PACKET RAT

Rat finds an upside to the dot-com downturn

On Independence Day, the Rat clan gathered with neighbors and friends for the annual gala. It happened to be the cyberrodent's turn to provide the fireworks display, and he put in many advance rat-hours wiring up a board to demonstrate his pyrotechnic prowess from a safe distance.

He wrapped fuses with wires and flash powder. He programmed a spectacular launch sequence to be controlled from his wireless handheld computer.

Unfortunately, he couldn't program the weather. Fuses got wet, circuits shorted out, and all the Rat could manage to get off the ground were a few bottle rockets and one big shell.

R. Fink
Cursing under his breath, the whiskered one towed his launchpad back to the ordnance shed and invited everyone to return for a rain date performance.

Fireworks haven't been the only duds to sputter out lately. Fifty-three more dot-com companies went sneakers-up last month, making a grand total of 555 casualties of the new economy since the April 2000 bubble pop. The death rate seems to be slowing, mostly because there aren't that many dot-coms left to go under.

The wired one doesn't know whether to laugh or cry over this statistic. All those Greedy Guses who followed their stock options into the world of whatever.com in search of a quick buck are now crawling home in frayed Dockers, begging for mercy.

Meanwhile, the Rat's own portfolio has become a chief source of gallows humor around the burrow.

Or at least it was, before the wirebiter found out that his children were enhancing their allowances by picking stocks to short-sell, based on his Thrift Savings Plan statements.

'Good tip on Webvan, Dad,' snickered the older ratling, as his sire crawled in from work one day. 'Here's your finder's fee.' He handed Father Rat a crisp $50 bill.

'Who knew short-selling dot-coms would be more fun than hacking them?' the middle ratling mused.

Besides the decline of the Rat's personal net worth, there have been subtler changes caused by the decline of dot-com-dom. They were evident from the conversation at the July 4 party'or rather what was missing from the conversation. Talk drifted into old, familiar territory:


  • 'So, what laptop do you think I should buy, Mr. Fink?'

  • 'Any advice on those wireless LAN thingies?'

  • 'I think I busted the USB port on my wife's CD-ROM burner. Can you take a look when you get a chance?'



He had found an upside to the downturn after all. Nobody asked the Rat for a stock tip.
When the rain date arrived, he repacked his fuses, dried his powder and made some special modifications to certain of his shells. As darkness fell, the party reconvened for a second attempt.

'Now, don't go blowing up the place like that barge in Atlantic City,' Mrs. Rat admonished when the furry firebug rolled out his ammunition.

'Don't worry,' her spouse replied. 'This time I'm starting the fuses the old-fashioned way. I'll burn them.'

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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