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31 January 2006 -- Red, White and Blue

Another young man came home from Iraq tonight.  I'm not sure how I keep winding up in the tower each time this
happens, but it about kills me emotionally each time I have to watch.  I will keep writing about it because putting it down
on the page seems to help me deal with watching someone else's loss.  
When it rains after dark at an airport, the world as seen from a control tower turns a thousand variations of grey.  The halos of illumination
streaming from every lamp post and window turns a yellowish shade of grey, struggling in muted form to brighten a small portion of the wet,
graphite-colored ramp.  The sky shifts from a misty, watery sort of grey where it hovers over the damp collections of buildings that huddle
together against the rain, to a denser, more malevolent dark out of which drops the shifting sheets of freezing spray.  The cold and the wet
together become a great, greedy hand, reaching down with ravenous fingers to pluck away the life, color, and vitality from the entire landscape.  
Grey cars pick their way through the night, taking family members home to their loved ones; grey hunched-over travelers hurry with heads
ducked low in a futile attempt not to get wet, intent on wherever they are headed; grey icy streams run into the drains; and a grey hearse moves
slowly from the vehicle road toward the ramp.

The jet that arrives tonight is blue and grey.  It comes in after dark, always a late flight when they bring this particular cargo home for the last
time.  It turns off the runway, no more than half visible except for the wingtip lights, and moves through the night like a wraith, a shadow that
blocks out the blue taxiway lights one by one, carrying a cargo most precious to those who knew him when he was alive.  The blue lights come
alive again after the jet has taxied past.  Human lives aren’t extinguished and reignited so easily.  

The men who wait for him wear green.  Soaked caps, drenched uniforms, sodden boots, they wait patiently in the rain and the snow, a small
band of six men there to welcome one of their own home.  Even the green has gone grey.  Transformed into a murky, swampland shade
reminiscent of dark slow-moving water by the mist and the fog and the wet, they become as much a part of the ramp as the concrete beneath
their feet and the non-descript terminal walls nearby.  They become motionless fixtures, standing stolidly in the near-freezing weather, for the
moment part of the unchanging landscape of soulless manmade structures.  

The casket, when it moves slowly out of the airplane, is encased in grey.  They’ve enclosed it in a shipping case, possibly providing him with
more protection than he was given when he was alive.  It slides from the cold, metal belly of the aircraft, into the hands of six men, and from there
into the snug, warm waiting grasp of the hearse.  The job is done quickly and without fanfare.  Doors close, green uniforms splash through the
puddles with their heads bowed, and two vehicles move away into the night, disappearing into the slanting sheets of ice, water, and snow like
phantoms that had never been there.  

There is no family this time.  They are waiting somewhere else.  There are no winking blue lights at the intersections, clearing the way for his
journey.  No emblems on the uniforms, no bright medal flashing in the night, no white covers as there were the last time I witnessed this moment.  
He came out of the leaden colored skies of a water soaked night, passed briefly through the hands of his comrades … and was gone.  He’s
never coming back.  

He died wearing red, white, and blue.
1 April 2006 -- Rain On The Skylights

It's a gray, rainy day, and I'm sitting out on the porch listening to the steady drumming of the rain on the skylights.  The storm windows are still
on, so it's warm, dry, and peaceful.  I couldn't possibly ask for more.

I've spent the last couple of hours contentedly making some changes to this website:  deleting some rather lousy screencaps from Stargate
SG-1:  Avalon in preparation for receiving the first of the Season 9 (Region 2) DVDs, weeding out some unused files from the directories at my
webhost, rearranging the menu bar just a little, and renaming the Microfic files.  Nothing major.  Just a lazy Saturday afternoon's tasks.  It's nice
to have a few hours to sit and do something entirely for me for a change.  

Ever since discovering WHY the Region 2 DVDs have better video quality (and often better audio as well) I have quickly begun transforming into
something of a Region 2 DVD glutton.  It's kind of absurd since they cost more, and it's not like I can share them with friends or family since they
require either a special DVD player or special software for the computer, but ever since discovering how much better the show/movie looks on a
Region 2 DVD, I can't seem to resist the better quality.  So today I ordered Serenity and the first of the Stargate SG-1 Season 9 DVDs.  I'll do the
screen caps for Stargate from the DVDs from here on in.  It's not worth the effort to do the caps from the discs I record straight off the TV.  The
resolution just isn't good enough.  

