Thursday, July 31, 2008

Yesterday was a tough day. Today I doubt will be any different. I'm not sure why, exactly. I was just slogging through Wednesday, dumb mistake after dumb mistake -all the while sweating furiously. At one point the whole thing just fell down, which rarely happens. (Don't worry, I'm fine.) Anyway, half the days of the week I come home and there are white rings of dried sweat salt on my blue work shirt. My blue work shirts, incidentally, have taken on this odd discoloration on the backs of them. It's a large blotchy oval of sweat stain that resists all attempts at laundering, no matter how thorough. Whatever do I do about it? It's embarrassing, and these shirts aren't cheap.

I have opted for the light brown work shirt today, instead of the dark blue. The dark blue one has an air of experienced foremanship about it, whereas the light brown one seems more of a grunting, meathead, hammer-swinging shirt. I don't know why this is. What I do know is that on a hot and sunny day, those blue shirts break you down until you are a grunting meathead, so, yeah, I'll just skip ahead and wear the brown one today. After all, it's not a million-dollar gated community or anything. (But it is kinda nice. Horse properties. Large yards.)

Now there's a name for a construction company: Grunting Meatheads, Inc. (GMI) Knock on the door: "Hi, we're the grunting meatheads? You called about some hard labor you needed done?" Or you could just pull up to the house, back over the mailbox, and drag your sledgehammers out like trolls, "Uggh. Ugggh. Nughhrphfmmph..." All of us in light brown shirts.

Speaking of meatheads, Summer Camp in just three more days! I have to come home early to spray-paint some hula hoops black. (Don't ask why. I'll post the video.) We're going with an Olympics sub-theme for the week, which should be fun. The real Olympics begins next Friday on August 8th. What's the significance of this? Well, to the Chinese, it's the eights. Check the date: 8/8/08. They're sure to sweep every event. Those Chinese think of everything.

One of our noble and dedicated camp directors made a podium:

I was so impressed, I made a video of it.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wednesday. Is it Wednesday? Sheez. I swear to Odin, this is the year of constant busyment. I've tried to do some honest reflection on it, and I have little to exuse myself. Clearly I've over-committed, for starters. It's my own fault. I should know better. Just because I'm capable of doing something, doesn't necessarily mean I can get it done. I made a list on the kitchen chalkboard and "Make Living" was on there, somewhere near the bottom. (I did get to check off "Back Fence" though. It was the only thing.) Then there's all the unexpected stuff: rising gas prices, smaller jobs, personal episodes of fate and frenzy. Money worries. And I seem to have spent a certain extra amount of energy on fear and fret this year. That slows down everything. Those of you that know my family, know I've got about another ninety days before my busy world gets dammed up again, so I better focus on some of these outdated commitments. And, of course, next week is my annual sojourn to summer camp. 7 days on an island with a hundred and fifty teenagers may come as something of a welcome relief, oddly.

That means the next couple days are filled with emails, phone calls, and wacky purchases -stuff I never had time for in the first place. I've got an interesting list of odds and ends I need for camp, and it includes all manner of technical gizmos for the computer-video setup, costumes, decorations, strange foods, and skit props. If you have any creative thoughts, send them my way. Somehow, the aluminum saps me of all my creative energy. It becomes a source of stress at times like these. Wait a minute... isn't the aluminum always a source of stress?

And we have a sullen disaffected teenager coming to live with us. He'll be around for a few weeks AND I INTEND TO PUT THE KID TO WORK AROUND HERE! Just kidding -he's actually a good kid. We're sending him to camp (as if that would knock some sense into him) so Mrs. Ditchman has had her hands full with the transport of said teenager to and from said camp. He doesn't have parents or reliable guardians or even -get this- a cell phone, so it's been something of a challenge. Also, his name is Sean -so we'll put him in charge. And he knows how to work a lawnmower.

So if it doesn't burn down or tumble into the sea from the earth quaking, camp will be fun. It's all hard work, but it's a different kind of work, where you're laughing a lot of the time to make it tolerable. (I'll try and do a remote post or two.) So I've been busy. Again. These weekend getaways are kind of funny with my bag only getting unpacked for laundering, and it's tough on the garden. The fish seem to be holding on while the tank is in the shop for the next few weeks. And the tortoises seem happy since I moved them outside to their new (makeshift) pen. Also, the ants seem to be in check. I saw a few out there the other day and the man with the plastic on his shoes and sprayer on his back says just to call if I see A ONE and he'll come out and get it. Best news I've gotten all summer!


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Well, I admit I was a little nervous getting out of the car and moving across the parking lot. I brought my sunglasses, even though the sun had nearly set (and it was cloudy anyway), and I think the question Why am I doing this? went through my head twenty times. My wife looked terrific, and she had that this oughta be fun grin that one gets at an amusement park entrance. I figured, Well I've got nothing to prove -but I do have a pretty wife. Ten seconds later: twenty people whom you haven't seen in twenty years looking twenty years older greeting you enthusiastically. Like out of a fast-moving dream. With 80's music.

You just start chatting away, eyes open. I learned fast not to try and guess people's names and to just go ahead and ask for help. It's fun to see old classmates, but less so to be mistaken for one (you're not sure if the person you're talking to and the person you've mistaken them for ever got along.) One old friendly acquaintance after another crosses your path and it's the same set of questions, repeated endlessly: Where are you living now? and What do you do? and Kids? But I found myself genuinely interested. Then there are the moments of uncertainty when you're talking to someone you swear you sat behind in English, but it turns out to be that person's spouse from Illinois, but ah well. Everyone was smiling.

The first guy I saw, I knew in high school and wondered whatever happened to him. The second person I saw, I knew in high school and wondered what happened to her. And then the third, and then again and again, all together. It was like, let's go find out! I mean, what else are you going to do? At the check-in you were handed a badge with your high school photo on it, and no one complained when you approached them by leaning down to check the badge -as long as you laughed about it after. Everyone did, and it was like an icebreaker game at a youth group meeting, but we were all in costume, dressed as adults.

The party was held at sunset at the beach clubhouse of the prestigious and exclusive Jonathan Club, with all of us shuffling around barefoot in the sand and yet otherwise capitulating to the sternly enforced dress code. The hors d'oeuvres were of a veritable shwankness, served to us by well-groomed, attentive servants, and the lot of us stood around with champagne and cocktails, so the whole event had a Beverly Hills 90210 - Twenty Year Reunion Episode! air about it. A good number of people had made the event the cornerstone of their Southern California vacation, and who could blame them? But it could've been held in the old high school gymnasium and been every bit as fun, if not more so. (I mean, doesn't everyone want to live out the John Mayer song?)

Actually, there weren't really any of the old cliques -with the bitter caste system of adolescence that makes that regrettable impression you carry with you all your life. I was grateful for it. We all were, I think. Rather, it was just a group of about 150 adults looking for a good time, and having one. No one wore a letter jacket, there weren't any cheerleaders, and the last report card anyone at the party had seen or cared about was their five and seven year-old's. There was a slideshow of old photographs from pre-digital times, and God bless the hands that went through the torture of scanners and emails to make it, but few of us paid much attention. We were all showing off our own kids on our camera-phones. My, times they had a'changed.

