Sunday, November 30, 2008

It's November 30th, a Ditchman High Holy day, whereas 6 years ago today I did the wisest thing in recorded family history; whereas I asked Marci to marry me. Whereas, in spite of her keen sense of duty, self-sacrifice, and self-determination she actually said "yes" anyway. Whereas I am eternally grateful.

She will celebrate the high holy day by being too busy to notice it. She will toil in the kitchen over the din of crying children, making supper and cleaning house, and tonight she'll sleep in 3-hour stints waking intermittently to feed the baby. Researchers have found that interrupted sleep will make a man crazy, but she's too far gone for that: she married me, remember?

Sorry boys, but I'm the luckiest man alive. No man's wife puts up with more and lives to shut up about it. This is a woman who took me on, if only for the challenge, and merrily repeats it day after day. Then she bore my children, which is like suffering through more of me around, and gives them all the impossible love they demand.

When we got married I told her selfishly that I would never be happy working in construction. She took something I hated and made it something I could be proud of. And then when I indulged in my selfish pursuits she left me the checkbook and got out of the way. And when I demanded wine and fruit and pearls, she got me all that and starlight. Again, I'm the luckiest man. I don't need anyone to tell me about it. I'm well aware of it.

She married me, who had nothing and was nothing. It was an endeavor with no legitimate hope of a favorable outcome, and yet she made a man out of me. Now we have a successful business and a happy family and we live in the nicest house in the suburbs. She's a hardworking genius -the Edison of Oceanside- but she's too humble to notice. And too busy. She's an ardent wife, a powerful mother, and the household executive. And she has no expectations that anyone will care.

I may not be cognizant enough to notice it all, but what I see is enough to slay whatever pride runs awry in this domicile and I know enough to at least say thank you, Marci.

And I love you.

You amaze me.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Greetings from a windswept and rain-soaked Thanksgiving morning in Oceanside, where Family Ditchman pulled it out early to run the local Turkey Trot, 3rd annual -and three times in a row for us! It rained all night but cleared up just in time for a strikingly beautiful beachside race. It's raining again now, but we got nary a drop on us this morning, and for that we were very grateful, given the regettable fortunes of previous races this year.

It was a good run. All bragging rights were secured, and we shall indulge guiltlessly later today with extra helpings of pumpkin cheesecake. We're headed over the river and through the woods to see grandmother and other parts family, which should be nice. That is to say: it will be a nice long drive up the Interstate 5 in rainy holiday traffic. Oh well. I can look forward to Michael Medved's Thanksgiving lecture (if the kids fall asleep.)

Today's new thing was the "double-jogger stroller" which we borrowed from family Harrington. This is quite a machine! Load up your family and all the gear and go for a nice run. As Kurt put it: "Yeah, it works great! But it's like pushing a Hyundai!" Actually it wasn't so bad, but your typical runner's workout it is not. Still, I got a lot of impressive nods from overly-confident dads pushing their wimpy single-jogger strollers. (But I was sweating more.)

So I let Mrs. Ditchman push it to see how she liked it. And how about that Mrs. Ditchman? Four weeks out of birthing and she's pushing a Hyundai in a 5K! What a woman.

For her, I am very grateful. And also for my healthy family, my loyal friends, and these fine suburbs in this great nation. God bless us, every one.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

No work today! And for that, I am grateful. Still, when I have a day off it's usually spent cleaning out the garage. Tools and trash and sawdust pile up for weeks on end while I go in and out of there between jobs. I finished the biggest job of the year yesterday and am just happy to have it behind me. The thing is heeeuuujjj! I adjusted the rafter spacing by an inch. I know this concerns you, but it just seemed like there were too many rafters. There were also too many sets of engineering plans. The set I was referring to says my new rafter spacing is fine and dandy, but of course the customer used the other set of plans to pull the permit. There is some concern it won't pass inspection, so I didn't get paid yesterday. It's a holiday week. Who knows when the inspector will come?