That's it for profound thoughts for today.  It's quiet.  It's raining.  I'm on the porch with a cup of coffee and BOTH laptops            feeling pretty
satisfied with life and what is going on this particular Saturday afternoon.
19 April 2006 -- Nothing But A Test Signal

Porch.  Computer.  Cup of coffee.  Very peaceful evening in Paradise, USA (sometimes referred to Williston, VT).  The sun is starting to set,
casting elongated, silly-putty shadows across the yard, and enough of the light has been filtered out that all the colors are starting to take on that
late-day vibrancy that goes together with the noise of kids playing some game with dozens of complex rules, the crunch of the gravel driveway
next door as my neighbor arrives home from work, and the quiet rustle of the breeze winding through in the as-yet leafless branches.  Several
neighbors down the street have a gaggle of young sons -- a total of six, all between the ages of 4 and 6.  They're playing soccer this evening.  
The ball is bigger than most of them, and they spend twice as much time chasing down wild kicks as they do actually getting it to go in the
direction they want.  I sat out on the front steps for almost an hour, just watching them expend energy.  The amazing thing is how fast they're
learning.  The weather didn't get warm enough to be out running around in shorts until just last week, and when they first came out, they could
barely get their feet on the ball.  Tonight they're taking turns trying to get it in the goal, and doing a respectable job of getting it within a quarter
mile of the net!  
I feel like expounding on some topic tonight, as much to hear the rattle of the computer keyboard as
to blather on about anything that matters to me ... and unfortunately my brain is comprehensively
empty.  I wouldn't want to take a peek in through my ear tonight.  I'm afraid I'd see a TV test pattern
in there.  

Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!  

Yup.  Flatline.  After several attempts, there's still nothing productive going on between my ears, so
I'll add a picture of some pretty flowers that I took while I was in Boston a couple of weeks ago, and
call it quits for the evening.  Maybe something besides moss will grow in there overnight (inside my
skull ... not inside the flowers).  
12 July 2006 -- Heart Sounds

It's interesting how you adjust to the sounds of a house.  It took me a long time to learn the unique symphony played by this one:  the creak of
the floor boards in the diningroom, the rather alarming "gunshot" noises it makes in the winter when the temperatures dip below -20 degrees F,
the odd chucking of the air vents, the way the hum of the appliances are nearly silent when I'm standing in the kitchen and sound like they're
right next to me when I'm upstairs at the opposite end of the house.  If I started writing all the sounds down as I hear them, the list would probably
run to several pages.  The concept that a house has a 'soul' or a 'heartbeat' has been around for ages.  I've always felt that it has more to do
with the people living inside it than the structure itself, and nothing has happened to change my opinion on that particular issue.  But, just the
cadences can become highly unsettling.  

I became more aware of the myriad small rattles, pops, hum, crackles, thumps, trickles, and whatever else when I purchased this house ... the
first I ever owned.  The reason behind my hyper-awareness here is easy.  I own it.  To this day an odd noise still shouts out "This is going to cost
you price of a repairman!!!"  Yee gods!  That thought will keep you up for hours in the middle of the night!!  I'm sure each of my many
apartments had its own set of life sounds.  I just never listened for them because they were someone else's problem.  

What does this have to do with my first entry in the Mushroom Patch in three months?  Because of the demolition and construction that I'm
having done on the house, the downspouts have been removed from the rain gutters.  The sound of the water hitting the ground has changed
radically, and I'm aware of it no matter where I am in the house, regardless of whether the windows are open or closed, or how hard it's raining.  
It's an interesting phenomenon.  There's nothing wrong, the water isn't causing any flooding or any other kind of problem, but the 'heartbeat' has
changed, and there's no ignoring it.  (I also wish my cat would stop looking up at the ceiling.  I keep wondering if she knows something I don't ...
like there's water seeping in through the walls where there's currently no siding.  Eeek! ... Nope.  After some investigation it turns out she was
watching a micro-sized spider descend toward the couch.  )

Call it a late-night (early morning, actually -- 1:00am) revelation having to do with what our brains habitually block out of our lives.  And now,  
having spent a moment or two contemplating how much we sometimes miss in life because we -- without any intention of doing it -- sometimes
block out the exceptional and unique along with the familiar and mundane, the rain slopping from the gutter to the ground without the benefit of a
tube to restrict, funnel, and control it , sounds kind of nice.  

