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16 October 2010 -- An Observation on Human Behavior (and Why I Might Need a Therapist)

This is a commentary on the sometimes weird ways humans think and behave.  If you are already an expert in peculiar behaviors (as I am), feel
free to skip this collection of blather.  

Last night my mighty hunter, Pip, brought a live mouse onto my porch.  That is no big deal.  Pip has a cat door leading from the great outdoors
onto the porch.  I want her to be able to get in out of bad weather and away from bigger predators (such as the neighbor's rather aggressive
male cat) whenever she needs a refuge.  Small outraged animals arrive almost daily.  I have to cope with a steady stream of baby bunnies,
chipmunks, moles, voles, mice, birds, and the occasional snake.  Critters running around the porch in a panic are a normal event in my life.  

Most of them arrive undamaged.  Pip has an incredibly 'soft' mouth for a predator.  She carries bunnies the way a mother cat carries kittens.  
This time, however, she had been playing Whack-A-Mole with the mouse.  The poor little varmint was wet, cold, probably in shock, and had been
severely cat-pummeled.  It just lay on the floor and quivered.  Pip lost interest pretty quickly.  She left the little gift for me and then headed back
outside to find a new toy.

Here's where we get into human behavior.  Most of us can't stand to see any creature suffer.  That's pretty much a given and is not surprising.  
The fact that I couldn't bear to watch the mouse die slowly and could not bring myself to kill quickly is not the point.

I grabbed a piece of rag from the heap in my workshop, wrapped the little guy up in it, and then laid him gently in the trash barrel.  It had been
emptied the day before, which means that it was remarkably clean for a trash barrel and did not stink.  The mouse looked pretty far gone to me.  
He was also soaking wet (it was raining) and probably chilled.  I figured the best I could do is let him die in peace, protected from the weather.  

This morning I needed to take out some trash.  I opened the lid to the barrel a little carefully, just in case there had been a miraculous recovery,
and much to my surprise, the mouse was curled up on top of the rag ... not wrapped inside it as I had left him.  He was dead, as expected, but his
fur was dry and put in order.  He had lived long enough to warm up, dry out, and then squirm his way out of his shroud.  His last moments were
spent in the dark, curled up on something soft, fairly warm, and in peace.  

What I find mildly fascinating is how that sight affected me emotionally.  I have been through something similar with a couple of pets.  When they
have to be euthanized, the things we do to make the process 'gentle' have more to do with us than with the animals.  For most of us, it is our
future peace of mind and grief that we are addressing, not theirs.  I just never expected that reaction to extend to a mouse!  Think about it. If I
had discovered that he was living inside the house while still healthy and active, I would have been laying out mouse traps and D-Con in a frenzy
of rodent-extinction!  No death could have come quickly enough for him if he had been inside the walls instead of out.

And what if I had opened the trash barrel to find him scampering around the bottom, eager to be paroled and start a new life?  I'm not oblivious to
my own personality.  I know what I would have done.  I would have set him FREE!!!  Free to dig holes around the house; free to eat my
perennials; free to chew his way into my shed and gorge on the bird seed; free to build a nest underneath the front steps and raise a family!!  
And yes, I then would have turned right around and encouraged Pip to track the little bastard down and kill him and all his progeny with him.

But put him on my porch -- cold, wet, battered, and shivering -- and I take solace and comfort in the idea that his last moments were ones of
warmth and quiet, and possibly were not spent in terror.

I think I've got a screw loose.  Anyone got a screwdriver I can borrow?   I've got a neuron or two that need to be tightened up.
What a way to spend the day.  You can bet I'll be down there next October, this time with a lawn chair and something to make a lot of noise as I
cheer on the contestants.  
19 September 2010 -- Progress ... Backwards

My first work in/on the Mushroom Patch in almost ten months has been to get rid of the Wordpress blogging software.  I have reverted to using
the website software that I use for most of the rest of the site.  My reason for doing this had to do with maintenance.  Wordpress is incredibly
strong software, but to keep it secure and functioning correctly means doing updates far more frequently than I used it to create actual entries.  
That's nuts!!  I was also having problems keeping spammers out.  I had ONE for-real user and I had thrown out several hundred spammers.

