R. Fink

Taking stock, whiskered one exercises option
of wisely turning tail

The Rat's affinity for data streams helps him sniff out patterns pretty quickly. His whiskers can sense broadcast storms and denial-of-service attacks before they begin. A few weeks ago, his whiskers started twitching whenever he turned on the financial news.

'Honey, it's time to dump our position in rMachines Inc. and run,' he said well before April 14. 'The market's already done the Yo-Yo, the Around the World and the Cradle. It's about to do the Walking the Dog. I can feel it.'

Never one to doubt her husband's instincts in such matters, Mrs. Rat pointed her browser to an online brokerage and executed sell orders on all exercised options. Thanks to some fancy financial-disclosure footwork'and the fact that the whiskered one had recently stepped down from his duties as chief everything officer of rMachines'the Rat family was fully liquid by the next morning.

Of course, the maneuver didn't go unnoticed in the financial world, especially given that the venture capitalists who took rMachines public hang out in northern Virginia instead of Silicon Valley. To avoid termination with extreme prejudice, the IP rodent rang his friends at the Langley Investors Club while his wife was pushing the profits into a Swiss Internet bank by way of a New Jersey garbage hauling company and an offshore bingo parlor.

Needless to say, his investors were displeased. 'This isn't going to look good on the Securities and Exchange Commission filing,' rasped the Rat's contact, whom he had come to know as Mr. Pink.

'It really doesn't matter what looks good at this point,' replied the Rat, 'especially when rMachines will probably be delisted by Monday.'

Conscience clear, the wired one headed for his agency job but kept the Bloomberg television broadcast running in a video window on his PC.

'Ya know,' mumbled one of his underlings, 'I was just looking at this salary survey. I don't know why I don't ditch this federal gig and join some way-cool dot-com. I could use some stock options.'

The Rat sneered over his shoulder: 'You don't want to do that right now. This may be a bad time to go private.'

'What do you mean?' the wire-splicer's apprentice asked.

'Read 'em and weep, my young friend,' the Rat said. On the ticker running across his screen, all the listings turned red.

'Oooh, that's ugly,' the apprentice winced.

Soon a crowd of the financially exposed gathered around the Rat's command cubicle and watched the Nasdaq train wreck. To lighten spirits, the whiskered one played an MP3 file of the Soviet national anthem.

At lunchtime, he wandered into the break room with a ream of paper. He handed a dozen sheets of paper to each person. 'For today's technical brown-bag,' he said, 'I thought I'd talk about the many uses of now worthless tech stock certificates. For those of you in the thrift savings plan, remember: Buy and hold is always your best option, but you may need to hold a while longer after today. I recommend you use your savings plan statements in lieu of stock certificates for these exercises.

'First, there's the ever-popular paper hat. It's especially useful to prevent sunstroke when you move to a tropical climate to avoid costly winter heating bills. It can also be quickly reconfigured as a fan.

'Or you can roll stock certificates into homegrown cigars. The heavy paper makes a nice stogie.'

At this point, a mob began to form by the water cooler. They were braiding paper into a noose.

'I guess that's enough for today,' the Rat shouted over his shoulder as he sprinted for the door. 'Next week's topic: Ways to Prevent Violence in the Workplace.'

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


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