Perfect opportunity to let it lull me to sleep.  
13 July 2006 -- Life Lesson #4978:

When painting a piece of trim early in the morning, it is a good idea to NOT put your cup of coffee (WITH cream and sugar, so it's light in color)
anywhere close to where you are painting.  The reason for this statement is because if you were to accidentally flick a glob of white latex paint
into your coffee, you might not notice until it was too late.  
3 September 2006 -- 2547 Days

I've started a new countdown this week ... as evidenced by the notation to the right of the date.  For several years now, I've been conducting a
countdown of the number of calendars left until I'm
eligible to retire.  That wonderful moment will occur on August 5, 2007.  But after doing a little
number crunching over the past several days (those would be the types of numbers with dollar signs in front of them), that particular aspiration
was revealed to be a total pipe dream; so I've had to step back, reassess my finances, and come up with a more realistic retirement date.  I came
up with May 31, 2013, and then did a whole lot of counting on my fingers, and determined that I have just 2547 calendar days left before I can
kiss the FAA and air traffic control goodbye forever.  I should probably mention at this point that we have a mandatory retirement age, and they
would heave my aging, useless carcass out the door on August 31, 2013 anyway.  So May 31st isn't all that far ahead of when I would be forced
to turn in my I.D Badge and access card.
Mushroom Patch -- Page 5
January 31, 2006 thru February 11, 2007
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23 November 2006 - Thanksgiving Day

I feel as though I should post something here about all the things for which I am thankful this year.  The list goes on at great length, however, and
I may wind up posting a thread along those lines at
Terra Firma before the day is over, so I am going to brazenly sail past the obligatory
Thanksgiving "What I Am Thankful For" ramble, and blather about a few ideas that are quasi-related:  Insight, revelation, and self-awareness.  

I am going to call this entry:  
REALITY CHECK

A little more than two weeks ago, I was both blessed and honored to be included as a member of the Fanfic Panel at the annual pilgrimage to the
Scaper mecca referred to as the Official Farscape Convention ... or 'Burbank' for short.          The other writers on the panel were aeryncrichton,
shipsister, LT Garrix, and One-Eye the DRD.  The topics covered in a half-hour ranged from motivation, to inspiration, touched briefly on
procrastination, and moved on to include gestation (where we get our ideas) and future aspirations.  It was a fantastic experience for two
reasons.  First, the other panelists are incredibly intelligent, thoughtful, insightful, talented writers, which led to the occasional insight right in the
midst of an on-stage discussion.  The other factor that made this year's fanfic panel so special was the audience participation.  There were some
outstanding, thought-provoking questions coming from the Scapers sitting out beyond those blazingly bright lights.  

The five panel members had come up with a number of questions in advance.  Each one of us had a prearranged question that we would (if it
had become necessary) pose to the panel and answer ourselves.  To say that those five prearranged questions weren't needed is an
overstatement of the first order.  We opened the panel up to questions almost immediately, and never looked back.  We were asked about how
we keep 'the muses' alive when a show has been off the air for several years, about the differences in writing communities (i.e. writers who prefer
posting on a bulletin board like Terra Firma versus the writers who prefer a more communal method of communication such as Live Journal),
about how a novel length story comes into being, and a number of other questions that I can't pull out of my coffee-deprived brain this morning.  

Looking back on it, the discussion was especially interesting to me in light of the fact that 4 out of 5 of the writers up on stage have no active
intention of ever attempting to get published.  Both the panel and the audience were made up of people who write (or read) for the pure love of
writing. They take pleasure in the unadorned, often unrewarded act of creating a scene, a plot, a conflict, or nothing more than an imaginary
moment in time. Ends and means tend to blur when a person is writing from that standpoint. The story is the writing is the story is the goal.  Yes,
we all have a runaway passion for Farscape, but that does not detract from the outcome, which is people writing for the pure love of the craft.

One of the questions from the audience addressed this issue (writing fanfiction as opposed to for-profit original fiction).  In the process of
answering, One-Eye the DRD mentioned the following "truism":
An amateur writes when they feel like it; a professional writes every day.

I had heard that saying at some point before, but I had definitely forgotten it.  And I certainly haven't thought about it since the turning point in my
life when I decided that I did, in fact, want to enter the fray known as "writing for money".  I now have it pinned up next to my computer desk.  

Two side notes at this point.  