Yup.  Time to shut the software down.  The maintenance to usefulness ratio was all screwed up.  

So the Mushroom Patch is back, in the old, archaic, incredibly easy to build, tough to use form.           Because, after all, it's all about me ... right?

The good news is that every page of the Mushroom Patch has a link to the website's forum at the top right.  If you would like to badger me to
write more often, counter something I have said, discuss some bit of blather, or tell me that I'm full of crap, feel free to hit the link, stop by the
forum, and tell me what you think.

Thank you for stopping in.  I hope to use this a little more often during the next several months than I have over the last ten.  (Shouldn't be all
that hard.  One entry will be 'more often'.  Urk!)
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Mushroom Patch -- Page 12
September 19, 2010 thru February 5, 2011
3 October 2010 -- Pumpkin Chunkin'!!

I went to the 2nd Annual Vermont Pumpkin Chunkin' Festival in Cambridge, Vermont today.  Pictures do a much better job of describing this
than words ever could, so I'll get to those pretty quick.  Two things before we get to the fun stuff.  

First, the Vermont festival is a miniscule version of the
Pumpkin Chunkin' World Championship held each year in Delaware.  They've got some
MAJOR machines down there.  It's worth taking a look at the website just to see the size of the machines that show up for the World
Championships.  Second, there is something strangely satisfying about watching pumpkins sail through the air, knowing they are headed for
splattery destruction.  I think it must have something to do with remnant caveman genes ... smashing dinosaurs over the head or something like
that.  Suffice it to say that it's a great way to spend a day.  The fact that the weather was darned near perfect didn't hurt either.
A beautiful (but mildly chilly) day in Cambridge, Vermont.  
There are few places on the planet more beautiful than
Cambridge.
Wow!!  A picture of the parking lot.  See that green stuff
underfoot?  It looks like that because this is a recently mown
cornfield made soggy and boggy by heavy rain over the two
days prior to the festival.  
An entry in the lightweight division.
This is pretty much all there is to the festival.  There is a live
band over to the right, and a barbeque behind me.
This is 'Pumpkin's Bane', and nothing else at the festival was
coming close to the distances this was throwing pumpkins.  It
was hurling them close to 400 feet.  
This is the American Chunker, from southern New Hampshire.  
It was at the festival for demonstration purposes only.  It will be
at the World Championship in November, trying to break the
world's record by firing an intact pumpkin over 1 mile.  This
thing was just amazing!!!  That pumpkin just disappeared!
The competitors are lined up, ready for the first round to begin.
An entry in the heavyweight division.  Each of the trebuchets
had a name.  This is 'WMD' -- Weapon of Medieval
Destruction, and it was in second place after two rounds of the
contest.  
10 October 2010 -- More Pumpkins!!

What do Vermonters do once harvesting begins and winter is just around the corner?  One answer is in the preceding entry:  We build medieval
style weapons and gather in a field to hurl pumpkins to a spectacular, smashing, gooey death.  

But Vermont is not just vast stretches of forest and rural communities, maple trees, gorgeous scenery, and open fields where pumpkins fall out of
the sky.

We also have a LAKE!

Take one lake, add some oversized gourds and the need to do something fun and unusual in the last gasp of summer, and you get ...

The 3rd Annual Vermont Pumpkin Regatta!  
The weather is darn near perfect.  It's a gorgeous day in
northern Vermont, on the shores of Lake Champlain.
The Coast Guard is standing by in case there is a pumpkin
mishap.  (It seems silly, but we realized that if a pumpkin turned
upside down, there was a very real potential for a tragedy.)
The 'boats' (boats?!?!?) are brought down to the water.
The dash to the finish line.  The picture is too small for this
detail to show up:  The boat bringing up the back of the field
(on the left side of the photo) is the S.S. Minnow.  
ARRRRRRRRRGH!!  There be pirates on the water that day!!
The leaders round the pylon, making the turn to head back to
the finish line!!  Yes, that's a cow padding the boat in the
center.  It's Vermont.  What do you expect?  
When we headed down to the waterfront that morning, we did
not realize that each entry would have a theme and that most
of the paddlers would be in costume.  It was a heck of a sight!
Ready ... set ... GO!!!  The race is underway.
14 October 2010 -- Nominees for the Darwin Awards

The Burlington Free Press, our local newspaper, carried an article this morning explaining that the Vermont National Guard had found two
hunting camps built on the Ethan Allen Firing Range.  This is an 11,000 acre military-use range that sprawls across portions of Bolton, Jericho,
and Underhill, VT.  The land is very well marked with lots of No Trespassing signs and warnings about what types of activities take place there.

