The Register


It's finally time for the BOFH's protégé to fly the next and join the ranks of the 'one trouser leg higher than the other' Order of Bastards. And boy, has he been revising well...

It's a proud day for Bastards everywhere as the PFY prepares himself for admission to the Fraternal Order of Bastard Operators. Adjusting his black tie, he steps from the men's toilets into the back room of an all-night drinker.

A tear springs to my eye as he shakes hands with the four Charter members (of which I am one) and prepares to take his oral exam. "Who sponsors this bastard?" the Grand Bastard asks.

"I do."

"And you're satisfied that his thesis High Voltage and its Effect in Reducing Client Calls is an original work?"

"I am."

"Very well." He turns to the PFY. "All that remains now is for you to answer one question from each of the members."

A bit on the formal side, but rules are rules.

The PFY nods wordlessly.

"You've just started a new contract with a firm which pays well, but wants you to document the work you've done - obviously in the hopes of leeching your hard-earned skills. How do you keep the contract and your knowledge secure?"

First, the easy one.

"Ah, I would...claim that I was a devout member of the Church of the Unified Principle of Hermitism, and as such, am not permitted to pass on ideas to others."

"I see...based on the premise that your employer can't discriminate on the grounds of religion?"


"There is such a church?"

"Formed it two weeks ago - a registered charity. I donate all my worldly goods and income to it."

"Very altruistic," the second member comments. "But what about this? You notice that the internal phone directory of your workplace has a full colour picture of the network topology as an appendix. How would you defuse this potential source of cowboy 'plug and pray' by the users?"

"I'd 'upgrade' some terminations to mains voltage and shuffle faceplate labels. Oh, and print an extra fifty copies."

"An extra fifty copies?"

"Yeah, I'd take them to Waterloo and sell them to French tourists as underground maps."

"Excellent," the third member smiles. "Your voicemail queue has overflowed, your helpdesk queue has escalated, and your boss enters your office to find you playing Quake II. What would you do?"

"Err...keep playing so that later I can claim I had post traumatic stress disorder from the game I started at lunch-time - then claim six weeks' compensation for work-induced stress if they threaten to dock my pay..."

"Yes...but I'm looking for a little more than that."

"Oh, you mean use the Application Download server to stick the game on everyone's desktop so I can claim they're all at it?"

"Yes, but I'm really looking for a..."

"OH OF COURSE! Patch the version of the one I download to the Boss's machine to use the Homoerotic-Theme Graphics, and have the game autostart every time his PC's microphone detects a different voice in the office."

"That will do nicely!"

Which just leaves my question. "Your tutor in bastardom has somehow found the wedge of cash you keep inside the supposedly sealed hard drive unit which lies supposedly inconspicuously inside an old AT, underneath your desk."

A sharp intake of breath lets me know that the PFY has just become aware of the practical section of this exam.

"THEORETICALLY, if this were to happen, and the tutor had spent this rather large amount of cash, what would you feel would be the most appropriate course of action?"

"Well, of course we're talking theoretically here," the PFY seethes, "so I suppose I would have to replace it with a similar amount of money from the CO2 extinguisher with the false bottom, which is bolted on to the wall-hook behind the tutor. Oh, did I say is? I meant was."


"Well," I cry happily, reaching for my briefcase and the electrical 'calibration' device therein. "I'm satisfied that his intentions are genuine, so if there's no objections, I think we should adjourn to the bar to cele..."

The human nervous system sends messages at speeds at several hundred miles per hour. Electricity, on the other hand, travels at about 800 times that speed. Per second.

And yet I still knew what was coming as my thumb touched the strangely rough surface of the keyhole on my briefc...

Later, in the bar, when I'd stopped dribbling and the world had dimmed from about 10,000 candlepower, I bought the PFY a quick drink to celebrate his graduation.

You win some, you lose some.