At least a couple people had found me on the blog and complimented me on it, which was nice, and a few were wondering what happened to my film career, which I claimed I abandoned for the suburbs. "I have achieved normality -and it was a tough climb," I announced more than once. People found this both amusing and impressive. (For me, it is.)

The high point of my night was when I was reunited with a girl I'd had a crush on for years. She was happily married with a few kids now, of course, and I was sincerely happy for her. She smiled and introduced herself to Mrs. Ditchman and leaned in to tell her, "You're really lucky. You married a terrific guy." I was walking on air.

By the end of the night, most people gravitated to those they were closest to in high school, and stories old and new were shared until the Last Call. Mrs. Ditchman (who was patient and charming, God bless her) and I stayed to the end, catching anecdotes on the old hometown and those who didn't show. One was in prison, another killed in a car accident, and another taken by that unpredictable cancer. One jovial old friend was in the Air Force flying gliders and training cadets. Was he in the war? Yes, but the first one -the Gulf War. (Seems like ages ago.) Yet no one talked politics, no one talked religion. It was just families and jobs and you-can-never-go-home-again type stuff. Most of us never can, having been priced out of the village we were raised in -a place where the average property is now valued in the multi-millions.

I think a big reason people avoid their class reunions is the I've got nothing to prove mentality, which assumes that everyone there is trying to prove something. Perhaps some are, but those two groups tend to be the same people, and so wouldn't materialize at such an event in any case. What I saw was largely a group of otherwise ordinary folks who enjoy life, who enjoy other people, who wanted to entertain that enduring curiosity, that American tradition of the Class Reunion. There's nothing else in life like it. Weddings and funerals, maybe, but those are people who know you well. These are people who, well, know you. Weddings and funerals are in honor of you, whereas a class reunion is in honor of... what exactly? You take a group of people, raise them together, disperse them, and then bring them all back again every ten years. It's one of life's few legitimate benchmarks. You go to the reunions and you see life actually moving along beside you. Where else can you get that kind of perspective?

I regret not having committed to going to the family picnic that was held the day after the reunion. Other obligations and commitments -they weren't as important, I should have known better. I was with my own family -and I loved it- but these other people seemed so new again... Other people, whether family, friends, or forgotten classmates, are the source of the only lasting joy in this lifetime. If you don't enjoy other people, expect a slow dispassionate decay. Expect to die younger than those who do.

Anyway, it was a high school reunion. What do I have in common with these people? Nothing significant, really, we just went to high school together. But there is something... We all seemed to be people genuinely interested in life itself, wanting to watch it float gently past like the mighty and beautiful river that it is, and get swept up in it. And swept away not like in some unstoppable, calamitous flood, but rather as on a hot summer day at thirteen again, standing on a log, skinny and shivering, hooting and hollering, and leaping in.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Too busy.

The Ant Man cometh, among other things.


Friday, July 25, 2008

Got some water out of the Sparklett's jug earlier. Brought my cup up to my mouth and noticed something floating in the water: ants.

And there are ants on my desk, upstairs, right now. They're just roaming aimlessly. There's nothing here for you! Move along! And of course they do move along. Constantly. Cursory glances around the room reveal no spilled food or errant abandoned candies or sugars. I spy a dead fly on the floor, but the ants seem to be ignoring it (and why wouldn't they?) Last night I fell asleep on the couch and woke to a big orange spider crawling over my head. I had taken out the trash earlier and walked headlong into a spider web, and then probably brought the thing in to nap with me on the couch. It was pretty good-sized one, too. When I went to crush it, I heard a c-r-u-n-c-h as its tiny exoskeleton splintered beneath my hand. It was a tad disturbing, and I felt even a tad guilty for snuffing out the little life of the hapless bug, the unwitting wayfarer who hitched inside. Some dark place inside of me wishes I could feel the crunch of the bones as I snuff out the ants on my desk. I would get a gleeful satisfaction out of it, and I would do it mindlessly while reading the news. Pest removal as bubble wrap.

The concrete guy on the job site told me the other day that if you have a nest of ants living in the frame of your house, it's a good thing. Expecting some Feng shui superstition, I was surprised when he told me that the ants love to eat termite eggs. He said they'll eat every single one of them. "Yeah, but then you have ants."

"True. But your house doesn't fall down."

I suppose I should be grateful. We had inadvertently hosed a nest of ants and they were evacuating up a wall, fanning out, carrying their eggs. After a few minutes it was quite a sight -they covered the wall for yards. At one point someone pointed out "The Queen!" and you could see her engorged abdomen, surrounded by attentive drones. I leaned in to take a look, as I had never seen the Ant Queen before. There was nothing particularly unusual about her, but the small glom of ants tending her on this broad, flat, white surface meant there was no mistaking her. I stepped back a few paces and checked the wall again: there were about fifteen queens, each one covered with her adoring ant-minions. It was a disturbing sight. Disturbing in that third-act, Aliens 2, sort of way -where they discover the queen alien laying alien eggs. Sorry if I ruined it for you.

Something inside of me wanted to kill each one of the ant queens on the wall, but that seemed antisocial at the time, so I resisted the urge. But I thought, perhaps I could flush them out of my own house and find the queen that way... But then it occurred to me that there's been enough flushing out my house lately.

When I lived at Dantean Point we had ant problems, too. It was a bachelor pad, so the ant problems were much more impressive and even profound. At one point, Carey, unable to defeat the ants, decided he would embrace them. The New York Times Book Review had recently covered a book titled simply, The Ants, which was a massive, full color, tome that claimed to be the most exhaustive, definitive work on the, well, ants. We didn't buy it, (the thing cost $100) but we did sit in the Barnes and Noble with a latte one night and move through it a page at a time. Did we learn anything about the ants? Not sure. The book ended up winning the Pulitzer Prize, though.

I shouldn't complain. My sister lives in Hawaii and the ants there are tiny, swift moving yellow little things that number in the billions -and they're nothing compared to the helicopter-sized roaches. I believe my sister keeps all the food Ziplocked in the refrigerator or some nearby bank vault. But when I think about how I'm going to be living in this house on the mainland with the ants for the next thirty years, I just get kind of depressed. I may resort to tossing raw candy into the neighbor's yard to draw them away, or, worse, I may just make them all pets.

As if I needed ten million more pets around here.


NO JOKE: 11:45AM. The pest control guy rang my doorbell and offered a summer discount on their monthly ant removal service. His sales pitch reached an overpowering crescendo when he thumbed out an ant crawling up my door frame. I signed up. I didn't care what it cost.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Yesterday I saw a refrigerator in the back of a truck. I'm sure it's the same for you, but whenever I see a refrigerator in the back of a truck I think of this:

(Note: It will take nine minutes out of your day to watch this, but it's a good nine minutes.)