This is a
LIVE FIRE ARTILLERY RANGE!  It is also used for various types of training for different units in the Army National Guard, but the
primary purpose of the Ethan Allen Range is to allow the artillery folks to get out there and lob real shells.

Is it just me, or is this the stupidest place possible for some gun-happy hunters to hang out waiting to make things go BANG?  (I'll give ya yer
bang, all right.  Let's see how big a bang an artillery shell makes.)  Most human beings with even the most minimal sense of self-preservation do
their best to stay away from the muzzle end of mortars and howitzers and the like.  Not these guys!  I wonder if they wear shirts with bullseyes on
them when they're out there at their camps.  I say the Army should not expend much time trying to identify the fools responsible.  Better yet, they
should provide free parking and mark the trails to the camps so the perpetrators can find their way in there more easily.  If they do, then after
their next live-fire practice, they might find the remains of some prime contenders for the Darwin Awards lying around those camps.
1 December 2010 -- The Lazy IT Specialist's Tech Tip #78

Two nights ago my wireless router died.  It suffered a heart attack or internally hemorrhaged in some fashion.  Not so badly that it was putting out
smoke or spewing random flaming bytes all over the house, but it was definitely dead.  (Thank you, Linksys, for the third router in a row that died
a spectacular, premature death.)  Less than 48 hours later, UPS delivered my new router to my door.  For those of you living on the east coast, if
you have not discovered NewEgg (www.newegg.com) yet, you need to give them a try.  Prices are reasonable; their return policy is good; the
review system is extremely helpful; and their warehouse is in New Jersey, which means that if you order in the morning, the item frequently shows
up on your doorstep the next day.  

Anyhoo ... That's not the point of this drivel.  The point is that I had to get the router set up, after which I would need to get THREE laptops
connected to the system.  (I am in the midst of replacing my desktop-replacement laptop, so I am still running both the old and new computers
plus a netbook.)  

Here is where pure laziness paid off.  I liked the name I gave my old router, so I kept it ... right down to upper and lower case.  Then the new
router software gave me a default encryption key that was weaker than I wanted.  Rather than type some gibberish or think up something
devilishly difficult for some hacker to break, I decided to copy and use the 24-character key from my last router.  (I had it stored in a file.)  Again,
this wasn't brilliance or preplanning.  It was lack of imagination and laziness.  

Those of you who own wireless routers already know the rest of the story.  All of my laptops and my Kindle connected automatically, without any
involvement from me.  This is one of the few times in my life when being a lazy cuss has paid off so richly.  
19 January 2011 -- Impromptu Temperature Gauge ... or ... Life In Vermont

This is a made-for-cold-weather, double-pane, filled-with-inert-gas window.  There is seldom any frost
or condensation on the inside of the window.  But this is what happens when the temperatures drop to
-20°F (or lower).

On a morning when I see this, I don't need to run downstairs to look at the outside thermometer to
figure out that the temperatures dropped to subzero overnight.  

(Click on the image for a larger version.)
5 February 2011 -- Pet Owner's Tip #978

Today's Pet Owner Tip deals with recognizing just one of the many warning signs that you may be
spoiling your pet.  

Situation:  You go into the kitchen to get another cup of coffee.  When you return, you discover that
Ms. Fluffy has appropriated your seat, taking over not only your chair, but also the chair with the warm
and squashy liquicell seat cushion that pampers your butt.  

If you carefully wheel that chair away from your desk so as not to disturb Ms. Fluffy, and bring over a
cold, unaugmented chair for yourself, then ...

... like me, you may be spoiling your pet.  
Click for a larger image of Ms. Fluffy (also
known as the Pip-meister).