never to return, the Rat rolled up his sleeves and waded into the
fray that the help desk had become in his absence.

Furry heads were going to roll, he was sure.

The cyberodent department head was waiting for him in Slacker Central. After absorbing
the initial bombardment, the Rat shifted his brain into action. "The problem,"
he said, "is stress. Everyone's negative thoughts are causing the LAN to crash."

Temporarily stunned, the Rat's manager asked for an explanation. "Tests have
shown," the Rat continued, "that the human mind can have an influence--a small
influence, mind you--over the performance of electronics and machinery. With all the abuse
everyone heaps on the system around here, it's amazing that the servers haven't all been
put on suicide watch yet. They just don't have the coping skills to deal with all that

The Rat knew that his department head had just completed the same sensitivity training
the furry one had been sent to a few months before. Now his chance to take advantage of
that psychobabble had come. "What do you suggest we do?" the rapidly retreating
manager asked. "We need to help the system manage its stress," the Rat replied.
"Call a department head meeting. I need to get a presentation together."

About two hours later, as the building slid into further chaos around him, the Rat
sensed an opportunity to further the art of computer folklore. As he walked into the
department head meeting, his boss already had begun to spread the thought virus that would
help him accomplish his task.

Flipping through a pile of 125 viewgraphs on the overhead, the whiskered one explained
to the gathered corner-office boys that the network needed a prolonged dose of positive,
reassuring energy to rehabilitate it to a nominal state. The prescription: Each department
would shut down its computers, gather in the nearest hallway to its wiring closet, and
meditate quietly for two hours.

"Trust me," the Rat said. "I was right about that green and red electron
thing, wasn't I?"

At the appointed hour, all the departments in the building were filled with the sound
of silent reflection. Not a disk drive was spinning. The Rat and his minions sprung into
action, taking advantage of the network downtime during business hours to reset the
jibbering routers and run volume repair utilities on the servers.

With 20 minutes to spare, the network had achieved inner peace--and was running at full

Straightening his tie, the Rat informed each department that it could return to work
and thanked them for their patience and supportive thoughts. The unwashed masses, thankful
for the respite from pre-budget stress, returned happily to their desks and gently logged

Upon his return to the help desk, the minions gathered around him and sat at his feet.
"Teach us, master," they begged.

Peeling the cellophane off a yellow snack cake, the Rat said, "Snatch the Twinkie
from my hands, Grasshopper." He deftly popped it into his mouth before any hands
could reach it.

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad
packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at


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