It's from Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest, one of the greatest films ever made. (No, seriously.) At USC film school this scene was studied at great length. Did we discuss the pace of the editing? The composition of the shots? The juxtaposition of subjects on the screen? The use of sound to build tension? No. We discussed the refrigerator in the back of the truck. (I know it was bothering you, wasn't it?)

You see, Alfred Hitchcock liked to eat. Known to close friends as an often insecure and sensitive guy, whenever Hitch got bothered by something in life, he would eat. Food always saved the day for him, and, as we all know, he was not a skinny man. In the end of that scene you just watched from North by Northwest, how did Cary Grant escape? Well, (YouTube cuts off the last few seconds of the scene), in a sweeping symbolic gesture, he steals the truck with the refrigerator in the back of it. There. I just saved you an hour and a half of a boring cinema discussion period.

The truck never reappears in the film.

This is one of the reasons I left film school for the desert. Do I think Hitchcock put that refrigerator in the back of the truck on purpose? Well, yes, but I don't think that was the point of the scene. I believe I actually raised my hand and suggested that though Hitchcock may have purposely put that fridge in the back of that truck, it's possible that he did it more to entertain himself than to make some philosophical statement about food and the eating thereof. A film set can get pretty boring, you know.

The professor, and some classmates, just scoffed when I mentioned it. They went on to discuss other significant scenes with food from the Hitchcock filmography. I'm sure you remember every one of them, so I won't bore you by re-listing them here.

Funny, I thought the point of it all was to arouse and entertain. How exactly did he do that? Man, we could really discuss that for a few hours. College. It's when they started saying that movies don't have to entertain, that music doesn't have to have rhythm and melody, and that art doesn't have to be beautiful that they lost me. I'm just an unsophisticated heathen, I guess.

One day we discussed the distinct homosexual undertones of Casablanca for a few hours. It's funny, but now whenever I see a refrigerator in the back of a truck, it's symbolic of me dropping out of film school.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The invertebrate aquarium has been stabilized, you'll be happy to hear, with no loss of life. The 50 gallon breeder tank I have going right now has a lower profile, but is the same width. This happens to be a more preferred height for a reef tank. The corals are closer to the light source, thus giving them better photosynthesizing ability. Also, since the whole thing is significantly lower, I'm getting better ventilation from my fans which is keeping the temperature down. As well, the rock spreads out over the bottom and creates an even water flow over them, which the corals also prefer. Plus, a smaller tank makes the display look like it has more life in it, with the corals I have all concentrated together, and when the light trickles over them, the habitat actually looks like it would in the wild as if you were snorkeling over them! Mrs. Ditchman actually said she prefers the look of it, so go figure. Unfortunately, so do I, which kinda bums me out. Perhaps a new tank is in order, instead of just a repair. I don't know. Anyway, I can't stick with this one as there is no overflow, and no sump for the protein skimmer, so a nasty scum builds up on the water surface every few days, and water changes need to happen at least once a week.

Fascinating, isn't it? Okay, maybe not. How about this:

I've been somewhat forgetful lately, which means I'm either drinking too much, or not running enough. Researchers say that just about the worst thing you can do for your brain is smoke and drink, and that just about the best thing you can do for your brain is run and think, so if I keep plugging away on this thoughtful blogging and get a marathon in a year, I should live until I'm 185. Did you know that an MRI of an Alzheimer's patient's brain and an MRI of an alcoholic's brain are nearly indistinguishable? It's a sobering thought. Literally. Anyway, I heard this girl on Prager a few weeks ago and it sounded like a fascinating book. I may pick it up.

Also, I heard this guy on Prager the other day and his book sounded pretty good, too. He writes, among other things, that recent research shows that exerting yourself to the point of total exhaustion causes the body to release HGH (Human Growth Hormone). HGH is the stuff that movie stars and home run hitters are taking, but you can get it totally free and legal by just running a marathon. Count me in!

Meanwhile, I work with aluminum, which could be a problem. How do I deal with it? By only drinking beer out of bottles.

Seriously. Be smart.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Downstairs in the living room there were aquarium parts strewn about. Wires, hoses, buckets. I spent last night cleaning them up, and this morning I went downstairs and there were still wires, hoses and buckets everywhere. The kitchen sink is half full of barnacled pumps, skimmers, and PVC joints. I poured myself a cup of coffee and looked outside: still more aquarium detritus. What a hobby.

I don't think that's what's getting to me today, though. Beyond the patio and its buckets and tanks, out in the distance toward the fence, there are piles of gardening supplies, piles of old fence, piles of redwood cutoffs, and piles of dirt, rocks, sawdust. I should probably get out there and clean that mess up, but my tools are under all the aluminum in the garage. And there's no time. All the adults are busy around here picking up the toys.

And then yesterday, Mrs. Ditchman said she couldn't take the boxes in the bedroom anymore. I'm not sure I can either. Last spring I moved everything out of the guest bedroom to begin work on that remodel, and now it languishes. Our bedroom is piled high with boxes of stuff, much of it old photos and keepsakes, and when I went through it all for my mom's 70th, the mess got bigger.

And half of it was dragged in to the office here, where boxes of tax documents vie for space betwixt old computers and business supplies. I dredged up all the computer stuff recently, too, with my Mac breaking down, so there are more wires. If I had ever gotten around to putting together those filing cabinets way back when, perhaps some of the problem would have been alleviated, but it wouldn't have stopped the ants.

The ants keep coming. I kill and kill but they just don't get the message. Sometimes I feel them crawling on my arms and legs, but when I look there, there aren't any. Sometimes I'll be sitting on the couch and I'll look down to see an ant carrying the corpse of another ant across the coffee table. Where's he taking it? What's the point of that, ant?

I suppose I envy the ants and their disciplined, organized, system that is unstoppable in its multitudes, but the ants remain incomprehensible in their motives. Survival, I guess. This we have in common, and we're both winning, but they bug me. And I don't seem to be bothering them at all.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Life is full of distraction and concern. Just when work starts to fall in to step with the summer season, and the social calendar fills up, and life slips into that hectic rhythm that you find you can manage when you get the plates spinning and balls juggling through the air in the proper order... well, that's when the 65 gallon saltwater invertebrate aquarium breaks.

I was moving downstairs last Thursday morning and hadn't even made it to the coffee maker when my wife pointed out a puddle of water on the hardwood floor. I figured it was my duct-tape and flex-hose freshwater top-off system, which has never been particularly reliable, but one glance at the unchanged water level and I thought -uh oh. I touched the water and put a drop in my mouth. Salt.

I checked the display and could see water falling off the shelf and tidepooling on the floor. Seems there was a crack right across the base pane. How did it all happen? Doesn't matter -we'll form a committee for that later. More importantly, what needed to be done? The entire thing was to be emptied out immediately -water, rocks, sand, fish, corals and all. I barely even made it to the coffee maker.

