Monday, September 30, 2002


Yeah, it really is. You won't believe it until you print out the picture, cut out the little square labeled "B" and lay it next to the square labeled "A". Go ahead, try it. This and other fascinating illusions were recently discussed on this MetaFilter thread.

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

There�s a Fungus Among Us

So, a couple weekends ago, Mrs. Commish and I were in the back yard, doing back yard-type stuff. She looks down the bank at the edge of our property (the overgrown bank that I wrangled three friends into helping me prop up a few years ago with 15 tons of gravel, sand and dirt to keep it from collapsing out from under a big old maple tree - ask me to tell the story some day) and she says something to the effect of "Omigod, what IS that?!?" She was, however, only looking at the time at a LITTLE one, which is at my feet in this picture. Yes, that�s a soft-ball sized mushroom, but a little further down, she saw the one I had to pick up with the shovel (apologies for the focus in that picture), and we knew that these were more than your average mushrooms.

Thus began the Great Giant Mushroom Saga, which has taken over our lives in myriad and strange ways over the past few weeks.

Here�s a couple more shots of the big one in place on the bank, with both a ruler and my arm for perspective - it was about sixteen inches in diameter, and looked (and felt) like a giant volleyball. Apparently, slugs had been eating both of them, which accounted for the holes - there was at least one slug on the little one when Chris picked it. It, like the big one, had almost no stem and popped right off the ground - the big one actually rolled down the hill a ways when I tried to dig it out (the shovel wasn't necessary), so it got a little beat up.

Well, we had never seen anything like this before, so after taking a few pictures and showing it off to the neighbors, we did what at the time seemed like two very sensible things - toss it into the woods, and email the pictures to friends and family. Big mistakes, both.

First, the email was an irresistible temptation for fungus jokes, and we heard them from all corners, so lets get those out of the way right now:

A mushroom walks into a bar. He sits down next to a gorgeous woman. He looks over at her and says "Hey, can I buy you a drink?" Surprised, the woman responds: "You can't buy me a drink, you're nothing but a mushroom!" To which he replies, "Yeah, but I'm a fungi!"

Bloody Latin illiterates!!!!! One person can't be a fungi. One can only be a fungus. Now if it was two mushrooms that sat next to her, they would be a fungi. But of course then you run into unsolvable English grammatical problems ("We're a fun guys?). That's why I hate comedians. And humor. And laughter. Don't ever send me anything again that's funny!
And by the way, those big things you found weren't fungi, they were pods! I hope you destroyed them before they absorbed you and took over your bodies!!!!

Oh yeh, well I can top that . . . . . . .
A mushroom went into a bar and saw some algae at a table. He went up to one and said "You're lookin' all gal." She looked him over and said "You look like a fun guy." And they took a liken to each other.
Bada bing! Bada boom!
Here's another one for ya . . . . . . .
Which vegetable goes best with jacket potatoes? Button mushrooms.

Good thing I have to go out for lunch. Hopefully my computer will blow up by the time I get back and I won't have to face this any morrel.

This mushroom thing is getting a truffle out of hand, don't you think?

Second, and more importantly, one of the fellows I emailed the pictures to was at work when he opened up the email. He immediately called me, never mind that it was about, oh, eight in the morning.

�What did you do with the mushroom?!?�
�Um, I threw it the woods.�
�Oh, MAN. Those are supposed to be good eatin�! You should have saved it!�

So, I then had to hear all about how his pal Rocky�s mother could cook up mushrooms so good you�d die for them, and some old fellow named �Louie� would identify big bags of wild mushrooms they�d bring him and sort them out by edible or not (giving his opinion on the relative culinary merits of each one), and how his own uncle once showed him a mushroom almost the size as the one I callously threw away, but wouldn�t share any with him - I should interject at this point that we�re dealing here with long-time residents of Italian descent, and that this is, in fact, the same guy that makes homemade wine that�s so good and so potent that you don�t realize you�ve been drinking it until you fall off a ledge (that�s another story you�ll have to ask me to tell some day) - but at any rate, all I had at the time was the pictures, and a pile of busted fungi in the woods.

At the very least, I could try to find out if these things that we really had thought were more likely to be pod people than delicacies were the real deal or not. It didn�t take long. mr_crash_davis, of fame, took all of twenty minutes to come up with the likely identification of the Giant Puffball (Calvatia gigantea) when I posted a general inquiry. This identification made me happy for two reasons - first, it confirmed that these things were indeed edible, and second, it offered the reassuring advice that, at least once they were bigger than your fist, they could not be mistaken for any other poisonous mushroom.

So, they were in fact puffballs, and they were not only edible, but were in fact highly prized (at least in some circles). However, I had tossed them into the woods. Ah, well. Still, the email jokes were amusing, and the pictures captured the attention of a lot of various friends and family. It was clearly a once-in-a-lifetime type thing to find such a giant mushroom, anyway.

And then, last Friday morning, doing my regular rounds of the grounds before leaving for work, I spied a golfball-sized protuberance in the mulch at the edge of the bank. On racing to the edge and peering down, I saw two additional protruberi, each slightly larger than the first, and one approaching softball-size.

The mushrooms were coming back. At that moment, we became mushroom farmers.

(much more soon to follow in Part Two)

Thursday, September 05, 2002

Next Wednesday morning, I will leave my office at about a quarter to ten and drive over to the Town Common (it's nice working in the same town you live in). Chris is planning on coming from our house and meeting me there. At 10:05 AM, our police and fire honor guard will lower the flag to half mast, and there will be a salute of four groups of five siren blasts from the fire apparatus.

The fire chief will say a few words, as will priests from the local churches and the rabbi from the town synagogue.

At 10:28 AM there will be another salute of siren blasts, followed by a 21-gun salute from the police honor guard, and the police bag piper will play "Amazing Grace". The honor guard will then raise the flag back to full mast.

At that point, I will go back to work. There's work to be done, after all.

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