The Raccoons and the Brussels Sprouts

Yesterday was an interesting day for my website. A large number of people “discovered” my site, and more specifically, they discovered my Shawn’s List of Rules post. That was the first thing.

The second thing that happened was a bunch of people got offended. Unfortunately, there was a subset of those people that truly shouldn’t have been offended, because I wasn’t talking about them at all. I make no apologies, but I realize not everyone knows all the details. Even those directly involved. Since I can’t publicly give specific details (I’d very likely get sued. Really.), I will tell a story. Below is the parable of the Raccoons and the Brussels Sprouts.

Once upon a time, there was a family of raccoons. This family lived near a fancy restaurant, and would often have a well balanced meal in the evening. The restaurant was really upscale, and its patrons were frivolous spenders. Due to the vast quantities of leftovers, the raccoon family was able to eat meat, pasta, veggies, fruit: Everything a raccoon would ever need.

Then one day, the restaurant burned down. All the rich patrons went elsewhere, and the poor raccoon family started to struggle. They were a wise and frugal family, so for a while, their reserve food kept them healthy. Unfortunately, the restaurant owners never rebuilt. After a while, even the stores of food weren’t enough. Some raccoons had to leave. Some even died. It was a very sad time in the raccoon family.

Then, a farmer moved into the vacant property where the restaurant used to stand. The farmer grew a variety of vegetables, but his main crop was Brussels Sprouts. It turned out he was able to grow Brussels Sprouts very efficiently, because the ashes from the burned down restaurant provided fertilizer that Sprouts thrived in. Unfortunately, the raccoons didn’t like Brussels Sprouts. They were used to a well balanced diet, and Brussels Sprouts alone weren’t enough. They were part of a balanced diet — but the raccoons knew they wouldn’t be able to thrive like they had in years past.

In fact, the raccoons began to despise the farmer. They were angry because all he grew were Brussels Sprouts. Sprouts weren’t nearly as tasty. Surely, with only Brussels Sprouts, they would all perish. They ate them, because they had no choice, but the raccoons were not happy.

Meanwhile, the farmer tried to grow a few other crops, but he really couldn’t afford much else. As it were, the farmer bought the field in the first place, because he really liked raccoons, and wanted to do everything he could to keep them alive. Few raccoons realized that. He kept planting Brussels Sprouts, because he knew they could live if they ate them — but the raccoons kept getting angrier. The farmer and the raccoons couldn’t speak to each other, of course, so both the raccoons and the farmer got frustrated.

A few years went by, and the raccoons started to see that although they lost some weight, they were able to live relatively healthy on Brussels Sprouts. In fact, some raccoons even liked the Sprouts. About half of the raccoon family even went to the farmer’s house and scratched at the door to get the farmer to give them more Brussels Sprouts. The farmer soon was planting more and more Brussels Sprouts to keep up with demand! He got to see the raccoons preparing Brussels Sprouts in different ways, and he was very impressed with their creativity.

Sadly, a part of the raccoons that scratched for more Sprouts ended up piling them in a corner. Those Brussels Sprouts began to smell bad. Even though they wanted the extra Sprouts, the raccoons blamed the farmer for the smell. They told other raccoons that they never wanted Brussels Sprouts in the first place. The smell leaked into all the raccoon houses, and all the raccoons forgot that it was those very Brussels Sprouts that had been keeping them alive for so long.

So what was the farmer to do? The raccoons that scratched at his door for more Sprouts were now angry because they had them. The raccoons that were happily eating their share of Sprouts were getting irritated by the smell of the rotting vegetables coming from the other raccoon’s houses. The farmer got angry because he had invested everything he had into a Brussels Sprout farm to keep the raccoon family alive, and all they did was hiss at him. Some would even bite him.

The farmer began to dislike raccoons in general. Not all of the raccoons were mean, but when all the farmer saw day in and day out were hissing, biting raccoons — he had a hard time trusting any of them. He still grew Brussels Sprouts, and he still fed raccoons, because he’d made a commitment to himself to feed them. Sadly, however, he found little joy in farming any more. If it weren’t for his friends, family, and hobbies — the farmer would probably just have moved away and let the raccoons fend for themselves.