Mrs. Ditchman and child got out of there (and who can blame them?) as I ran to and fro with a bemused look of astonished dismay. How does one clean up something like this? I mean, who has a spare 65 gallon aquarium in storage? So I spent all morning filling buckets and procuring towels and trying all the while not to electrocute myself. Thank God for the beverage cart -it was swiftly transformed into the local neighborhood touch tank!

So that was my entire Thursday, (including about two hundred miles of driving to procure some 10"x8' Roman columns with Tuscan cap and base) the pain of which cannot be understated. A gallon of saltwater weighs about eight pounds. I have about sixty pounds of rock in the thing, plus sand, and the tank itself is pretty heavy. All told, the thing probably weighs 800 pounds. Then there's the sump tank (20 gallons) and wires and tubes that run on betwixt walls, floor, and stairs. That's eight hundred pounds of wet mess that smells like a wharf and is about as easy to clean. How do I feel about it? Utterly grateful! I am utterly grateful to have a such an understanding and patient wife. Utterly grateful that we store about 50 towels in the garage for no good reason. Utterly grateful that the shop that originally fabricated the custom display tank said they could repair it with a new pane if I just brought it in. Utterly grateful that the last pet store I went to on Thursday night had an old 50 gallon breeder tank that they gave me for ten bucks. Utterly grateful it didn't happen a day later when we were out of town. (I haven't checked the policy details on our flood coverage.)

It was Grandma's 70th! And what a woman. We rolled out the red carpet and hired limousine service and put her up in the Paris Hotel in Vegas, baby, for the weekend. The theme was "An American in Paris Turns 70" which means we all had to wear berets, evoke Gene Kelly, and drink French wine and, yes, we really did have a red carpet. We watched 70 years of old photos on the AppleTV hooked up to my sister's 52" Phillips plasma and then a few home movies and a remote camera from Hawaii where one of Grandma's kids resides. We handed out Oscars (amazingly, Grandma swept every category) and gave weepy speeches and munched on unpronounceable cheeses. And she looks great. For a woman with six children and going on eight grandchildren and two jobs and who battles cancer in her spare time... well, she looks better at seventy than she did at seventeen, when she left Iowa behind for sunny California.

Mom at seventeen (that's South Dakota's Mt. Rushmore in the background):

Mom at seventy (that's the Vegas limousine in the background):

May we all be blessed, rich and sweet, like my mom.

So we rode the bumper-to-bumper traffic back across the desert with the Little Einsteins all the way home to find that the temporary tank repairs had held and that the tortoises and geriatric Persian were hanging on as well. Did we stop at Alien Fresh Jerky for olives? You bet! Did I get the Area 51 mug I've had my eye on? Yes! The place was hopping with activity, seeing as they had just opened the new building. The alien fresh coffee is not in stock currently, so don't drive out to Death Valley at midnight just yet.

This week finds the burden of my madness unending. God bless the subcontractors who are pouring my footings tomorrow. I prefer not to dig those holes and mix that concrete by myself. At least, not this week.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

CINCINNATI (Associated Press) - Senator John McCain addressed members of the NAACP this morning in an inspirational speech designed to contrast his candidacy with that of his African-American opponent. "Greetings, colored people!" McCain began...

No, actually, not really. But can you imagine the fallout?! He'd be finished! I've always thought that this component of black America, the NAACP, was indicative of a certain racist hypocrisy in the whole scene. I'm going to start the NAABWM, but you are not allowed to call me a balding white male -only I reserve that right. (Of course, there's no uncomfortable history of balding white men having been enslaved in this country, which may or may not have contributed to my current social condition, so I guess it's not exactly a parallel. ...but how dare you call me a BALDING... WHITE... MALE!)

The truth is many balding white males are wealthy and well-adjusted (IT'S NOT FAIR!) and have no need for advancement, so I doubt I could get any members and fashion a group of any political influence. How about the National Association for the Advancement of Hairy Legged Aluminum Workers (NAHLAW)? How about the National Association for the Advancement of Skinny Beer Swillers (NAASBS)? I'm addressing all members in the mirror shortly.

In other, I swear totally unrelated, news... this incident (pointed out by Lileks) I found strangely fascinating. Then it was blogged by someone who saw the exchange happen (here). And then there's the flickr page. And then this site, The Consumerist, fleshes out the story, at which point I found myself suddenly siding with the coffee shop. Not convinced? Well, did you read the backstory at Starbucks Gossip? What is the whole wide world coming to? But, wow, thank goodness we have the technology to document it!

The "ghetto latte". I've never ordered one. I hope it never comes to that for me. I've made them at home unwittingly, and found them to be refreshing without any undue ascorbic aftertaste. My Jewish wife was not offended. You see, the word "ghetto" actually refers to the Venetian Ghetto in Venice where the Jews were forced to live, and "ghetto" actually means "foundry" in Italian, in reference to the foundry on the same island as the area of Jewish confinement. A "foundry" is a place for metal workers. I happen to be a coffee-loving, metal worker who has a Jewish wife and, somehow, the term "ghetto latte" does not offend me. I am also white, male, and balding -like John McCain!

Well, okay, sorry if I offended anyone, here. I'm a pretty sensitive and insecure guy, but hey, I'm trying to get over it. Political Correctness defends the thin-skinned adult-babies of the world, and to them I say, show a little backbone, willya?

Case in point.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

We're back online! Went down to get the computer from the Mac store geniuses last night and the only words exchanged were "Here's the Beast." when the guy brought it out to me and "Do I have to wait in line?" when I arrived to see about thirty people standing out front for a new phone. (A new phone!) I showed the guy at the door my work slip and he waved me in, past all the folks who looked pointedly annoyed. Inside, everyone wore cute little iPhone shirts. Now seriously. What other company changes their uniform for a product release? I'm sure you can think of one.

The thing works great. Good as new. Like slippery lightning rocketing over ball bearings. Like a spring hummingbird in heat. Like... oh, something else that goes fast and is overwritten for weak humorous effect. Anyway, the thing is great and I am grateful to have it and have it back. Now it's back to all those chores I've got piled up on it. When I get time. (And they're still there, mind you, they didn't accidentally-unfortunately get erased.)

So, did they replace the old video card with the updated and quicker one? No. Yes, it's mildly disappointing, seeing as the new hotness is the same price as the old and busted, and the old and busted they had to back order. Oh well. If it breaks in another six months, I'll fix it myself. (Seeing as I don't really want to shell out the $250 for the extended warranty.)

