The Rat finds tall-tale way to spend federal budget surplus money

Readers will recall the Rat's request in January for ideas on how to spend the coming
federal budget surplus.

It just doesn't seem right to blow it all on Social Security, so the cyberrodent issued
a request for information to get some better ideas.

Now, with a settlement from the tobacco industry on the way to push the budget over the
top, it's time to look at readers' winning entries in the Rat's Spend the Surplus
sweepstakes. Awardees can expect their GCN T-shirts any day now.

Honorable mention goes to Mark Vancho, who suggested the money go directly to the Rat
as compensation for a novel national memorial: The Federal Commemorative Rat Hole.

The shrine would be mobile; a commemorative sign would be randomly located outside new
federal building sites. As Vancho pointed out, "This would make it more difficult to
pin down tax-ic waste sites. In return, all that Mark asks is for the Rat to send him some

The whiskered one would be happy to oblige but, just remember, he isn't Chuck E.

In third place: Barry Chamberlain's proposed the Unknown Programmer Memorial. It would
depict two programmers--one male, one female, both resembling the late Rear Adm. Grace
Hopper--slaving away at Cobol code and screenfuls of C++ under the watchful eye of a
figure resembling Dilbert's pointy-haired boss. Their desks would be littered with bottles
of Maalox and Excedrin.

Chamberlain's inscription would read, "This statue memorializes thousands of
nameless programmers who have, through years of Herculean effort, managed to keep federal
data processing from falling completely on its face.

"These men and women persevered in spite of totally misguided legislative
oversight, ignorant-to-the-bone management and third-rate equipment. Along the way, they
sacrificed their stomach linings, eyesight and sanity. Their names were not merely
forgotten; they were never even deemed worthy of being recorded. But without them and
their work, we would be in deep doo-doo."

Gee, tell us how you really feel, mused the whiskered one.

In second place is a contribution from a reader who would rather go unrecognized, lest
his budding political activism be known to his peers. (Should the Rat send a plain brown

The exceedingly practical suggestion from the unnamed reader is to use the surplus
funds to rehabilitate old public buildings as shelters for the homeless. It should be
obvious to lawmakers that there are too many homeless for the shelters that now exist, or
folks would not be sleeping in parks and huddling around hot-air vents. So we should rehab
old school buildings and give poor folks clean, well-lighted shelters, hot meals and

Of course, Anonymous pointed out, if this is too practical, we could always spend the
money on exurban areas that have few in need of shelter.

And now for the winner. Chris Wilkman proposed that we build a pyramid out of the money

"Most people will have noticed that the impressive monuments in Washington are
based on ancient Greek or Egyptian columns, obelisks and so on," he wrote. "So
how about we use the cash, in the form of $1 bills, and build a pyramid to celebrate the
almighty dollar?

"There are all kinds of connections between pyramids and dollars. For example,
there's the pyramid with the eye atop it on $1 bills. Pyramid money schemes are run by con

Wilkman took the trouble to research how big such a pyramid would be: "I used Burrington'sHandbook
of Mathematical Tables and Formulas
and Secrets of the Great Pyramid. Making
some assumptions about the size and volume of $50 packets of $1 bills, I arrived at a
pyramid 105 feet high with a 270-foot base.

"Considering that in a few hundred years, the dollar bills themselves will be
worthless, our descendants might not think that much of a waste."

Wilkman pointed out another advantage: "Many of Egypt's ancient monuments have
been disassembled over the years to reuse their stones, but who would want old paper money
to build a new building? Big-time fire hazard! So we can rest assured that the pyramid
will be safe from future plunderers."

As for where Wilkman came up with the time to do his calculations, he wrote,
"Remember that we all need a break from Quake once in a while."

We do indeed. The Rat plans to spend his break time gathering rubber bands to secure
the 50-bill stacks.

Naturally, he won't plunder any of his federal office supplies. That would be waste,
fraud and abuse.

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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