I learned more about punctuation and writing in a technically correct manner from reading One-Eye the DRD's fics than I have from any guide on
grammar and punctuation or class in school or college.  She writes incredibly well-crafted stories.  Her writing style is clean, well laid out, and a
pleasure to gobble down on a quiet afternoon.  If anyone reading this entry wants to see how to write a story, get your hands on something
written by One-Eye the DRD, and enjoy.  She's an incredibly talented writer, and I hope that at some point in the future she finds the time and
desire to fulfill the second half of that 'truism'.  I would love to see her artistry in print.  

The second digression I would like to shoe-horn in here doesn't address the 'reality check' that I'm referring to in the title of this entry, but it does
connects very nicely to what we discussed during the panel.  Some time back, I learned that I should write for myself first, and then submit the
resulting story to a publisher and see if it can, coincidentally, result in a few bucks being tossed in my general direction.  I learned this lesson
when I wrote
Child of the Night.  That story was written entirely for me.  Because of what I put poor John Crichton through in that story, I was
initially uncomfortable with the idea of posting it where everyone in the world could read it.  (Yes, silly me.)  It was written with no intention of ever
sharing it with another human being ... and it turned out to be the most popular, best-received stories I've ever written.  The lesson I learned:  
Passion shows.  When a writer writes because they love the story that exists inside their head, that love will show up on the page.  The point of
all this is that I don't actually believe in "writing for money".  When I think about getting published, I envision writing for me and then seeing if
anyone wants to pay me for having all that fun.

Let me trundle back to the 'reality check' portion of this entry, however.

I am not a professional writer.

Yet.

I am guilty (which may not be the proper word, but it will suffice for the time being) of letting pretty much every other aspect of my life take
precedence over carving out the hours required to put together a story.  I have made one or two adjustments to my life in an effort to move
toward a 'professional writer' mentality and status, and neither of them involve a full fledged commitment to achieving the goal.

There's a scary thought! Or ... maybe the scary thought is actually getting published, and I'm doing everything in my power to make sure it never
happens.  Now we've got a scarier thought.  (I can see that this has the potential to go downhill fast.)

Therefore ...

Step 1: Get my butt in gear, and make writing a priority.

Right after I do the dishes.
26 November 2006 -- Things that make you go "Hmmmm ..."

I'm thinking this evening.  (I feel a bit like the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz.)  I'm thinking very deep thoughts ... and reaching very few
conclusions.

From an editorial in U.S. News & World Report, November 6, 2006 issue, by Mortimer B Zuckerman:  
"This calls to mind the difference between
shame cultures, where it's bad to get caught cheating, because of public obloquy, and guilty cultures, which rely on an inner voice telling
individuals not to do wrong."

I'm fairly certain I operate on 'guilt'.  A number of my co-workers operate on 'shame' ... or perhaps the phrase 'avoidance of shame' might be
more appropriate, since some of them will do their utmost to lie, cheat, or bluster their way out of any sense of shame when they get caught
breaking the rules.  Some of these highly intelligent, very highly paid professionals will knowingly choose to ignore one or more rules, and then
when they get caught, which actually does occur upon occasion, they will cry like a baby ... an angry, hungry baby (for those of you who are
familiar with 'Serenity') ... in an attempt to weasel out of responsibility.  

How does this happen?  How do intelligent, supposedly mature adults reach the point where they make a conscious decision to simply flaunt
rules ranging from the most insignificant administrative level right up to regulations that have the potential to impact flight safety?  I know it's not
just where I work.  Take it to an extreme, and you get Enron or Adelphia or Tyco.  But corporate greed and dishonesty, while thoroughly
despicable and probably responsible for a great deal of suffering, doesn't have that immediate link to life and death.  

I don't get it.  I never will.  

That's all the brain activity I have to offer this evening.  
11 February 2007 -- Today's Mushroom Patch entry is brought to you by the letter "B" ...

... which stands for "Blather".  

I have some free time this week, which means that I have some time to wander around the house picking up junk that has managed to take up
permanent residence in spots where it was never supposed to wind up in the first place.  In just an hour or two this morning, I have managed to
collect an amazing variety of urban detritus that has spent the best part of the last two to four years perched on tables, behind books, hiding in
corners, sitting in pseudo-organized stacks on shelves that have a higher purpose in life (that higher purpose would be to hold the books that
are arranged in neat piles on the diningroom table, which in turn is supposed to be for eating, which normally occurs on the couch in the
livingroom that too often doubles as a bed when I fall asleep there after a late shift ... you get the picture).  All this aimless wandering about,
however, has given my brain time to run along in neutral.  