In the news... did you see this? Who would've thunk that our entomologists would fail us so. Of course, they won't just name the damn thing, IT HAS GOT TO BE RESEARCHED. No wonder they can't figure out what's wrong with the bees. It makes me worried and nervous when the scientists are out to lunch on the back patio while all of undiscovered science is just buzzing around the deck. Somehow, this story seems related. "Look, we're the government. We're not paying you to be visionaries or discoverers. Get back to work at that slow, bureaucratic mess we have you properly tangled in." Meanwhile, some genius is scribbling a plan for 600 miles per gallon of seawater on the back of a pizza box. That's the guy who could have fixed my Mac wearing a straitjacket and clothespins on his eyelids in as long as it took to boot the thing up, but corporate policy is to shelve it for a week so it looks like we have too much to do. I mean, who wants to work hard? Only the real geniuses, but the Peter Principle places them outside of the institutionalized pay scale. Best to take them out back and rough them up in the alley -that'll teach them to think around here!

Speaking of the level of my incompetance [sic], aluma-work awaits me today, all 31 and a half feet of it. I'm having this one delivered by the professionals as I draw the line at 26 feet for personal transport. Plus, I'm not sure the gas prices have caught up with the manufacturer's delivery truck as they have with us. Anyway, it gives me more time this week to get it done -which is really what I've been needing this year -more time. May God richly bless the scientists researching the solution to that one.


Monday, July 14, 2008

Ended up having a weekend, and one fence the better for it. Funny how that works. It was the first normal weekend in quite a while. By "normal" I mean the kind of weekend where you come home from work on Friday, have dinner and put the kid to bed after the bath. Then there's some Tv snoozing before you slog upstairs to bed. Saturday you have coffee and head out to take the kid to swim lessons and then it's to the hardware store for a little of this and that. Come home and have a sandwich, fix the toilet, mend the fence, fire up the barbecue and have a beer. Tv. Bed. Sunday morning, church. Lunch. Finish yesterday's task. Kick the ball around in the backyard with the kid, and there: A Proper Weekend. With good weather. Perfect.

Glad it was done, too, as the next four weekends are all laced up for out-of-town parties of some sort. I had the feeling the summer was going to whisk past us this year, leaving us stranded on the sidewalk of winter, and when I mentioned it to Mrs. Ditchman, she agreed and we sighed together, but I looked at the calendar and pointed out a weekend in September on which nothing was happening. See? There's still a bit of summer out there to be had, honey!

God bless those who see summer as The Coming of the Great New Apple Merchandise. God help those who took their computers into the shop a few days before the big release. Still haven't heard from them and I fear I will be cutting and pasting and phoning in orders again today. Now there will be a blank spot on my computer business record (assuming I ever get it back) and I will recall how I did not purchase an iPhone that week. The poor geniuses obviously have their hands full. I heard the Apple systems went down (what genius do they go to?) and though market share is up, stock prices have fallen. Oh well.

I fixed the hole in the fence. In that grand comedy of life, a section of my old and busted fence went off on its fence afterlife reincarnated as someone else's window shutters. (I'd show you pics but the geniuses have them.) I was hoping that by making shutters out of the fence, it would compel the Ditchman compound to repair the fence once and for all, and then we found that we had no time or money. So the perimeter of the compound was willfully compromised by myself, and that for the past few months. It has made Mrs. D feel vulnerable, so when my computer was in the shop and all other obligations got shelved for the weekend and I found myself on Friday with an extra $150, I thought it was a good time to fix it. Funny, too, as I had just about given up on the thing. Anyway, it looks great and I'm glad to have it up. You gotta have a fence, you know, lest the suburbs just creep into your yard while you're out. All prowlers can now go burgle someone else's property, someone with a lower fence, while I'm away at summer camp.

Again, everything has piled up around here, like one of those towering trash piles from Wall-E, and the treads have just come off the cart. Who knows if we'll get anything done today? I should probably get out of these jammies and just pretend to get something done. Sometimes if you just fake it, you find after a while that you're actually getting somewhere. Keep in mind, however, that this works with household chores, but not if you're lost in the forest. If you get lost in the trees, stay put until someone finds you. But if you get lost in the suburbs, the uncertainty of everything may just lead you back to that broken fence one unplanned weekend.


Friday, July 11, 2008

The Family Supercomputer is still at the shop. I realized this yesterday when I sat down to manage my home business and had nothing to work with. The whole "you should back up your hard drive" thing suddenly took on a new significance as I realized six or seven years of business records, templates, documents, phone numbers and addresses were sitting on a hard drive in a broke-down computer in a plastic sack on the floor of some back room in a mall next to a number of similar sacks and a guy hunched over a table eating a burrito.

So I took an old piece of stationary and cut and paste the weekly receipts and invoices onto it, made a few photocopies, and actually phoned in the orders. They were nonplussed to hear my friendly voice, so old school. I got out of there quick and went to work. Real work, too, with a hammer in the heat, ending with a day at the dump. In the shower that evening, someone else's house just melted off me and went down the drain in a slow, muddy torpor. Sometimes I think that dirt is the only thing keeping me from getting skin cancer. Sometimes I think that dirt is going to clog up that drain something fierce and keep me working through the weekend. And sometimes it does.

Last night at the dinner table, Mrs. Ditchman claimed she was exhausted from the day. This is always the last battle for me. I'm not fighting her, rather, I'm fighting myself. It's that old game of who's-worked-harder and who's-more-tired. It's the level boss. You've been fighting all day and then the big, bad one comes out to defeat you once and for all. In the video games, when you get to the end of the level, you reach for your gun and you're usually as spry and full of energy as when you began the level. In real life, you get to the end of the day, reach for your gun, and strain your back.

So you try not to start, and it can be a real battle. For a bonus total you try and sympathize, but it never comes off earnest enough to land a big score. If you lean back and sit silently you can usually make it through the round, but you end it on your face, which is thoroughly undignified. The only way to win is to realize everyone's got their own haul, and it can be hard on all of us from time to time, but this family's in it together. We're in it to win it. If everyone has an easy day, you celebrate. If one person has a bad day, you carry them. If everyone has a bad day, well, you carry them.

I'm not saying it's easy. I'm saying it's the only way to win.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

I couldn't resist watching Mythbusters last night. They were determined to make a lead balloon, to see if it would go down like one. No, a real lead balloon. Out of lead! I didn't think they could do it, but they did. It was awesome. Some guys get all the good jobs.

Speaking of balloons... you're wondering what happened to lawn-chair-and-helium-balloon guy, right? Well, he's fine. He made it! (Nearly 200 miles.) He's probably hitching his way back from Idaho right now, because if I was his wife, I wouldn't go pick him up. Check out the history of lawn chair ballooning here. Truly fascinating stuff. ("A man can't just sit around.") Most of it ends tragically, though it was featured in an episode of Mythbusters. I believe I saw that episode and the guys proved it was possible. (Well, of course it's possible!)

Also on Mythbusters last night: they dropped 200 pounds of TNT into a quarry lake and blew it up to see if they could make a wave that they could surf. No kidding. Preliminary research indicated that the underwater shockwave from the explosion would cause your lungs to FILL WITH BLOOD within an hour, so they made a robot on a surfboard that would paddle into the wave, if it came. Seriously, THEY MADE A SURFING ROBOT AND CREATED A WAVE BY DETONATING EXPLOSIVES IN A LAKE. Like I said, some guys get all the good jobs.

