PACKET RAT

Ratlette spreads homeland insecurity

Idiotproofing has taken on a whole new meaning in the Rat household now that the whiskered one's youngest progeny, a month shy of her first birthday, has started walking.

It's not the walking that's the problem, it's what she manages to reach by doing it.

Whereas all newly minted toddlers are known for their ability to get into things, the Rat's youngest spawn has redefined pandemonium.

All the remote controls in the burrow had to be gathered up and locked away after she managed to change the language settings to Simplified Chinese and altered the parental lock codes on the cable box'and that just after she started crawling.

The first hint of an entirely new world order came when the Rat found the ratlette drooling on his old handheld PalmPilot. It had been lovingly stored in a drawer of his workbench in the lab, and at first he thought he'd accidentally left it within juvenile reach.

But after wiping it down, recalibrating it and returning it to its proper place, he discovered his daughter with it again just 15 minutes later. This time, she was scrawling notes with the stylus.

A few minutes later, as the Rat again attempted to retrieve his property, the appointment alarm went off. His daughter handed him the Palm, smiling.

'Diaper change,' read the handheld's calendar screen.

Her two older brothers soon learned that life as they knew it was over. 'Dad, have you been playing Quake on my computer?' asked the elder ratling one day after he got home from school.

'No, but thanks for telling me you have it so I can delete it,' the wirebiter replied. 'You're too young for that game, bought or bootlegged.'

'Well, I didn't have it, but I found it up on my screen,' the ratling replied. Just then, his little sister dashed through the room yelling, 'Bang-bang! Boom!'

'Maybe you should change your password,' Father Rat sighed.

Then deliveries from Amazon.com started arriving.

'Dear,' a puzzled Mrs. Rat asked one day as the cyberrodent returned from work, 'did you order anything for the baby online?'

She held a large box addressed to their daughter from the online retailer. The Rat hefted the carton. 'No, I didn't. This feels like it's got at least a dozen CDs in it.'

Just then, the miniculprit tottered up, grinning to show all four teeth and clutching a credit card.

After placing the little felon under the now far more watchful eyes of her brothers, Mr. and Mrs. Rat convened a tribunal to determine how to handle the insurrection.

'I hate to say this,' the wired one whispered, 'but I think we need to give her more mind-numbing activities'you know, get her out with other little kids her age.'

His better half nodded. 'We've got to put her in a play group'one without an Internet connection.'

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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