Always a dangerous thing.  
I started the day thinking about the internet phenomenon of sock puppets.  For those of you not familiar with
this fascinating cyber-creation, a sock puppet is an extra internet persona created by someone who already
has an established identity at a bulletin board, forum, or some other online community.  Alter-egos are not by
Administrator at a forum (Kansas), which meant that my main persona needed to behave in a relatively staid
and responsible manner.  (I hope no one hurts themselves laughing at that mental image.)           I created an
alter-ego for those moments when I wanted to revert to my more normal behavior:  acting like a lunatic.  But
my second identity never interacted with my primary login on a one-to-one basis.  They didn't hold
conversations, or team up in a discussion in order to make a point, and they didn't talk about each other ... at
least not in public.  

That's where sock puppets come in.  
Sock puppets usually spring into existence in order to bolster someone's standing in the online community.  They often shower compliments on
or fawn over another identity, and they may even breed, until there is a small herd of sock puppets all paying obeisance to a single person,
layering on what is, in essence, self-adulation.  

(Forgive me if you know this stuff already.  There are one or two people who swing through the Mushroom Patch from time to time who probably
aren't aware of the existence of sock puppets, so I am posting it for them.)

Possibly the most infamous sock puppets ever to litter the floor of an online room were part of a Harry Potter fandom.  They became part of a
power play within a community, spearheaded an effort to raise one particular member to the level of fandom demigod, and even went so far as to
resort to a dynamic IP generator to hide their true nature.  They eventually managed to migrate off the internet and into real-life, to the point
where some people had to resort to legal action to stop the Invasion of the Cyber-Socks.  I'm being a little glib, but the tale really is a fascinating
saga of the heady heights to which a lowly Wigwam and its friends can aspire.  It is an internet phenomenon that almost certainly has it roots in
the same territory as buying college term papers, padding a resume, and plagiarism:  all of which have the common goal to inflate one's position
in society without having to do the actual work.    

My point here isn't really about sock puppets, however.  It's only where my brain, which I sometimes think resembles a rubik's cube, started the
day.

Now there's an interesting thought.  I signed the organ donor line on my driver's license.  I wonder if, when the moment arrives and they open me
up to take out all the goodies, they'll crack my skull open and find a rubik's cube in there.  And more importantly, will it be all neat and 'solved'?  
Or scrambled?  Or 27 disconnected pieces all scattered about?  Based on some of my entries here at the Mushroom Patch, the safe money is
on the last one.  

But back to the point of this ramble -- or the lack thereof, depending on your viewpoint.  

Sock puppets.  Internet communities.  Online friendships.  Cyber-associations replacing face-to-face, human-to-human interaction.  The idea that
emoticons are an online form of prosthetic visual cues.  The anonymity provided through online contact facilitating both the bad -- everything
from misrepresenting your age, gender, or height; to sock puppets; and right on up to pedophiles and sexual predators -- and the good.

Like a lot of people who have any kind of online social life, I have had to either attempt an explanation or outright defend my activities to friends,
coworkers, total strangers, and family.  Possibly the most interesting -- albeit ignorant, misinformed, and patronizing -- communication I have ever
received on the issue was an e-mail that explained how I should go about making real-life friends:  what sort of activities I could get involved with
in order to meet people, volunteer opportunities that would get me out into the local community, and other blatantly obvious gems of wisdom all
designed to convince me to (as the e-mail said):  TURN OFF THE DAMNED COMPUTER AND GET OUT OF THE HOUSE!!  

The entire missive overlooked what might be the single most defining reality of my adult life.  I work shift work.  My schedule consists of a
combination of both night and day shifts packed into a single week; I work most holidays; time off has to be planned out months in advance; and
(here's the really good part) my days off change every 4 weeks.  I've been working this schedule for 24 years and 1 day as of today.  You would
think that anyone who knows me would know this by now.  I've only been saying, "Sorry, I have to work that weekend/night/day/holiday.  I could
have done it last week, but my days off just changed," for the last 24 years.  Yup, I could volunteer to help out at the library or the blood bank or
the hospital or even work at one of the local ski areas in return for freebie passes ... for 4 weeks.  Then my schedule would change.  I could take
classes at any one of the local colleges that has adult continuing education ... for 4 to 8 weeks, if I'm lucky enough to hit my schedule just right.  I
guess it's just too bad for me that most classes last longer than that.  A writer's group!!!  What a fantastic idea!  And after 4 weeks, I can kiss that
goodbye for approximately 6 months.  Brilliant ideas.  