Of course, the explosion was neat, but the waves it created weren't exactly surfable. They deemed the myth "busted", but my understanding of waves is that they grow in size from the shallowing water and I think they missed the drop-in on that one, but what do I know? I was a naysayer on the lead balloon.

So they worked in flight, surfing, explosions, robots... how could I not watch? I'm surprised they weren't drinking beer on the sidelines with scantily-clad women, but then again they must not be serious about getting good ratings.

Deadliest Catch has been pretty good lately, too -have you been catching that one?


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Everything is on fire. 3200 people were ordered out of Paradise as the wind-stoked wildfire tore through, incinerating anything in its path. The shelters are full. The firefighters are exhausted. A heat wave is forecast. Nothing can be done except hope and pray. What did we do to deserve it? Nothing. When will it end? No one knows. What more can be done? Little more, as nearly everything has been tried. The governor can only say: "Our brave firefighters are doing their best!" so many times before the fatigue sets in and the best cannot be done.

But there are things a fire will not burn. No matter what heights the flames reach, they will not singe your resolve. No matter how deliberately they burn, they only clear the view to the horizon. An inferno brings nothing but dissonance, but from the human soul, only consonance. You may stand and watch the fire take it all away, and you may say that it is all in God's hands, but even God cannot touch your resolve to keep moving away from the flames, moving to a place where you and God mingle indefinitely -a grateful place of searing ardor no senseless wildfire could ever find. Then the fire will move on to destroy and devour and leave cold some other place, and having made its name known, will be easy to recognize when it returns.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

They took it! They took it. The Family Supercomputer. Who took it? The GENIUSES at the Mac bar. The geniuses told me it may be a bad video card, maybe a bad logic board. Well, I'm no genius but even I knew that.

So, before you mock me for owning a Mac, consider this while you wait for the SAVANTS at the PC bar (oh wait, there aren't any?): I've never claimed the Mac to be a superior computer. It's got its problems like all the others. I do consider it to have a superior operating system, however. I have all the same problems PC-users have getting mine up to speed but I can fix them in half the keystrokes. Are these things irritating and confusing? Yes. But where the PCs are always asking technical questions, the Mac never does. It either handles it on its own or explains and walks you through it in something more akin to that oft-used and handy parlance: Common English.

Anyway, the thing came on the other day and it looked like a bad day on a snowy, desolate landscape of Hoth. Then, after I got it going, it wouldn't wake from "sleep", which is an affliction going around the house these days. It was under warranty so I took the thing in, and they said they needed to keep it for a few days, so here I am on the old-and-busted model. I picked it up off the floor, blew the dust off it, cranked the flywheel a few times and it fired right up! It's a sweet little model. Some day it will be downstairs in the kitchen as a recipe hub. A fine retirement.

I guess these bad video cards are making their way into a lot of computers of late. The forums are all describing the same things. I suspect that it may have something to do with the recent model upgrades and the new operating system, but what do I know? Some folks have reported getting their computer back from the GENIUSES with a faster video card. One can only hope. (oh please! oh please!)

So I made an appointment at the Mac Store and hauled the beast in. The crowd hushed and parted as I made my way to the back of the store and hoisted it up onto the bar. It was the biggest thing there. A genius was assigned to me.

The geniuses are very friendly. Still, they admonished me for not shelling out the $250 for the 3-year extended service contract last November, but then I admonished them with the plain fact that the hardware is covered for a year and the "service" only gives me tech support over the phone which is more time-consuming and less educational than actually googling it off the net. Then they kindly informed me that the hardware is only covered for a year and the service plan lasts three years and I told them yeah but I get four years of hardware service if I sign up at the end of October. Silence.

"What seems to be the trouble, then?"

"Oh. It doesn't work."

"All right, let's take a look." Two other guys shadowed him as he began to hook up the peripherals. "Don't mind us!" they said. "We're just shadowing!" They had clipboards with quizzes on them. Geniuses in training, no doubt.

Wanting to avoid all the usual jabber about things I already know (this happens to me in Home Depot and the Toyota Service Center all the time) I explained that I already performed the Disk Utility multiple times, including re-installing the system software, repairing all the permissions, zapping the PRAM, resetting the SMC, and pissing on the spark plugs. Nothing worked. "Did you try taking out that third-party memory you installed and then booting it up from there?"

The shadow geniuses-in-training raised their eyebrows. I admitted I hadn't remembered to try that. I had been assured that the RAM would work perfectly in this model. The guy nodded condescendingly, like he'd seen such insolence before. He pulled the RAM out and put it in a little baggy, handing it to me with an upturned nose. "The heat sinks on these are obviously too small." Well, obviously.

He hadn't even booted the thing up yet and I suddenly had that sickening feeling that it was going to work just fine. It must be a named condition in science, where you drive the car down to the mechanic and when you get there you pray that it still makes the bad sound so everyone can be in agreement. The genius clicked the on button and...


Oh, great. There was the spirited, coming-online sound (now immortalized as the Wall-E startup chime) and we waited as the spinning ball stretched and loaded. Everyone leaned in to the screen and just as I was about to panic defensively -there it was: Hoth.

"Whoa." And everyone leaned back.

Shadow Genius #2 mentioned to Shadow Genius #1 that he had seen something similar right before the power source had "blown-up" in his old Mac Pro. "Blown-up?" I asked. He made an interesting explosion noise with accompanying gesticulation. "Smoke was coming out of the housing. My ears rang for a day," he said. And I thought Macs were supposed to be so great.

The genius said they'd have to keep it for a few days, which was okay by my ears. He asked me if my hard drives were all backed up and, of course, they weren't. He chided me, asked me to sign here, said they'd have it back good-as-new-in-a-day-or-two. They needed my password and for a moment I wished it had been "upyours2", like I use for all my Internet accounts, but oh well. I signed it over and thanked him, he handed me the power cord ("Keep this. You'll need it later.") and I turned to go before I heard, "Wait!" and the DVD drive opened up with a disc inside. It was Ratatouille. "Is this yours?" he smiled. Okay genius, bring it down a notch.

They tried to sell me backup hard drives and iPhones on my way out. I resisted the temptation and made my way past the hoardes with my power cord, my cartoon movie, my memory in a baggy, and what was left of my dignity. Everyone stared. Outside in the mall, a man walked up to me and -I kid you not- asked me if there was a "Radio Shack" nearby. I told him I had no idea. "Oh," he said. "I saw you with the power chord and thought..."


Monday, July 7, 2008

So our wild plans for a glorious 4th celebration, the Little Ditchman's first real fireworks experience, were shelved for something much less grandiose. The reasons had to do with recent exhaustions and the general longing for "time at home" -which I put in quotes not as a sarcastic reference but as a denotation of the idyllic setting it promises -and usually delivers- when I get around to it. Note to self: Home is great. Tis a lovely place. Should spend more time there.

