The Rat finds millions of good reasons not to fix faulty date code

Packet Rat
R. Fink

The year 2000 crisis has finally gained our chief executive's attention, at least

The Rat rejoices that his late-night rap sessions with Al and Tipper have paid off, but
it is a little late. The fiscal 2000 budget proposal, even if approved on time,
doesn't kick in until October. That leaves three months to apply the information
technology funds to emergency triage.

The whiskered one isn't surprised. Most agencies have had year 2000 readiness
plans under way for years, but planning ahead doesn't happen to be a valued
managerial trait in the Rat's chain of command.

For the last five years, the cyberrodent has tried everything short of holding his
breath, jumping up and down, and screaming to draw attention to the coming disaster. His
agency chief, however, has preferred any kind of distraction to cold, stark reality.

After once more counting up the potential software failures at his agency, the Rat
moaned. Then it suddenly occurred to him that it might be inadvisable to push the subject
further. Foot-dragging, it seems, could have certain unanticipated benefits.

He envisioned receiving the following direct-deposit notice on the first payday in
2000: 'By our calculations, you have accumulated 99 years' worth of unused

'If you choose not to take this leave in the next 30 days, unused leave days will
be bought back, and you will be automatically credited with $8,793,123.22.'

That's right. If the fixes don't go in soon at the agency's aging
payroll system, the Rat can look forward to living the life of a lottery winner. And if he
decides to take the money and run, he anticipates little trouble in terms of

Naturally there will be long lines at the airport after reservation systems crash. On
the other hand, the takeoff queues will be short because the planes will be stuck at the
gates. The bare-tailed one wonders if it might not be easier to fly his accidental
millions across the border in his own little jet.

There is that nagging worry about embedded avionics systems failing, however. Maybe the
Rat will just drive. The toll gates in the EZ-Pass lanes will probably be stuck in the
default vertical position.

Traffic on that particular Saturday will likely be light, especially if the power grid
crashes, as predicted. And the cyberrodent is betting that much of America will stand
around in towels for a while, waiting for the water pressure to be restored.

If the Rat decides not to make a run for the border, however, there are still a few
things that will keep life interesting back at the office.

For one thing, he'll finally have an excuse to make boat anchors and artificial
reefs out of all those ancient Zenith Data Systems Z-248s that he has been forcing the
underclass to use for network access.

For another, the furry one's favorite old passwords will have new life. All he has
to do is not use up his grace log-ins after the passwords expire at the end of 1999, and
he might not get a prompt for a new password until 2099.

But in the meantime, here's the ultimate reason to hope for year-end bedlam: job
security.' n

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

About the Author

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace.

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