Packet Rat: The Rat tests his moo-ves
Michael J. Bechetti
'You mean, cattle are being turned into cannibals?' asked the Rat's two elder offspring, horrified by his explanation of mad cow disease, which was keeping him on duty at the agency through the holidays.
Unfortunately, the whiskered one's hectic schedule had forced him to deliver this explanation over a meal of fast food in the agency cafeteria.
'I guess you could put it that way,' the Rat replied. 'They put bone meal into cattle feed to add calcium. Sometimes that comes from other cows' spinal columns, which could carry the disease.'
The discovery of a deceased cow with bovine spongiform encephalopathy had the feds scrambling to restore faith in the U.S. beef industry and hang on to overseas market share, and the cyberrodent got several requests to lend a paw.
Usually, he's ready to respond to such calls for help. But some of the recent ones reminded him of his old shipmates' favorite saying: 'Navy stands for 'Never again volunteer yourself.' '
The oldest ratling turned to his brother and said, 'I'll take that hamburger if you don't want it. So, Dad, your body piercings are sick, dude. You working undercover as a member of Good Charlotte or something?'
'Well, er, they're part of the project,' the Rat replied, sinking lower in his chair. 'Because of my vast array of talents, I've been brought in to work on prototype testing of these radio-frequency identification tags.'
He indicated the collection of colorful tags hanging from his ears, eyebrows and nostrils.
'Mmm-hmm,' his eldest acknowledged. 'But what's with the horns?'
'They're not horns,' the wirebiter snapped. 'They're cleverly designed antennae that can be grafted to the horns of cattle to transmit Global Positioning System data farther than RFID chips can. They're like LoJack for cows. I'm testing these prosthetics to simulate the actual configuration we would use on cattle.'
'Sure, Dad, prosthetics,' the ratling snickered. 'Whatever you say. Has Mom seen them yet?'
'Er, no,' the senior rodent admitted while trying without much success to conceal his longhorns under a ball cap. 'I'm hoping I'll be allowed to shed some of this gear before I go home ... whenever that is. It's best not to worry her about it for now.'
The younger ratling returned to the table with a chicken sandwich. 'And what exactly are you getting for doing this, Dad?'
'Well, let's put it this way,' the Rat replied. 'We won't have to shop for cheese for a while.' The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.