Oooops.  A quasi-rant crept in there.  Apologies.

What is my point, you are no doubt asking by this time.  I'm not sure there is one.  This entry
IS being brought to you by the letter B (for Blather),
after all.

I think the point has to do with why sock puppets spring up in the first place, along with online friendships that manage to make the difficult
transition into real-life, and how the internet sometimes manages to circumvent one of the crueler moments in getting to know people -- namely
judging people on appearance rather than on who they are on the inside.  

Despite all the evidence offered up by the internet's detractors, I believe that there is a place for online communities as valid venues for true
human socialization.  The possibilities for the process to go wrong certainly outweigh the potential that it will turn out right ... but when is that not
true in life?  I once asked a highly skilled amateur carpenter why he had hired someone to do some work on his house, instead of doing it
himself.  His answer was clear, concise, and works for so many different situations ranging far beyond carpentry.  He said, "There are more than
a hundred ways to do this wrong, and only one way to do it right."  The fact that he was modifying the house's foundation really drove the point
home.  I don't see that there's a great deal of difference between his foundation and the potential to interact with other humans on the internet.  
Getting it right can be a tricky business.

You're still waiting to see how sock puppets play into this, aren't you?  The bad news is ... so am I.

<Crash madly twists the rubik's cube, hoping that a pattern will develop out of pure coincidence>

Let's start with the assumption that there are people on this planet who would not have much social contact if it weren't for the internet.  I think it's
a safe statement.  Shut-ins (for whatever reason), people with mobility problems, Vermonters with wacked-out work schedules, and hoards of
others are using the internet as a communication device ... not as a life-replacement.  Early- to mid-stage Alzheimers patients have begun using
computers and the internet to organize their lives, to serve as an auxiliary memory system, and to remain in contact with friends and family that
they would otherwise either forget or not be able to communicate with on a regular basis.  The internet also has the power, through the online
communities, to bring people with common interests together who never would met otherwise.  At one end of this particular scale we have the
hideous reality of sexual predators who find their prey online; somewhere in the middle we have Crash winging her way off to Germany this past
summer to visit with a friend for a couple of weeks; and at the other end, we have couples who met online and eventually get married.  I think it's
a fantastic tool for communication.  And it's open for business 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, without any regard for what time a person gets
out of work, what their days off happen to be, or whether they are sitting around in their PJ ... or in the buff.  (That last one can be a bit fraught
with danger if you have a webcam hooked up.)

The next step assumes that since we are all human (with the exception of the isolated Hynerian, Banik, Delvian, Kalish, or Scarran hiding among
us), we will find the full range of human behavior being exercised on the internet -- for better or worse.  

When I first began mulling over the existence of sock puppets this morning, one of my first reactions was:  How sad.  How horribly gut-wrenching
on a very down-to-earth human level that anyone would resort to creating more and more personas, each one springing into existence only to
provide reinforcement that the primary personality is someone of stature or importance within a community.  I was viewing it as though it were an
isolated, internet-enabled form of schizophrenia:  something to be pitied because there had to be something horribly wrong with the person if
they went to these lengths to boost their self-esteem.  And, on one level, there is.  But the longer I think about it, and compare it to the range of
human behavior that is on exhibit any time you have a gathering of two or more of our species for any reason, the more I realize that this isn't
particularly unusual.  It's rather average, as a matter of fact.  Where I work, fighting for control of the television remote in the breakroom has
become a method of proving supremacy.  For once, I'm not kidding.  It has become a superiority/control issue for some of the people in the
building.  

And I'm worrying about sock puppets as a symptom of mental aberration?  What was I thinking?

Perhaps the direction my brain has been attempting to go in this morning, despite all my efforts to direct it elsewhere, has more to do with the
human condition than with sock puppets.  Or perhaps the two are more closely related than I initially thought.  My aimless musings seem to be
spiraling in toward a truism:  Humans have needs, and they will do whatever they have to in order to fulfill those needs.  Self-esteem,
companionship, love, happiness, security.  At the risk of coming full circle, maybe the Leaders of the Sock Puppet Flocks do merit our
compassion after all, even if their behavior can't and shouldn't be allowed to continue.  If any person is in so great a need of status that they
have to resort to such a glaringly artificial method of boosting themselves up, then maybe there should be some room inside the rest of us for
compassion.  

Beats me.  All the spare room inside my head seems to be taken up by a rubik's cube ... scrambled, of course.