Category Archives: Tech

Rule Five Beam-down Power Friday

Beam-down power is a common staple in science fiction.  In this kind of a system, a society receives energy from a constellation of massive solar collectors in orbit, which is beamed down to the surface usually in the form of microwave lasers, which are then converted to usable electricity.  Now it seems Northrop Grumman has cleared a hurdle towards just such a system, and, not surprisingly, I have some thoughts.  Excerpt:

“As far as the technologies go, we’re very confident in our design and we’ve proven it out,” Tara Theret, Northrop Grumman’s Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstrations and Research (SSPIDR) program director, told SpaceNews. “Now, it’s just building, testing and integrating the rest of the hardware on a challenging timeline.”

Northrop Grumman announced Dec. 15 the successful demonstration of a key element of SSPIDR, the ability to beam radio frequency energy toward various antennas by steering the beam. The testing was conducted in one of Northrop Grumman’s anechoic test chambers in Baltimore.

Next, Northrop Grumman will “take those findings and translate them into our prototype, which we anticipate launching in 2025 to actually show the capability of beaming RF energy down to the planet,” said Jay Patel, vice president of Northrop Grumman Remote Sensing Programs.

Beyond the prototype for the future objective system, Northrop Grumman will need to shrink electronic components and significantly scale up the quantity of “sandwich tiles,” or panels of photovoltaic cells to collect solar energy and provide power to another layer of components that enable solar-to-RF conversion and beamforming.

Here’s the onion:

If solar power can be gathered in space and beamed to the ground, there are many promising applications, Patel said.

“If you have a flood or a hurricane that knocks out power to an area, it takes weeks sometimes for them to get back online,” Patel said. “This system can provide temporary power during those periods until that infrastructure is built back up.”

So the possibilities of this technology are largely due to the ability to “steer” the beam – indeed, that seems to be what this breakthrough is mostly about.  Now think about that for a moment.

In order for this to be useful on any scale, the amount of power being beamed down would be massive.  It would have to be carefully aimed at a collection facility, something capable of capturing that massive amount of power and translating it into usable electricity.  Granted I’m not an engineer, but that sounds like a pretty fragile system.  What happens if there is an earthquake, or some other event that disturbs that delicate alignment?  Will the beamdown stations be in a carefully plotted geosynchronous orbit, or will they have to be re-aligned every time they come over the horizon, and maintain that alignment as they pass over the receiving facility?

All that is worth discussing, but here’s the one thing I don’t see mentioned in the article:  Has no one involved in this given any thought to what a horrendous weapon this technology could be, if in the control of the wrong people?  Say, at the offices of an inconvenient political opponent, or some activist group that the powers-that-be find irksome?  Like, say, the NRA?

Even ten years ago I wouldn’t have worried too much about this kind of thing.  I would have snorted and written it off as a paranoid conspiracy theory, suitable for enriching lawns.  But now?  Given the current political climate?  Think on it, True Believers; how many in the political arena today would you trust with this kind of a weapon?

Animal’s Daily Twitter News

Before I get into this, check out the latest installment of Season of Ice over at Glibertarians.

Now then:  I like Elon Musk a little more every day.  Here’s something more on his evaluation of Twitter, now that it’s his personal property:


This is going to be fun to watch.  I don’t do Twitter myself, but I can go look at the web site and see what other people are saying.  The consensus on the Left seems to be OMG RIGHT WING NAZIS TAKING OVER, while the Right seems to be repeatedly sharing chuckles over the Left’s histrionics.

It’s interesting.  My own observations (which are worth every penny you pay for them) seems to show that the Left always overreacts.  They don’t exactly have a monopoly on hysterical overstatement of any particular issue, but they trend towards it more than the Right.  Most folks on the Right seem more inclined to say something along the lines of, “…wait a minute, what’s really going on here,” and “…let’s give it a little while, see how it plays out.”

At least, that’s my assessment – based partly on the fact that that’s my own personal tendency.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

Watch this:

Dr. Victor Davis Hanson is an American treasure, and he has more intellectual power on his worst day than either Joe Biden or Heels-Up Harris ever did on the best day they ever lived.  In this clip, he lays out something I’ve been saying for years, only Dr. Hanson does it far more eloquently – and he brings receipts.  Give it a listen.  It’s worth fourteen minutes of your day.

