PACKET RAT

Former dot-commers face reality on Rat Island

The Rat's cube has been alive with the sound of music recently. As he sips and reads the morning news in the command bunker, the sound sound of a certain song by Queen can be heard lilting from the speakers: 'Another one bites the dust! And another one's down, and another one's down, another one bites the dust!'

Yes, the Rat is celebrating the demise of the greatest talent sucker ever devised by bipedal beings: the dot-com start-up.

The bare-tailed one rejoices at the end of the brain drain that accompanied the dot-com boom. Just as Reality TV now rules the airwaves, real reality is starting to sink in among tech-sector types.

The security of a government paycheck'or at least the illusion of security'has been drawing all sorts of would-be feds out of the woodwork. Even those who once preyed upon the Rat's staff are seeking sanctuary under Uncle Sam's hat brim now that they've been voted off IPO Island.

Readers may recall that the cyberrodent has long hoped for a special circle of hell for headhunters who poach from his private reserve of painstakingly indoctrinated acolytes.

Now that the commercial job market is soft, he still gets calls from headhunters, but they're no longer veiled attempts to snatch his staff. Nosirree, the hunters are hunting for work themselves by weaseling leads out of the Rat.

Such conversations usually go something like this:

'Hello, Mr. Fink, you may remember me. I was a recruiter for ' '

'Start the clock! Your question: What is the airspeed of an unladed swallow?'

'Uh ' '

'You are the weakest link! Goodbye.'

Headhunters aren't the only ones from whom the whiskered one has been receiving appeals. A long line of Rat Squad alumni, having found their commercial-sector stock options less than liquid, have been scratching at his door in hopes of returning to the fold.

The wirebiter's prodigal sons and daughters have come back from dot-comland. But the Rat isn't exactly roasting the fatted calf in their honor. More often than not, he points them to the Office of Personnel Management's job site, at www.usajobs.opm.gov, and wishes them luck.

Some, however, manage to get past all the checkpoints and weasel their way in for a personal audience, either because of some bond they might still have or because of the whiskered one's insatiable appetite for perverse forms of entertainment.

To those unfortunate souls, the Rat offers his own brand of immunity challenge. Because he does in fact have a few outstanding personnel requisitions, the most worthy of his lost sheep get a chance to return'albeit slightly below grade, as the Rat has reclassified their positions to recruit a new, more malleable generation of followers.

'But if you can survive that, I'll be happy to give you an extra ration of rice,' the Rat tells them with a smile. 'Or perhaps some government-surplus cheese.'

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

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