Data mining gives Rat's burrow a place in the underground hall of fame

R. Fink

Having mopped up the Love Bug and all its clones, thanks in no small part to the agency's sagacious migration last year to Linux for its workgroup servers, the whiskered one looked forward to a weekend of serious slacking.

But a reminder popped onto the screen of his Palm computer, trashing his hopes. The message read: 'Spring cleaning. Report to Mrs. Rat Saturday at 7 a.m.'

The cyberrodent sighed, 'Oh, well. I've been getting too much rest this week at work anyway.' His rMachines Inc. start-up had supplied a valuable excuse to avoid housework for quite some time, but now that he had cashed in on his venture into the new economy, his better half was seeking a different diversion. She was determined to find the long-lost floor of the Rat family's basement.

The Rat had to concede that the lower reaches of the burrow were in need of a purge. In fact, the whiskered one couldn't remember the last time he had cleaned out the vast basement network of tunnels and caches. But now that the store of detritus was pushing into the family living space, it was time to part with some of that valuable ' whatever it was.

Burning desire

When Saturday morning dawned, the Rat whined at his plight. 'What am I going to do with all this stuff?'

'You could call your friends from the Park Service in New Mexico to do a controlled burn,' his spouse suggested.

'I told them they were using that geographic information systems software incorrectly,' the whiskered one muttered and winced at the fiery images of Los Alamos that flashed through his mind.

'I called for a construction Dumpster, so at least you won't have to worry about bribing the garbage men,' Mrs. Rat said as she returned to analyzing her portfolio.

Armed with a broom, a snow shovel and a miner's helmet, the Rat descended into the nether regions to begin his own version of data mining. He dragged the ratlings along to assist.

'I'm sure this is a violation of child labor laws,' the elder ratling whined.

'Would you rather be making sneakers for Nike?' the Rat retorted. Without further comment, the ratlings commenced carting computer carcasses out to the Dumpster.

After removing the last Air Force Desktop I and II leftovers from the rMachines inventory, the Rat and his offspring dug through a pile of CP/M manuals and dBase books. As they pushed aside a stack of Gordon Lightfoot albums, a rush of cool air blew from a passageway behind them' an entrance to yet another chamber.

The ratlings raced ahead. 'Geez, Dad, what's this stuff?' the younger one asked, waving some yellowed punch cards.

The Rat perused one. 'Oh, just a backup.'

'Of what, Dad?' asked the elder ratling, snickering. 'The original code for Pong?'

'No, just the 1890 Census. Herman Hollerith asked me to make them Y1900-compliant. Put them out in the Dumpster with those 18-minute transcripts from the Nixon tapes.'

'Uh, Dad, shouldn't some of this stuff go to the National Archives?' the elder ratling inquired. 'It might be important to someone.'

'Nah, son, they wouldn't take anything from me,' the Rat replied. 'They're still upset because the last box of documents I sent was radioactive.'

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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