But this customer is a real nice guy, (like they all are.) He's recently retired and seemed to be looking for someone to talk to every day, since his wife is at work. He'd wander out on his heeeeuuujjj patio each afternoon and chat with me, while I pretended that I didn't have chronic leaden-stomached nausea. He began to tell me his life story last Thursday and I felt like I was going to hurl the whole time. At one point, I just wondered where the story was going to end. It should have been obvious: it ended with us standing right there on the patio beneath his unfinished shade structure.

Mrs. Ditchman asked Little Ditchman if she wanted to help make a "pumpkin cheesecake" this morning. This got a perfectly cocked head out of her, like a golden retriever hearing a new noise. Seems the words "pumpkin", "cheese" and "cake" aren't really supposed to go together. The kid might be right. We'll see.

I stopped at the grocery on the way home and bought dinner: CRAB. I love CRAB! Love it. It was on sale and I thought we'd celebrate the big job ending, (even though we haven't been paid yet) which is why I went for it. Rung up on the cash register at $54.00 but I had a club card, so it came down to $20. What savings! Gone are the days when things could just be marked down -now you need to be in the club. I'm in a million clubs, and am very popular with junk mail as a result. My uniquely adept form-filling abilities qualify me to be in such a prestigious array of clubs. My wallet is a vast repository of club cards and they drive me beats-all batty when I have to fumble through them at the checkout stand. One time I had a register lady chide me for all the cards I had and I just looked at her like, whose fault is this? Oddly, last week I was overcharged ten bucks for a bottle of wine. Didn't get my club savings, which is the whole reason I bought it. She carded me and I actually showed her my I.D., which screwed up everything. The savings didn't come up in the computer, so it couldn't possibly exist, but I went back and showed her -had to take her down the aisle and point out the tag on the rack. She was astonished that a mistake could possibly have been made, and ripped the tag off right then and there, cursing some thoughtless stock boy under her breath, and depressing some hapless shopper standing behind us. She gave me ten bucks. I guess that's how it works with price increases at grocery stores: Rip, Snarl, Redeem. The free market at work.

There should be one club card. You could have a million clubs, just one card. Put it on your iPod. Bluetooth the thing. Use my fingerprint. Scan my buttcrack. Really, who cares? Has anyone ever actually been denied club savings for not having a card? The checkout person usually has one hanging from her apron and she just scans it for you! ("Club card?" "Use yours.") The whole thing has reached absurd proportions. Still, I am a "Super Saver" with nearly a thousand "Rewards Points" in the current "earn cycle" with a "verified total savings" of well over $30! And that's just in my last purchase! I know it's true because it was verified. Imagine how much I could save if I used my "gift card points", "coupons", and "double coupons": they'd be paying me to take all that wine and CRAB off their busy, troubled hands!

Anyway, I'm going to bring it all up at the next club meeting.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It's a good thing we had a boy this time. It's a good thing we had a boy this time because this morning The Little Ditchman actually asked to watch Dancing With The Stars instead of Little Einsteins. Mommy saw this as a cute she's mommy's little girl thing. Dreams of going off trail and scampering up steely boulders deep in the Sierra with my son are now vivid and pronounced.

Seems the two-year-old will get to stay up a little later on Monday and Tuesday nights (and Wednesday is dance class, of all things.) She caught a glimpse of the Hollywood dancing a few weeks ago and was transfixed. Last night she overheard us talking about it and climbed up on the couch a few minutes before it came on, and when the show began... all was stillness, mouth agape. I watched the first dance and then cleared out when the Little Ditchman commented on the nice "red tap shoes" of one of the dancers. She was eating M&Ms at the time. So there they were, Mommy and daughter, sitting on the couch eating chocolate, watching Dancing With The Stars, and commenting on the shoes. Like I said, I cleared out of there. With a beer.

I suppose it was inevitable. "That's my show!" she exclaimed, over and over, after she got out of the bath and prancing naked in the hall before bedtime. So I got the dinosaur book out this morning (a good one -one from my childhood -one I was keeping in reserve) and tried to interest her in some Jurassic pursuits, but eventually she just asked to watch DWTS. I put Little Einsteins on and went upstairs to get ready for work. With a beer. (Just kidding.)