Now then…

On To the Links!

Yeah, he’s running.

Get woke, go broke – the streaming services adjust.

Here we go again.

Arizona, doing the jobs the Imperial City is supposed to do but won’t.

Beef – it’s what’s for dinner.

Abolish the FBI.  Yeah, I think we’ve likely come to that point.

Robot dogs.

Do the elites want to stave us to death?

That’s actually racist.

Good guy with gun.

No shit, Sherlock.

Probably not.

This Week’s Idiots:

The Nation’s John Nichols (Repeat Offender Alert) is an idiot.

Paul Krugman (Repeat Offender Alert) is still a cheap partisan hack, and an idiot.

Robert Reich (Repeat Offender Alert) is still a sawed-off runt, and an idiot.

The New Republic’s Jason Linkins is an idiot.

Dan Goldman is an idiot.

Vox’s Rachel Cohen is an idiot.

This idiot fails to understand:  We want the (un)civil service gutted.

This Week’s Cultural Edification:

One of the most talented songwriters and performers of the Seventies was Carly Simon, best known for tunes like Anticipation and You’re so Vain.  But one of my favorites of her work is the 1971 tune That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be, from her debut album Carly Simon.  I enjoy the song in spite of its rather pessimistic outlook on marriage, which I don’t share; my parents enjoyed a happy marriage for 71 years, and while my first marriage ended after only six years, I have been married to my own dear Mrs. Animal for over thirty years and we couldn’t be happier.

Anyway – I still really enjoy this song, and Carly Simon’s vocals.  Here is a live performance, again from 1971, in which Carly Simon shows eloquently how beauty and talent can go together.  And you know what’s great?  Look at that audience.  No cell phones held up, no heads turned down towards their little screens, just a lot of people watching the show.  Enjoy.

Animal’s Daily Manual Transmission News

A manual transmission?

Before we start, check out the final episode of Legionnaire over at Glibertarians!

The Atlantic’s Ian Bogost recently chronicled the upcoming end of manual transmissions.  Excerpt:

In 2000, more than 15 percent of new and used cars sold by the auto retailer CarMax came with stick shifts; by 2020, that figure had dropped to 2.4 percent. Among the hundreds of new car models for sale in the United States this year, only about 30 can be purchased with a manual transmission. Electric cars, which now account for more than 5 percent of car sales, don’t even have gearboxes. There are rumors that Mercedes-Benz plans to retire manuals entirely by the end of next year, all around the world, in a decision driven partly by electrification; Volkswagen is said to be dropping its own by 2030, and other brands are sure to follow. Stick shifts have long been a niche market in the U.S. Soon they’ll be extinct.

I’ve always kind of liked a manual transmission myself, especially in a truck, for reasons I’ll go into in a moment.  First, though:  I’m not surprised by the car companies decreasing the availability of manual transmissions.  In today’s market, with plenty of folks increasing their dependency on technology, it’s no shock that the demand for manual transmissions is dropping off.  I suspect that this is the reason for the various auto manufacturers dropping manual transmissions; there likely just isn’t a lot of demand.

The one vehicle we have here in the Great Land is a newer (2017) Ford Expedition, Mrs. Animal’s primary vehicle.  It has an automatic transmission, which was the only thing available, but for Mrs. Animal’s primary vehicle, that’s as must be in any case, as she has neurological damage and chronic pain issues on her left side that make operating a clutch difficult.

But my last pickup, the inestimable Rojito, now in the able care of loyal sidekick Rat, was not only manual transmission but manual everything, and I liked that – so does Rat, for that matter.  It remains to be seen what I’ll be able to score for a new pickup here in the Great Land, as the needs will be different – a small, somewhat underpowered pickup like the 1999 Ranger won’t work for the towing/camper hauling chores we have in mind here.

I do like a manual transmission on a truck, either way.  I like having more direct control over the RPM range of the motor, especially when climbing, towing, off-roading or even descending hills, especially when towing.  Also I just plain enjoy driving a manual transmission.  It adds to the driving experience in some intangible manner.