We'd been building up a few ideas in the head of the Little Ditchman in an effort to teach her anticipation and an understanding of the difference between the present, the near future, and the distant future. It's a tricky set of concepts for a two-year-old, this temporal construct we reside in. If you state that something is going to happen tomorrow, say, and she doesn't know what "tomorrow" even is... well, it could happen anytime, then! You see, tomorrow is what happens after today, after we sleep, and then tomorrow becomes today. And tomorrow happens over and over and over again, but it never really comes, because then it's today. And then she asks about grandma's party, where she gets to eat cake, but, uh, no, that's next week. To a two-year-old, next week is like a thousand successive tomorrows. You may as well never get your hopes up for the eating of cake.

The Big Plan was to take the old boat out into the harbor and "wear our lifejackets" as the Little Ditchman was forewarned, and then there was going to be some fishing, a barbeque on the boat at sunset, and then fireworks(!) but, alas. Lack of extra deckhands and the price of gas and the busy workweek prior to it all got in the way. We were tired before it even started. Luckily, we had also told her that we were going to see Wall-E, so it was a cinchy replacement. She munched popcorn all the way into the second act, at which point she promptly fell asleep.

Then we grabbed some old meat out of the fridge and wandered over to the neighbors to see what they were doing. I burned my arm on the unfamiliar barbeque in front of twenty strangers and pretended nothing happened. Upon our arrival the Little Ditchman noticed the other kids playing on a SlipnSlide out on the grass and we had barely made our introductions when she turned to mommy and said, "Mommy. Go get my swimsuit." Mommy did, and while she was running up the street the Little Ditchman stripped down to her skivvies and refused to put anything back on until Mommy returned with the swimsuit. So there I was with a naked little g!rl, introducing myself to strangers, right before I burned my arm.

Later, in the parking lot of a strip mall, we sat in the back of a minivan and watched the local fireworks burst overhead, pulling our legs in from time to time for the passing cars looking for parking spaces. It was fun. The Little Mermaid was playing in the backseat and we had to shut it off mid-Under the Sea and force the groaning kids out to watch the heavenly illuminations, but after a few forced "oohs" and "ahhs" they came around. Local radio synchronized some music with the fireworks and the tinny sounds of "I'm Proud To Be An American" spilled out onto the asphalt and as I sat there, looking over at my beautiful wife with our child in her lap, the two of them staring up at the colored bursts and crackles beyond the fluorescent streetlamps and power-lines, I thought, I am proud to be an American, and for a fleeting moment, it felt like a real holiday. A holy day. The kind where, though your cup is already full to the brim, just a few drops of magic are added by fate and the bounty of good fortune runneth over.

We were lucky to be born here. Every day in America is a good day.


Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th of July! This is the day the Declaration of Independence was sent to the printers, who forthwith lost the original copy. (Can you believe it? Some things never change.) Congress voted in favor of the declaration on July 2nd, and then, in congressional fashion, spent a few days revising it. Much to the chagrin of Thomas Jefferson (who wrote it) they ended up cutting nearly a fourth of the text, including a section critical of the slave trade, then the changes were agreed upon and it was off to the printers and into history itself.

A few weeks later, on July 19th, most of congress got together and signed the nice parchment copy of the thing that everyone recognizes nowadays. John Dickinson of Pennsylvania stood in the back and refused to sign it -the only one. He had his reasons but he knew better, stating bluntly, "My conduct this day, I expect will give the finishing blow to my once too great and, my integrity considered, now too diminished popularity." He was the one who argued the most with John Adams on July 2nd, moving Adams into a passionate display that ended in the vote. John Adams was stoked! He went back to his lodgings and wrote to his wife:

"The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore."

It's interesting to note that he says "from one end of this continent to the other". The man was a visionary, even though he got the date wrong, and by "illuminations" we can be sure that he meant "fireworks".

Anyway, the image up top is what came back from the printers on July 6th. They also printed up a German version:

John Adams died on the 4th of July, exactly fifty years later. Amazingly, so did Thomas Jefferson. They were, at the time, the only two surviving signers of the Declaration, living through a little more than a fourth of our country's history. I picture them on their deathbeds, 1826, wondering about their legacies, with the thudding and booming of fireworks outside in the distance.

So they put "July 4, 1776" on the page because that's the day everyone was satisfied with the wording. If you don't know what the Declaration of Independence says, well, you should read it. It goes over all the reasons why the colonists don't like King George, and why they feel they have the right to ditch him as their leader. Among the reasons:

"He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people. He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy of the head of a civilized nation. He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands. He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions."

Seriously, what a ripe bastard! Such perfidy! Actions "totally unworthy of the head of a civilized nation"! You read that and none of the history that followed should come as a wonder.

We had declared our independence, but we still had to fight for it. On July 9th, George Washington read the Declaration to his assembled troops in New York, where they awaited the combined British fleet and army. (I would like to have seen that!) Later that night, American troops destroyed a bronze-lead statue of King George that stood at the foot of Broadway on the Bowling Green. The statue was melted down into bullets for the American Army.

We lost New York in the battle that followed, but won that war.

Thank God.

In Congress, July 4, 1776. The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America.

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security...


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Again with lawn-chair-and-helium-balloon-guy!

I was thinking about how I would bag on and mock this garbanzo-brained Darwin-tester when it occurred to me that I secretly envied him. I mean, imagine the rush you would get sitting there in your lawn chair, checking the altimeter and realizing you were rising too fast... and then the adrenaline shooting through your body as you precariously stand on the chair, preparing to bail out... and then the familiar wet warmth that fills your jeans as you lean forward, the chair shooting up behind you, and you flailing about for the rip cord... Well, happy 4th of July. You're a firework.

His name is Ken Couch, so it seems odd that he would choose a lawn chair, but go figure. I'm not sure how he got his wife's blessing on the third try -which seems the real feat here. He's "plenty confident" and he's bringing boiled eggs and chocolate for sustenance. Boiled eggs and chocolate? He's planned this? Oh, and jerky.

Anyway, he's got a corporate sponsor -which he'll need to pay the FAA fines. He also has five children. Now, before you go and chide him for being an irresponsible parent teaching his kids to act out on their crazy childish fantasies, consider that it may have been the five kids that drove him over the edge in the first place. I mean, seriously, five kids will make you crazy. I've only got one and I'm halfway there. Also, he has a chihuahua, which, in my humble opinion, he should take on the trip to use as ballast.

He will be launching out of the parking lot of the Stop & Go Mini-Mart in Bend, Oregon at 6:00AM on Saturday. (Think the cops will show?) There will be free helium balloons for the kids and Eastside Java will be serving Bellatazza coffee and lattes. God bless America!