It's just as well. I want to make a woman out of her and Mrs. Ditchman is more qualified to emphasize the feminine parts than I am. But I will teach her the dinosaur names for good measure, just so she doesn't fall into that trap of being unduly impressed by all the precocious boys out there, with their X-Boxes and Bionicles. She'll hold her own. I've already got her waving her hand and saying these aren't the droids you're looking for, so we're off to a strong start. Next spring we'll work on the Alec Guiness impersonation.

But no DWTS for Little Digger. I'll go back to watching Fringe, with all it's sci-fi gore and gunfire, if that's what it's going to take. We're gonna make a man out of him.

And I suppose he has this to look forward to, along the merry way to manhood (from Lileks):

When I was growing up Jane Russell was the old lady in the bra ad. It lifts and separates! It’s an 18-hour bra! These were mysterious concepts. What happened after 18 hours? Did it burst into flames? Did it drop and smush? Even the word PLAYTEX was strange, like some sort of moist clay-like plastic.

Bras are very unnerving to boys of a certain age. A trip to the department store often meant some red-faced time in Bra Land with Mom, looking up at acres of bras hanging like scalps from some strange war only adults knew about.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Wanton, unapologetic Spoiler Alert.

At the beginning of 24: Redemption, which I watched last night, the screen says: "The following takes place in real time," and it says it completely without irony, given that after this episode, the show takes a two month break, no doubt well-deserved after the two-year CTU-free intermission we've recently enjoyed out in tv wasteland.

Jack Bauer is in Africa (!) in that famously war-ravaged country of Senegala or Sri Kanya or Mozamboku or something, and there is about to be a military coup. Will Jack stop the coup? No -he's busy saving the children of Africa and, no, he doesn't save all of the children of Africa, though you might expect he'd try if given enough time, which is that elusive little thing that he never has. Twenty minutes or so into the television "event", our hero is strung up in a jungle shed and being tortured until it looks like he's going to break, sobbing and blithering until he reveals everything he knows; everything from where the children are hiding to the Pentagon secrets to Season 7 plot points and the color of Tony Almeda's gym shorts, but he escapes with the old break-the-torturer's-neck-with-the-legs routine. Genius! I guess the writers had to rough him up early on to get him good and mad for the next twenty-three and a half hours, for which they are also saving their own creative powers.

Mrs. Ditchman noted how hot he was, at about this point. She couldn't put her finger on what it was, exactly. She mentioned something about his masculine physique. If I had pointed out that a stoic hero of Jack Bauer's magnitude would probably be no less helpful around the house than yours truly, I'm sure I would have gotten the line, You're no Jack Bauer, honey. Uh, no. I'm not.

Because if I were, you'd be dead by now, honey. All of Jack's friends and family are dead, or mostly dead. (It's their most defining trait!) Early on in Redemption we meet a guy who's a friend of Jack's -old special forces buddy- and this guy seems like a real winner; really looking out for Jack, wants the best for him, wants the torture within to be easier than the torture without, etc. But an hour later they're all escaping with the African children and the guy steps on that heretofore unnoticed dramatic plot device, the land mine. After an emotional exchange, ("Go on without me! There's no time!") Jack turns tearfully and leaves his sorrowful buddy behind, standing there immobilized in the jungle. Minutes later in the distance: Boom. The sound of closure in a Jack Bauer relationship.

