Packet Rat: Worst scenarios come in by the case

Michael J. Bechetti

The ratlings' long winter school break, plus a few snow days, brought the whiskered one perilously close to casting his offspring out on a snowdrift and leaving them to their own devices. 'After all, they know perfectly well how to find food and shelter and build a roaring fire,' he grumbled to his spouse.

The two elder progeny had just beaten him 17 times straight at the Worst-Case Scenario board game based on the book series by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht. Successful players must know, for example, the correct way to identify a case of Ebola virus or dig a snow trench to survive a blizzard.

While the president was telling the nation on the evening news that Saddam Hussein 'likes to play games and charades,' the Rat was racking his brain about how to treat a shark bite.
'This sounds like Saddam's kind of game,' he griped as he was dragged for yet another spin around the board.

Of course, the fact that the Rat family had the leisure to play 17 straight games of Worst-Case Scenario was in itself a worst-case scenario.

Although the cyberrodent isn't too sure he could correctly identify Ebola or some flesh-eating virus, he sure knows his way around some more mundane worst-case scenarios'such as the ongoing implosion of the technology business. Everywhere, it seems, vendors are either buying someone out or being bought.

Computer Sciences Corp. is buying DynCorp. IBM Corp. is buying Rational Software Corp. While nobody's buying Sun Microsystems Inc. just yet, there's a lot of debate about who will and when.
'At this rate, the vendors are going to have to start bidding against themselves for work,' the Rat sighed on his return to the office. Yet another potential supplier for his latest software project had just been swallowed up in an acquisition.

At least the wired one doesn't have a worst-case scenario like the one at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where the Energy Department is administering a swift kick in the fuel rods to its University of California managers after a long-running series of data security problems. The lab's director and deputy director are out the door, and there may be more vacancies soon'not that the Rat would touch any of them with a 10-meter shielded robotic arm.

Meanwhile, as if the Defense Department didn't have enough worst-case scenarios already, medical contractor TriWest Healthcare Alliance has had its computers stolen along with the names, addresses and Social Security numbers of a half-million DOD personnel and family members. The contractor has posted a reward and taken measures to increase security.

'That's like closing the silo door after the Scuds have flown,' the Rat sighed. 'Hey, if Saddam likes games and charades so much, why don't we just dispense with this whole war thing and have my kids play Worst-Case Scenario with him for two weeks straight? He'll be begging for a regime change himself.'

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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