Here's Ken's website: www.couchballoons.com. Check out the video.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The other Sean posted today a link to this website called Athlinks which is like MySpace for runners. I immediately signed up! It takes all of the races you've run and automatically plops them on a page for you, so you and others on the net can gaze in stunned awe at your accomplishments. If you're lucky, you'll get a few more races on there from other folks with the same name. Hopefully they're faster than you.

So I've signed up for YET ANOTHER free internet myfacebookspace service that asks for my bio and email address and whatnot. We are all marketing targets in this day and age, and I know that the more of these things I sign on to, the bigger those red circles get on my back. Ho hum, I'm not particularly bothered by it. Yet. You can't fight it son, they already know where you are! Thankfully, my Mac email filter sifts through all the junk pretty well. And I have one password that I use for all of these things. (It's "upyours2" if you wanted to know. It's six letters and a number, easy to remember, states how I feel, and I don't care who knows it. Want to hack into my sites? Go for it! If you have that much free time, you deserve the distraction. And I can always change it to "sukit4ever".)

The Athlinks site is kinda cool, though. I'm always sifting through my old running files to see how I performed and with what training strategy I used, so this is a nifty tool to keep it all in one place. I'm also interested in checking out my buddy's gear and their recent times and stuff, too, so it should be fun. Running is a communal event (some would argue that it's the communal event) so sites like this are good, I think.

Some people freak out about all the info that's on them out there on the Internet and it's an understandable concern. There's more than we realize, too, so if you're prone to anxiety about your identity then you're better off if you unplug the computer. I easily found a site recently that had every address I've ever lived at since 1987 and it was kinda helpful, actually, because I had lost some of those old addresses! It also had every permutation of name spelling, schools attended, various ages, and a few other mildly significant (and often incorrect) quantities. I've considered entering misinformation every time I'm asked, off by one or two data points, to throw off any future bill collectors or drunk dialers -but then I realized it's just easier to pay the bills and answer the phone.

Some people don't want to be found, I know. Some people want to live in stark anonymity and to them I say, how unfortunate for you that you were born in this age! As well, there's probably a website that flags everyone who is not connectable, thus categorizing them under the "probably problematic" heading. And then there are the people who want to be found, who would paint their names on billboards if they had a ladder handy. People who spend hours pining for celebrity and recognition -like it would increase their actual self-worth, without toughing out the difficult, thankless work of integrity itself.

And then there's the rest of us. You can find me if you look hard enough -and you don't even have to look all that hard. I keep my Social Security number to myself but other than that I don't have much to hide, and even less to impress. I'm over here going about my business in the suburbs, probably the most anonymous place in America, but sometimes I go looking for you, too. Who knows? In that vast cybernetic wasteland, we may find each other.

People do.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Well, okay, it's July 1st. Halftime 2008. Let's check the scoreboard and see how we're doing...


Moving right along, then!

If you live in California, don't use your cel phone without the proper geeky headset anymore. The new law goes into effect today. I was thinking about this yesterday as I was hurtling down the freeway at seventy miles an hour eating an In-N-Out burger and I decided that this was another one of those dumb laws that was really just a waste of paper and everyone's precious time. People complain when our legislators are on vacation all the time, but I say GIVE THEM MORE TIME OFF!

Oh sure, this will probably save lives and all. So would making a law that banned people from eating in their cars while driving, or texting on their cel while driving -which is still legal, by the way. Doesn't this all fall under the category of "distracted driving" which is already an offense? Okay, fine, whatever. I don't much like talking on the phone in the car, or much at all, anyway -so it's another good excuse to not answer the phone. (It's probably just some angry customer, anyway.)

Lileks' review of WALL-E the other day was a fine example of a good movie review, if you caught it. And, by that, I mean a good movie, well-reviewed. Movie reviews can be pretty tricky, if you've ever tried to write one, and I lamented a week or so ago that I struggle finding anything to say about films that I like. I'm just set back on my stump, usually, but if I sit and stew long enough I can come up with reasons why something works and this is what Lileks does. The trick, of course, is to keep it from sounding boring and pedantic, like a college course requirement, and to persuade someone to actually go see the flick.

Bad movie reviews (that is, bad movies, well-reviewed) are much easier to do -and much more fun. The point there being to persuade someone not to see the flick, save time, and donate the money to a worthy charity. An old friend and I keep in touch from time to time by exchanging the most recent sweet review of a bad movie, and laughing about it. It began with the L.A. Weekly review of City Slickers 2 from years and years ago. I still remember its opening line:

"Yee haw! City Slickers 2 is the rootinest, tootinest piece of sh!t this side of the Rio Grande!"

Lately, it seems, one of the worst films of all time has reached the theaters, Mike Myers's The Love Guru. I haven't seen it, but the reviews are excellent! Here's an excerpt from the review on Slate.com which is titled "No Love for The Love Guru" which has the capitalized sub-heading "WOW, WHAT A BAD MOVIE."

There are good movies. There are bad movies. There are movies so bad they're good... And once in a while there is a movie so bad that it takes you to a place beyond good and evil and abandons you there, shivering and alone. Watching The Love Guru ...is the most joy-draining 88 minutes I've ever spent outside a hospital waiting room. In the course of those long minutes, Myers leads you on a journey deep inside himself, to the source from whence his comedy springs—and it's about as much fun as a tour of someone's large intestine.

It continues.

Some of the lowest moments involve Sir Ben Kingsley, who appears as Pitka's mentor, the permanently cross-eyed Guru Tugginmypudha. I've read that Kingsley, who was made a knight of the realm in 2001, often alienates the English press by insisting on the usage of his full title, even in casual social situations. If he's that concerned about maintaining his dignity, he might reconsider taking on roles in which people swordfight with mops soaked in their own p!ss.

Wonderful! Can't wait to not see it! Not convinced? Okay, here's the review from the New York Times:

To say that the movie is not funny is merely to affirm the obvious. The word “unfunny” surely applies to Mr. Myers’s obnoxious attempts to find mirth in physical and cultural differences but does not quite capture the strenuous unpleasantness of his performance. No, “The Love Guru” is downright antifunny, an experience that makes you wonder if you will ever laugh again.

And this is, come to think of it, something of an achievement. What is the opposite of a belly laugh? An interesting question, in a way, and to hear lines like “I think I just made a happy wee-wee” or “I’m making diarrhea noises in my cup” or to watch apprentice gurus attack one another with urine-soaked mops is to grasp the answer. Please don’t misunderstand: I’m not opposed to infantile, regressive, scatological humor. Indeed, I consider myself something of a connoisseur. Or maybe a glutton. So it’s not that I object to the idea of, say, witnessing elephants copulate on the ice in the middle of a Stanley Cup hockey match, or seeing a dwarf sent flying over the same ice by the shock of defibrillator paddles. But it will never be enough simply to do such things. They must be done well.

Fantastic! It is a vast, transcendent insult to write a review of a comedy that is funnier than the comedy being reviewed.

Meanwhile, in the comedy of my life, Mrs. Ditchman is yelling from downstairs that there has been a flood in the garage.

I must be going. (Wee-wee!)