Packet Rat: The Rat sees visions of sugarplums

The Rat

Michael J. Bechetti

Heavy snows in early December put a bit of a crimp in the Rat's holiday preparations. Instead of stringing more lights on the burrow roof and putting out lawn decorations, the whiskered one found himself shoveling all weekend.

Fortunately for him and the neighboring burrow-dwellers, the decorations he managed to hoist above the icicles weren't heavy enough to cause much damage when they came sliding off. At least, not that anyone had enough evidence to sue over.

Next, the cyberrodent faced up to foraging for gifts for his hard-to-please family and co-workers. He decided to follow the WWIL rule: 'What would I like?'

After all, the Rat figures, anyone who lays out cash this holiday season ought to get something for it. And gifts that he gets to use, too, are the gifts that keep on giving.

The giving began at the office, where the Rat treated his whole staff to a brand-new coffeemaker and a renewed subscription to Government Computer News. True, he does drink more java than the rest of them combined, and GCN is free. But it's the thought that counts.

Mrs. Rat was next on the list for a Tivo digital video recorder. Of course, she doesn't watch that much TV and can catch most of the shows she does watch when they run.

But her spouse can't. Plus, he's been itching to try out some of the hacks he learned while reverse-engineering the Tivo in his department head's office.

For the two elder ratlings, Dad bought a PlayStation 2 EyeToy'a video camera that lets players interact with games by moving their bodies. Of course, his secret intention was to play Grand Theft Auto and Star Wars Rogue Squadron III after the ratlings go to bed.

Even his toddler daughter wasn't immune from the Rat's scheming. For her, Dad bought a Global Positioning System-equipped handheld computer, so she won't get lost on the trip to preschool.
Naturally, the Rat will hang onto it for her while he goes geo-caching on weekends to hunt for buried treasure.

'Um, I don't think a $400 handheld with GPS is an appropriate gift for a 3-year-old, dear,' Mrs. Rat said as she watched over his shoulder while he placed the online order.

'She can already field-strip that old laptop I gave her last year,' the Rat sniffed. 'If we strap this sucker onto her like a black box, we'll always be able to tell where she's been'and where to look for the car keys.'

'Ho, ho, ho,' scoffed Mrs. Rat, shaking her head. She reached behind the desk. 'I know what I'm getting as my gift to you.'

'Oh?' the Rat asked brightly. 'What's that, dear?'

'A nice new uninterruptible power supply,' she replied, yanking his PC plug out of the wall socket.

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at [email protected].


  • business meeting (Monkey Business Images/

    Civic tech volunteers help states with legacy systems

    As COVID-19 exposed vulnerabilities in state and local government IT systems, the newly formed U.S. Digital Response stepped in to help. Its successes offer insight into existing barriers and the future of the civic tech movement.

  • data analytics (

    More visible data helps drive DOD decision-making

    CDOs in the Defense Department are opening up their data to take advantage of artificial intelligence and machine learning tools that help surface insights and improve decision-making.

Stay Connected