In the end, the farmer kept feeding the raccoons. He’d share his frustrations with his family and friends occasionally, because he was unable to speak raccoon. He figured that even if the raccoons thought he was mean for feeding them Brussels Sprouts, at least he was helping them stay alive.

The End.

17 thoughts on “The Raccoons and the Brussels Sprouts”

  1. Raccoons, no thanks. Brussel Sprouts, ug!

    But I like the farmer. He’s a really great guy. Too bad he’s sad and frustrated. I wish I could help him out.

  2. As you know, I’m Jewish. I’m going to consult with some Talmudic scholars. I intend to decipher the true meaning of this parable.

    Unfortunately, the one thing that all Talmudic scholars have in common is a pathological inability to agree with each other on anything. 😀

  3. Well, don’t forget that there are raccoons that appreciate what you’re doing.

    Around here, sometimes the raccoons even bring the farmer thank you gifts in appreciation. But we have multiple farmers, each growing a single product. So that helps too.

    It’s hard when you have one farmer who is supposed to do it all, as opposed to a co-op that spreads the work around.


    And remember: PEBKAC!

  4. That was a very well-written post, Shawn.

    Hopefully you won’t have to follow it up with the Parable of the Casino Developer and the Bulldozer.

  5. I hate it when the raccoons get into my backyard and eat the goldfish out of my pond. And there are stories of killer raccoons preying on housepets in rural Thurston county.

    Tame-ish spoiled raccoons, though, who manage to make do with brussels sprout are probably ok.

  6. I’ve been a system admin and IT consultant for about 8 years now. It sounds like you have a lot of anamosity towards your users. And I don’t doubt you are spread thin, most SA’s are.

    However, the thing that strikes me the most in your parable, is that there doesn’t seem to be any communication going on. In your story, the farmer can’t understand the racoons. It is your job as an admin/tech resource/whatever to be approaceable. You need to be able to listen to peoples’ concerns and, if you have the resources, do something about it. And if you don’t have the reseources, make sure that the users understand why you can’t do everything they want.

    As far as it being discovered? Rule number one about blogging about your work, people will find out. Blog about your personal life, if something is frustrating, say it is frustrating, but don’t insinuate that people are idiots, espeicially since your own parable indicates that you don’t understand them. Take the time to sit down with them and understand where they are coming from. People generally don’t mean ill will towards others, and it could just be frustration because they are feeling you don’t understand them.

    And if you don’t feel they are understanding you, take the time. Yes, as admins, we’re busy. But it is better to take additional time now, and make sure you’re all on the same page. It will save time in the long run.

    If it is truely causing you that much angst towards the users and towards your job, perhaps it would be best to find another position.
    If you have a good amount of experience it shouldn’t be a problem getting another position in which you didn’t resent your users as much.

    In my experience, people do not get frustrated because they aren’t getting exactly what they want, they get frustrated because they don’t feel they are being heard.

    Remember, as a sys admin, we’re here to help the users, and ensure that they can do their jobs. We are not “allowing” them to use “our” networks and systems, rather, we are ensuring that they can use their network. I know it’s hard to not be posessive, especially when you spend so much time and energy installing and maintaining, but it belongs to them.

  7. [comment deleted, because it was a copy/paste from the Rules post, and second rants must be at least slightly original…]

  8. I’m still floored by the fact that people were offended by your rules post. I keep hearing a cheesy British accent saying “Methinks they doth protest too much!!”

    I know I’m late, but I have to tell you, parable aside, brussels sprouts are foul and disgusting.

  9. Call me “Captain Obvious”, but Daphne is doing the very thing she is accusing Shawn of.


    lacking desire to improve school
    desperate for attention
    miserable (person)

    Math has never been my subject, and I had to pull out my abacus just to make sure, but accordingly to my calculations you had slightly more negative descriptors than did Shawn. It was close, to be sure, but you just barely edged him out for the “I’m a rude computer Geek award” (sorry Shawn, but I’m not the one who entered you into the contest).

    Interestingly Daphne, you conclude with the following injunction to Shawn: “Find some eloquence.” Considering your version of eloquence has someone doing horrible things in a flower pot, I’m a bit confused on how exactly you want this injunction applied.


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