A bad guy came on screen. I recognized him from the red beret. Then another bad guy came on screen. Mrs. Ditchman recognized him from General Hospital. She said "he was bad on that show, too" so the poor bastard was typecast, but hey there's a paycheck in it. (Or perhaps she was referring to his theatric abilities.) And then there's the new president, who may be bad or good -we don't know. She (yes, she) is about to be sworn in at the inauguration, so any political maneuvering can't be dramatically instituted until she takes the oath later on in the show. Meanwhile, Lame Duck President is having his last oval office whiskey while plotting the opposite of whatever it was she was plotting (there's a coup brewing in some African nation, remember?) They meet. They talk. They admit nothing. They smile menacingly. And then he gives her the notebook with all the presidential secrets. Seriously folks, it's all in a notebook. With a metal cover. (But not the codes, he says. Evidently, that's a different notebook.) Anyway, I was glad to see they got a new president. This show has had ten American presidents in the past seven years and I, nor evidently anyone else in the writer's guild, don't see any reason to stop electing new ones now.

So Jack escapes Africa with the children but in order to cover the cost of the iconic evacuate-the-embassy helicopter ride, he must give in to the bureaucrats and agree to suffer the torturous fulfillment of a congressional subpoena on torture. Earlier in the show he took a white hot machete to the ear and moments later he was on the phone, but he fought bravely against giving in to that subpoena. It was for the kids' freedom that he relented -for the kids! He didn't have a choice. In the end, they all escaped on the helicopter which should have just picked them up out in the jungle an hour earlier. Other refugee children were left at the gates, arms outstretched between the bars. Jack looked down as the chopper lifted off. He couldn't save them all, dammit, but he did what he could. Our forlorn hero.

Great show! The Season 7 promo alone looked better than all of Season 6, but a world with a nuked Valencia is probably an easier venue for a good thriller. I'm looking forward to it! It showed Jack in DC and I fretted over the fact that the first twelve hours of the season were going to be on an airplane, but then Mrs. Ditchman explained to me that this was a 24 "event" and not officially bound to the parameters of the new season -so they have the liberty to reset the clock. Whew. (But will six hours of next season take place at a congressional hearing? Tune in for non-stop Jack Bauer action!)

If you missed it, the DVD for 24: Redemption comes out tomorrow because, hey, Christmas is coming.

(Incidentally, Season 7 begins on Sunday, January 11th -the week before the real inauguration. Coincidence? I think not. Coinkeydink? Yes.)


Friday, November 21, 2008

I gave up on Fringe this week. You know, Fringe? "The show everyone's talking about!" It was on and I had the opportunity to watch it and I just didn't. Mrs. Ditchman said, "Your show is on," and I just said "No thanks," and went upstairs. She put on DWTS (which is on two nights in a row, in case you were wondering.) It was a strange, slightly guilty feeling giving up on the show like that -like breaking up with a cute girlfriend who you wanted to like but though she claimed to be enamored of you she always treated you with a mild, underhanded contempt. We were mid-story, and I just found myself not caring what happened and resigned myself to never finding out.

In a similar vein, or perhaps not, I am about two-thirds of the way through a book and reached a couple chapters I had already read. They were the chapters that got me hooked -I picked up the book a while back and just started reading somewhere in there and found it all compelling enough to start from the beginning, (which is saying something.) Now I've reached that section, and I'm wondering if I should just skip ahead or re-read. It doesn't matter, but I'd be finished faster, I guess. I'm not someone who puts back books just to grow the list, rather, I want to get something out of them. Is this one giving me anything? Meh. It's merely a good read. I can tell, because I started to skim those chapters and found that I only recalled, like, half of it.

And so if these are the things that trouble me most in life, then I'm a lucky man! But truth be told, I have other troubles, and relaying them here would be a sour, pessimistic way to end the week and have a weekend. It's Friday! And I have as much work to do today as I've had all week and half the energy to do it! We're all still sick here, some of us seem to be fairing worse, and even the cat's sick -which has us worried. He's old. And what do you do for a cat? It's not like you're going to give him a Tylenol, wrap him in blankets, talk sympathy and lovingly feed him Campbell's Chicken Noodle -no, he just has to suffer through the illness. Poor cat. He's lucky too, though. I mean, he's 19 and what's the lifespan of a Persian Cat in the wild? Ahhh, the wilds of windswept Persia, where prides of Persian Cats roam -among the fittest players in Nature's awesome display of the daily struggle to survive in the animal kingdom. Now there's a TV show I'd watch. On Domestic Animal Planet Network.

