Packet Rat: Rat reforms the Olympics, tale first

Rat reforms the Olympics, tale first

The Rat sat spellbound by recent events in Salt Lake City. He hadn't seen anything of the magnitude of the Winter Olympics come out of that town since Ray Noorda's last hurrah at Novell BrainShare years ago. 'And I don't recall Ray doing a 'dinner roll' during the attendee ski, either,' he reflected.

The cyberrodent isn't much for winter sports himself. His only chance at winter gold will come if they introduce the post-ice-storm window scrape as an event. Before watching Johnny Moseley's freestyle, he thought 'catching big air' meant sitting in the Senate gallery during a filibuster.

The skeleton sled event had the most appeal. The Rat has always enjoyed hurtling out of control down an icy hill, and having a sled underneath would be a nice change.

But the whiskered wanderer saw his way to make a mark, so to speak, when he witnessed the controversy over the judging of figure skating. Here was a great opportunity for him to contribute his government IT expertise to a noble cause'and rack up some much-needed charity credits for next year's tax return.

Suffice it to say that when the president of the International Skating Union announced the proposed new judging scheme for figure skating, it had a certain fed's paw prints all over it.

A random seven-out-of-14 judges process wasn't the first idea the wily one bounced off the skaterati. There were a few others that failed to stick.

'Listen, Ottavio, we had a voting problem like this in the United States a little more than a year ago, and we didn't just go make two people president,' the Rat said as he sipped a Utah-legal hot toddy in the ISU president's hotel suite. 'In fact, this country has had two centuries of voting irregularities, and it's never stopped us from picking a winner.'

The wired one explained that what was needed was an artifice'a ridiculously complex system to make it impossible for any one person's vote to have an impact on the results. 'Just for starters,' the Rat expounded, 'let's call it an 'electoral college.' You'll need 1,076 judges. But you don't let these judges watch the competition. You have them pick whoever they like as the winner first. Then you have the audience watch the competition and vote for the winner.

'You divide the audience into 50 groups of random size, and assign the judges to each in proportion to the size of each group, divided by pi, plus the mean of their shoe sizes. The judges from each group who picked the same winner as the group get to vote'except for some of the wackier groups, where the judges can vote whichever way they please.

'Then you get together all the judges who can vote a month after the competition, and they elect the winner.'
Ottavio's brow wrinkled: 'What if there's a tie?'

'Easy. The Zamboni driver picks the winner,' the wired one whipped back.

As burly speed skaters dragged the Rat tail-first from the hotel suite, he hurriedly devised an alternative.

So, the next time you watch an international skating competition, and the scores roll up on the screen, remember: It could have been worse. They could've had hanging chads.

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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