Still.  The auto manufacturers are reacting to the market.  I’m an outlier.  In this, as in many other things, I’ve had to accept being in a market minority.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

Democracy is the theory that the people know what government they want and should get it, good and hard.

While our hearts go out to the lovely and innocent girl who was attacked for no conceivable reason other than the insanity of the attacker, I can feel very little sympathy for the people of California in general and Los Angeles in particular.  They voted for this, they got it, and if they didn’t see it coming, they were probably too stupid to be voting.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the area, most recently in 2009.  Back then, things were already getting pretty bad.  I remember a Saturday afternoon when, out of curiosity, I went down to hang around in Hollywood.  I was expecting some glamour, kind of a ritzy area.  The reality?  Not even close.  It was a dump.  Bums hit me up for money on every corner.

All I can say to California, today, is “you asked for it.”

Now then…

On To the Links!

One more rat leaving the sinking ship.

“I’ll take Shit That Never Happened for $500, Alex!”

This is what having “fuck you money” looks like.

Let them eat cake!  Honestly, how could the optics of this be any worse?  Maybe if she was having enslaved orphans rub her feet?

Now there’s a shortage of veterinarians.

Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assassinated by nutjob with a homemade gun.  There’s a point to be made here, but I’ll make that point later.  For now, PM Abe was a man who had a family who loved him, so we’ll just offer condolences, and stop there.

This just in!  People are fleeing blue states for red ones.  No shit.
Inflation, Crime, Court Defeats Haunt Biden Admin.  Not to mention incompetence.

Trust in government is now lower than it was after Watergate.  Remember what I said about incompetence?

Fucking savages.

Late to the party.

I’m sure they just came here to make a better life for their families.

Honestly, replacing Heels-Up is the only hope they have for 2024.  Old Joe is losing it by the day and she’s unelectable.

The red wave is still growing.

The Roaring Twenties.

Emphasis on the “clueless.”

This Week’s Idiots:

USAToday’s Rex Huppke is an idiot.

The LA Times‘ Robin Abcarian is an idiot.

The Nation’s Jeet Heer is an idiot.

Mother Jones’ Abby Vesoulis is an idiot.

Paul Krugman (Repeat Offender Alert) is still a cheap partisan hack, and an idiot.

The LA Times’ Nicholas Goldberg is an idiot.

Vox’s Ian Millhiser (Repeat Offender Alert) is an idiot.

Just when you think we’ve hit peak derp.

Herpa derpa derp.

USAToday’s Carli Pierson is an idiot.

VanityFair’s Emily Jane Fox & Joe Hagan are both idiots.

This Week’s Cultural Edification:

I remember when Aerosmith’s album Toys In The Attic came out in 1975, a bunch of us drove down to Waterloo, Iowa, to stand in line outside a record store.  It was a four-hour wait before we could get our copies of that fantastic album.  Twelve years and several albums later, they released Permanent Vacation, which included the fun song Dude (Looks Like A Lady.)

That was in 1987, of course.  Imagine the… interest this song would have generated were it released today.  I wonder how much the members of Aerosmith would care, as long as it sold albums?  Anyway, here is the official video of that great mid-Eighties tune.  Enjoy.

Rule Five Energy Reality Friday

The energy blog Master Resource ran this a while ago, but I stumbled across it while on an airplane last week and found it an interesting read:  Antidote to Magical Thinking.  Excerpts, with my comments, follow:

In an article filed under “climate crimes,” The Guardian claims that environmental nirvana is reachable if only politicians stop listening to Big Oil and start listening to social scientists. Author Amy Westervelt argues that the technology needed to achieve “net zero” carbon emissions is at hand; we just lack the will and the laws to implement it. She quotes from a recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC):

Factors limiting ambitious transformation [to address climate change] include structural barriers, an incremental rather than systemic approach, lack of coordination, inertia, lock-in to infrastructure and assets, and lock-in as a consequence of vested interests, regulatory inertia, and lack of technological capabilities and human resources.

At least this quotation refers to real limitations, which contradicts Westervelt’s claim that:

The report made one thing abundantly clear: the technologies and policies necessary to adequately address climate change exist, and the only real obstacles are politics and fossil fuel interests.