Have a purrrrr-fect weekend! (Sorry.)


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Came home last night to find the baby answer book opened to a page that said something like "endless crying," so that's what it's been like around here.

Also, we have router problems with our ethernet. Meaning: our net access is being routed into the ether. Sometimes it's there, sometimes it's not. We're being routed! No time or patience for any of this.

Still feel like I have a ten pound rock in my stomach, which makes it hard to bend over. Since most of work is "bending over", this makes for a trying week. Now, if we could route the endless crying, there might be hope.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Perhaps TODAY IS THE DAY! that the sickness leaves me entirely. Boy, I sure hope so. I won't get into the ugly specifics, but I can tell you that it's working its way through the system. (A Porta-John on the job site today may be necessary after all.) New theories posited are that it was this year's version of the flu, and though some of us got the shot, we got it in that two week timeframe where the vaccine doesn't work if you fall ill. So can I get my twenty bucks back? Anyway, I just hope the kids don't get it.

The new little digger is three weeks old today, and he's already gained a pound and an inch or so (of attitude)! Sleeping schedules have yet to be ordained, if you're wondering, so life here on Eastview remains challenged. The Ditchman Formerly Known As Little is benefitting from it all with more available TV time and the remaining Halloween candy (which we dole out in scanty portions.) She doesn't seem to understand that Halloween is gone, buried and interred (mostly) for another year and it's kind of sad to have to explain it to her. We always end with, "but Christmas is coming!" which she doesn't remember from a year ago, but she knows the drill all the same, "with Santa and presents and Christmas trees..."

Little Keaton has been receiving mail, which is an odd thing. I remember the same when the Little Ditchman was born -you come home from the hospital with this new baby and it's only a day or two before letters addressed to this new person arrive in your mailbox. It's kind of jarring, really, to see it in official print, at your address, not typed by you -but fun all the same. If you want to know, it's the insurance companies that have the kid's name and numbers, and they don't waste a second: Welcome to the world, two-day-old! BALANCE DUE... etc. With baby #1 we got a letter from the governor, thanking us for increasing the numbers of his constituency, but with baby #2 Arnold has sent us nothing as of yet. Budget cuts, no doubt.

Thanks again to all the well-wishers and local moms who made us dinner for the past couple weeks! It was seriously awesome of you, and though I'm sure we could have managed without, it made my couple weeks off a lot more relaxing, if not energizing. I was sad for a moment to think about how first-time moms aren't in any moms groups ('cause they have no kids) so they don't reap the benefits of the support chain, but then it occurred to me how much more work it is when you already have a child or two, and the sympathies of commiserating moms are that much greater. Thanks again. I don't know all of you personally, but I appreciate you all the same.

Eighty handmade baby announcements have been mailed! If you didn't receive yours, it's because you are most likely one of my countless Google stalkers who would prefer that I didn't have your current address. Or we could chalk it up to patent family oversight. My apologies. Email us your address and a beautiful photo of the most precious child of the season is yours. Suitable for framing, or better: the refrigerator door!

It's been a happy time, outside of the illness, and thanks again to everyone who has been so kind and tolerant of this growing clan. Have a good James A. Garfield's Birthday (1831).

(And thank you, Arnold. I will feed them "nourishing foods".)


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The answer to the question is "yes" there is something "less fun", and I spent a good portion of last night relinquishing my innards unto the bowel waste transfer receptacle in the master bedroom. There was a sweaty moment of hesitation, as I had to decide which bathroom to use. We're fortunate to have three here, and I knew that after I barfed up my leftovers Mrs. Ditchman would ask which privy I had fouled so that she could avoid it. I didn't think there was any avoiding it, actually, seeing as the germs themselves had intently managed to tag along with us over a hundred miles to infect neighboring counties. Well, it was a good weekend, however any memory of the niceties are obscured by the image of myself in a deep and profound porcelain embrace, moaning submissively.

