Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2003/11/07/bofh_and_the_government_contract/

BOFH and the government contract

The name's Bofh. James Bofh...

By Simon Travaglia

Posted in BOFH, 7th November 2003 16:24 GMT

Episode 26 BOFH 2003: Episode 26

"I still don't see why this should affect myself and the PFY," I blurt as the boss hands over a lengthy questionaire.

"I've told you already, it's something to do with a contract that we're signing - some defence department thing."

"A defence department thing?" the PFY burbles cheerily. "Does that mean that we'll get a security clearance? Like James Bond?"

Sigh.

"Oh, there's some form of vetting involved for anyone who could have access to the data that the company is working on, but we're not sure what it is yet - it's one of those need to know things," the Boss advises, feigning superior knowledge.

"Right," I respond. "And this new contract, it'll mean a stack more work? For the company I mean?"

"Oh yes, masses. You might even have to take another person on, there'll be so much to do. Apparently. Anyway, meantime, you're to fill out these questionnaires, and participate in some simple vetting procedure things that they want to run. Should be over in no time..."

. . .

The next day, I secretly observe the PFY's interview from a quiet office on the third floor...

"And what does this picture remind you of?" the analyst asks, scratching out some cursory notes about the time, the PFY's demeanor etc. on her pad

"A symmetrical ink blot card, as designed by Rorschach?"

"Yes, but what does that Ink Blot LOOK like?"

"Some spilt paint?"

"Ok, but if it were, say, something else, what would it be?"

"Oh! I get you. Well I SUPPOSE I could be... er..."

"Yes?"

"Spilt tomato sauce?"

"NO! Sorry, I didn't mean to shout. I mean if it were an object in the real world, what object would you think it would look like, and how?"

"You mean like a dishwasher?"

"Yes!"

"Well, it looks a LITTLE bit like an old Pertec reel tape drive, on its side..."

"Yes, and why do you think it be on its side?"

"You mean you want me to guess?"

"Yes, how did the tape drive come to be on it's side?"

"Someone might have slipped on the spilt paint I guess..."

"FORGET THE BLOODY PAINT!" she snaps testily. "Is there a reason, do you think, that the tape is on its side?"

"Maybe it's out in the storeroom?"

>scratch< >scratch< "Right, I see. Okay, what about this card?"

"Uuuhm - not paint or sauce, right?"

"No."

"The cooling fan of a VAX 11/780 with the grill removed."

"And what's a VAX 11/780?"

"A computer, an old computer."

>scratch< >scratch< "OK, and this?"

"Ah, that looks a lot like the cable loom in our UPS."

"And the UPS is another computer, yes?"

"No, a power supply. For computers,"

>scratch< >scratch< "And what about this one?"

"A pile of thin-wire Ethernet cards."

"Cards?"

"Yes, out of a computer..."

. . . Ten minutes later . . .

"So how did I do?"

"Well your life appears to be dominated by the technology you work with."

"MY LIFE?!?" the PFY cries. "YOU'RE THE ONE WITH ALL THE GEEKY PICTURES!!!"

"So it seems," she sighs sadly "OK, now I'd like to play a simple word association 'game'."

"Oh, where I say the first word the comes into my head?" the PFY asks.

"Yes! Ready? Love."

"Is that the word, 'love'?"

"Yes!"

"Oh right, only I thought you might have meant it as a term of endearment."

"What?"

"You know, like 'Get us a prawn Malibari will you, Love'?"

"No, it was part of the game."

"Oh. Right. What was the word again?"

"Love."

"Right. Uhm, lager."

"Ok, faster responses if you could - time is a factor. Work."

"Lager."

"Family."

"Lager."

"Joy."

"Lager."

"Security."

"Ooh... lager."

"HOW CAN YOU GET LAGER FROM SECURITY?!?" she cries, cracking slightly.

"Oh, one of the security guys is a beer drinking machinegun!"

"I see. OK, so you get lager from the words 'love', 'work', 'family', 'joy' and 'security'?"

"Yep!"

"And you see technical components in ink blot tests?"

"In the geeky cards that you chose, yes. I don't think I'm the one with the problem there..."

"And you believe that you could be trusted with our nation's secrets?"

"Sure!"

. . . Half an hour later . . .

"And what does this picture remind you of?" the analyst asks me.

"A symmetrical ink blot card, as designed by Rorschach?"

"What ELSE does it LOOK like?" she seethes.

"Oh well, sp--"

"DON'T say spilt paint, sauce, curry or any crap like that!" she snaps.

"I was just going to say spent casings out of a Heckler und Koch P7M8 9mm Pistol. End on, of course."

>scratch< >scratchey< >scratch< >scratch< >scratch< >scratchey< >scratch<</p>

>scratch< >scratch<</p>

"Really? And how did they come to be here?"

"What, you want me to guess? No idea, you'd have to ask my assistant, he's the gun freak!"

"I see. What about this card?" >flick<</p>

"Ah right, these are definitely the shell casings of a HK Mark 23 Pistol. End on. .45 calibre."

>scratch< >scratchey< >scratch< >scratch< >scratch< >scratchey< >scratch<</p>

>scratch< >scratch< >scratchey< >scratch< >scratch<</p>

>scratch<</p>

"And your assistant would know how they came to be here?"

"Probably. Although sometimes he forgets when he's stressed. You know he once took my Mark 23 home, thinking that it was his!"

"And you're not a gun freak?"

"Oh no. I'm a collector. Huge difference."

"The difference being?"

"I've got more guns."

. . .

"Caring."

"Lager."

"Childbirth."

"Lager."

"Redundancy."

"Lager."

"How the hell can you get bloody lager from all those questions?"

"Well, anyone who gives a crap's going to buy you a lager on a Friday, you always have a lunchtime shout when someone has a kid, and you go to the pub with people who've been made redundant."

"Spend a bit of time at the pub do you?" she asks.

"No more than anyone else at the company."

"What, say four to five hours a week?"

"Oh yes. But sometimes we drink after work too, so it'd be hard to get an exact figure..."

. . .

Two days later we find out the deal's off. Not only has our security rating been dropped lower than IIS, but we've also been made ineligible to bid for any contracts where safety is of importance, which just leaves us with road, rail and government building contracts.

She's a hard world at times. Still, at least someone on the fourth floor's having a baby or getting fired or something, so it's not all bad... ®

BOFH is copyright © 1995-2003, Simon Travaglia. Don't mess with his rights.