The technologies to achieve what these people want – zero carbon emissions – do no exist, and will no exist in the foreseeable future, for a number of reasons.  As Vaclav Smil points out:

In a recent interview with the New York Times, energy expert Vaclav Smil offers an antidote to Westervelt’s magical thinking. Smil’s latest book, How the World Really Works: The Science Behind How We Got Here and Where We’re Going, examines what he calls the “four pillars of modern civilization: cement, steel, plastics, and ammonia.” Creating these requires burning huge amounts of fossil fuels.

Given this reality, Smil maintains, we are not going to achieve decarbonization by 2050, much less 2030. “What’s the point of setting goals which cannot be achieved?” Smil asks. “People call it aspirational. I call it delusional.”

Check the China statistics. The country is adding, every year, gigawatts of new coal-fired power. Have you noticed that the whole world is now trying to get hands on as much natural gas as possible? This world is not yet done with fossil fuels. Germany, after nearly half a trillion dollars, in 20 years they went from getting 84 percent of their primary energy from fossil fuels to 76 percent.

Can you tell me how you’d go from 76 percent fossil to zero by 2030, 2035? I’m sorry, the reality is what it is.

Yet, Smil does not counsel despair:

[W]e are constantly transitioning and innovating. We went from coal to oil to natural gas, and then as we were moving into natural gas we moved into nuclear electricity, and we started building lots of large hydro, and they do not emit any carbon dioxide directly. So, we’ve been transitioning to lower-carbon sources or noncarbon sources for decades.

Exactly so; carbon dioxide emissions in the Western world have been declining steadily for decades now, not because of the maniacal shrieking of climate activists but because of basic economics; improvements in technology delivering more product (energy) more efficiently, therefore cheaper.

One of those facts, of course, is that we do have a source of electricity generation right now that results in little or no carbon emissions and is cheap to boot:  Nuclear power.  But, at least in the United States, the regulatory process is so onerous that it’s difficult (and in some places impossible) to open a new nuclear power plant.  We keep hearing as well of the possible advent of small modular reactors that could power a neighborhood or a small town, but one would expect that the regulatory burden placed on those would render them impossible as well.  And that’s a shame, because I can tell you from experience that would be a damn fine solution for places like our little rural Alaska community.

The article concludes:

Amy Westervelt in The Guardian implies that all that is needed to solve global warming is will. Politicians, properly schooled, can wave their legislative wands, creating good and banishing evil. Green energy sources will pop up like mushrooms across the land, and fossil-fueled power plants will vanish into the mist.

Smil reminds us that physical laws and resource scarcities matter. Economics matters. Reliability matters. National, regional, and personal interests matter. Time matters.

Indeed.  We solve today’s problems with tomorrow’s technology, and in many cases a lot of those technological solutions are unforeseen.  For example, I can tell you with great certainty that in the 1970s nobody predicted the Internet, and yet here we are today, with a tool that has literally changed the world and ushered in the Information Revolution.

But facts matter.  Reality matters.  And the reality is that the climate activists, including Amy Westervelt, have been drinking too much Kool-Aid.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

It’s been a busy couple of weeks here at the Casa de Animal, and we’ve got some busy weeks ahead.  Snow is still melting, but we’re starting to see patches of actual yard surface.  Getting hit by two major winter storms in February left a lot of snow on the ground even for south-central Alaska, and with the snow’s melting comes a lot of spring cleanup.

We’re also tilling up the garden plot and prepping the greenhouse for sweet corn, potatoes, tomatoes and whatever else we can grow.  Right now, given the current state of national affairs, being as self-sufficient as possible just seems like a good idea.

If possible, True Believers, I suggest you do likewise.

Now then…

On To the Links!

No shit, Sherlock.

Grafters gonna graft.

The New York Post belabors the obvious.

Welcome to the 1970s.

Why humans sleep less than other primates.  Interesting.

I’m not anxious to try Windows 11, and my big main computer is “not compatible,” but if you’re wondering how the roll-out is going, here’s where to find out.

DeSantis on Constitutional Carry in Florida.

Color me skeptical.

Imagine a Darwin Award for an entire state.

Sooner or later this kind of shit is going to explode.

Joe Manchin (D-WV) endorses a Republican.

It took a Carter to bring us a Reagan.

I’m your huckleberry.

This Week’s Idiots:

The Guardian’s Siva Vaidhyanathan is an idiot.

The New Republic’s Daniel Strauss is an idiot.

MSNBC’s Hayes Brown (Repeat Offender Alert) is an idiot.

Dr. Charles Darwin, please pick up the white courtesy phone.

Brian Stelter (Repeat Offender Alert) is a potato, and an idiot.

CNN’s David Zurawik is an idiot.

Robert Reich (Repeat Offender Alert) remains a sawed-off runt, and an idiot.

MSNBC’s C. Miller-Idriss is an idiot.

Biden deserves no respect, Juan, you idiot.

This Week’s Cultural Edification:

One of my favorite John Wayne movies for a number of reasons (at least one of which should be obvious) is the 1960 film North to Alaska, which also starred Stewart Granger and featured a great performance by Ernie Kovacs as Frankie Cannon, the slimy antagonist of the piece.  Check out the trailer:

One of the best bits of this film was the soundtrack, led off by Johnny Horton’s song of the same name, North to Alaska.  Here, then, is that song – enjoy!

Animal’s Daily Twitter News

Before we start tweeting (hah) check out the final installment of The Deal over at Glibertarians!

I’ve said for a long time that Twitter has the worst noise-to-signal ratio on the Internet, excepting (possibly) YouTube video comments.  Well, as reported by’s “Bonchie,” now closest thing we have to a real-life Tony Stark, Elon Musk, is buying Twitter.  Excerpt:

The social media giant confirmed Monday the Tesla CEO and billionaire will acquire the company in a deal worth $44 billion. Once the deal is complete, which is expected by this year, Twitter will become a privately held company.

“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” said Musk in a statement. “I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans.” 

Shares of Twitter rose more than 5% in afternoon trading Monday. 

“Twitter has a purpose and relevance that impacts the entire world,” its CEO Parag Agrawal said in a tweet. “Deeply proud of our teams and inspired by the work that has never been more important.”

Earlier Monday, Musk said: “I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means.”

OK, Elon, then now that Twitter is to be your personal hobby business, let’s see you fix the “algorithms” and “misleading information” decisions made by plenty of Twitter employees of late.  I know that ownership transfer isn’t instantaneous, but we’ll know when it happens – and will be expecting a level playing field, according to your own words here.

Now, predictably, lefties from every corner of the internets are threatening to leave Twitter.  While I’m inclined to say “good riddance,” we all know they won’t.  Of course none of those people are going to flee Twitter, just as all the assholes who routinely threaten to leave the country if (insert GOP Presidential candidate) is elected President never actually leave.  They’re just taking a dump; they know it and we know it.  And honestly, the worst thing the Left can do for its own cause is to stay there and keep talking.

I’m not sure what to think of this.  Elon Musk, remember, is no friend to liberty-minded people.  I enjoy the guy poking fun at the Left, but he’s no conservative, either; what positions he has taken on the issues of the day are all over the map.

Of course, the one thing he has made very clear is his support for unfettered, uncensored free speech.  If he ends up owning Twitter, as seems is going to happen, he’ll be in a position to make this policy.   Don’t get me wrong – Twitter will almost certainly remain horrible in the noise-to-signal department – but it might improve some.  We’ll see.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to The Other McCain, Whores and Ale, Pirate’s Cove and Bacon Time for the Rule Five links!  Thanks also to our blogger pals at The Daley Gator for the link.

This seems like a good idea for voting reform, at least on the surface.  I’ve written a few words here and there on the ideas of a modern, electronic voting system, and this looks like the kind of thing I was thinking of.  Maybe.  Here’s the description:

Your elections officials create millions of digital ballot records in several separate files before the election. They use a software tool provided by Redo Voting and the source code for this tool is publicly available for ANYONE to review. Our software security is based on peer review. If software is kept secret, it’s not secure. We don’t want you to trust us or anybody to create perfect software. We want you to trust the world’s experts to assure you that what we are doing is as secure as it is transparent.

Next, our ballots are printed on the very same secure printers used to create lottery tickets. The same ones used by state lotteries. Fun fact: these secure machines cost $50 MILLION!

The printer then prints a series of unique codes from the file under special scratch materials. These unique codes are revealed by YOU when you pick up a ballot and scratch it. YOU are the first person to ever see them.

The other files are encrypted by election officials and kept secure until after the election. The files are secured using the same cryptography used by the government to secure its most classified secrets. Ever heard of “crypto?” It’s just a short version of the word “cryptography.” We have built our infrastructure in the same way that many understand as Blockchain, or “crypto.”

You, the voter, pick up a secure ballot at your civic buildings OR at any participating retailer. When you pick up the secure ballot, the clerk scratches and scans one of the hidden codes and conducts the same digital ID check required to purchase cigarettes or alcohol. This allows us to track that Secure Ballot from the printer to the warehouses, to the store, to YOU, and to only you. You will be personally connected to your ballot and the chain of custody remains tied to you forever more, but no one can ever associate your personal identity with your ballot. You can verify that your vote counted and was correctly submitted at anytime in the future.

Here’s the best bit:

When the polls close, your election officials will decrypt the files created when the election started. Here’s the fun part: they can make the secrets PUBLIC now. In fact, every activation and every ballot cast can be made public DURING the election. THAT’S transparency and accountability.

On the surface this seems like a pretty good system – secure, simple, easy and accountable.  And being able to know, instantly, who won – added bonus.  No recounts, no fudging, no late night shenanigans, no sudden discoveries of boxes of ballots in the trunks of cars days after the election is over (and, let’s say this quietly, after one party has determined how many votes need to be manufactured to put their guy over the top.)

But here’s my concern:  Anything that can exist, can be manipulated, one way or another.  Could this system really be hack-proof?  Color me skeptical, but I admit I’m not all that knowledgeable about this kind of tech.

Any of you True Believers who know more about IT systems than I do, see any holes in this?  It appears to make a great deal of sense, at least on the surface – which is why I suspect pols of all stripes will be dead-set against it.  In fact that should serve as a caution, if pols start saying this is a good idea, that’s when it’s time to get really suspicious.

Animal’s Daily Brain Implant News

One of these people is real.

I admit to a kind of sneaky admiration for Elon Musk much of the time.  He’s kind of the real-world Tony Stark, and I like how his FY-money gives him license to tweak proggy politicians, which he does.

But this, which I gather is one of his ventures, really seems like a bad idea.  Here’s how it works:

We’re designing the first neural implant that will let you control a computer or mobile device anywhere you go.

Micron-scale threads are inserted into areas of the brain that control movement. Each thread contains many electrodes and connects them to an implant, the Link.

The threads on the Link are so fine and flexible that they can’t be inserted by the human hand. Instead, we are building a robotic system that the neurosurgeon can use to reliably and efficiently insert these threads exactly where they need to be.

Here’s the onion:

Neuralink is building a fully integrated brain machine interface (BMI) system. Sometimes you’ll see this called a brain computer interface (BCI). Either way, BMIs are technologies that enable a computer or other digital device to communicate directly with the brain. For example, through information readout from the brain, a person with paralysis can control a computer mouse or keyboard. Or, information can be written back into the brain, for example to restore the sense of touch. Our goal is to build a system with at least two orders of magnitude more communication channels (electrodes) than current clinically-approved devices. This system needs to be safe, it must have fully wireless communication through the skin, and it has to be ready for patients to take home and use on their own. Our device, called the Link, will be able to record from 1024 electrodes and is designed to meet these criteria.

What could possibly go wrong?

I’m far from an expert on these kinds of things.  I’m a biologist by training, but my particular field was field zoology and behavior, and it’s been years and years since I did any actual work in the field, although I try to stay current.  So, neurophysiology isn’t exactly my cup of tea.

But I’m concerned.  Could this be back-hacked?  It’s relying on a wireless signal.  Could someone literally put a thought in your head?  Or just give you a bad headache?  Or, looking at it from the other direction, could someone take control of your phone or other devices through this system?

Granted that latter one can happen in a number of ways already; it’s a risk we take when using modern tech.  But the “brain implant” part of it, to me, seems fraught.

If folks choose to do this kind of thing, fine.  Every cat its own rat.  But you can count me out.