The original source of the bug is still under some consideration. At one point we had localized it to the Weaver's second floor bathroom, but further discussion landed the blame on possible bad cheese and uncooked meats. I suppose it hardly matters anymore, but when you suffer so, you immediately want to cast blame: WHOSE?!

It wouldn't have been half bad if my aluminum supplier hadn't been so darned reliable yesterday, turning around my "urgent" request in less than 24 hours. Damn! Now I have to run out and meet the driver at the end of the road in Escondido, where I suspect he'll be lost (it's not in the Thomas Guide.) Prepping the job won't be particularly fun today, with my stomach still in knots. And, of all things, the customer phoned me late yesterday wanting to know if we provided our own Porta-Johns. "No," I had to admit, which discouraged him (as the concrete guys had) and probably struck him as downright unprofessional. I assured him that I was the only worker and that I had no need to go inside his home and that "I could manage my self" -though it didn't seem to settle right with the man. It's a large cover: 25 feet out, 55 feet long. I think he was suddenly more disturbed that I would be building the whole thing by myself. (And holding my pee all day, to boot!)

But I've done better with less under harsher conditions in worse weather with broken tools, so stand back -watch me work. I'm a trained professional. I'll relieve myself down the street at the taco stand, but I brought this bucket to throw up in.

And I'll be out of here in time for Thanksgiving dinner!


Monday, November 17, 2008

If there is something less fun than cleaning the cat box of an aged Persian afflicted with an unstoppable case of diarrhea, it's placing the largest aluminum order of the year the week before Thanksgiving. The cat is not my fault, though I can take the blame for not getting this order in sooner. I procrastinated, and now everyone pays the price in this week's pre-holiday heatwave.

Had a swell weekend with some of the best folks in the Southland. I would type all about it, but nay, thar be no time. Argh.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Up before the bakers this morning! Actually, we've been up before the bakers more or less every morning for the past few weeks, now that I think of it, but this time I'm out the door. Been taking my own sweet time on this week's job. Ripened to perfection, she is. You should see it. Thing of beauty. Carved from soft metal by my tender, sensitive, sculptor's hands. Will shade the yard for eons, and come next summer's swelter, will temper the burning passions of every passing, huffing, wheezing lawn mower. I weep now, just at the thought of the awesome symmetry of the rafters and lattice I fashioned together so meticulously out there in that San Diego suburb. I'm eager to return early just to cast one final gaze at the grandeur I forged over the past few days, all on my own, with help from no one but the inspired breath of God Himself.

Oh, who am I kidding?

Actually, summer may come sooner than originally thought: todays' forecast is in the nineties. Odd for a mid-November? Perhaps. And actually, I did have some help pouring the footings -which reminds me that I should pay that guy. Jose, if you're reading this: come by my office (house) later today and pick up the check from the accountant (wife).

Ditchman supercomputer back up and running! Another thing of beauty -and one not fully appreciated until it is confiscated from you. They replaced the logic board this time, which, I guess, was the logical thing to do. Anyway, it works now. The warranty is expired, so we've crossed the border from that nation of reliability and venture courageously out beyond the frontier of self-reliance. Keep that number for Fry's handy in the saddlebag.

Enjoy life this weekend. Don't let anyone get away with doing it for you.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Full moon. You know what that means, eh? Yes, it means Michael Medved dedicates his whole show to conspiracy theories, which is always entertaining, and made work yesterday a tad more pleasant. They covered the end of the Mayan calendar again (someone always does) and this time it was established that the world is going to end because our planet is going to cross paths rather closely with the orbit of Planet X, or "Nibiru", thus causing a realignment of Earth's magnetic poles, widespread climate change, mass devastation, social chaos, an upswing in bomb-shelter sales, etc. ("The scientists are covering it up!")

It's all going down on December 21, 2012 -just to remind you- which also happens to come just after Obama's re-election. Obama, by the way, is the Anti-christ, if you haven't heard. One man phoned in with proof. Yes, amazingly, it's true. The day after the election, the Illinois lottery's "Evening Pick 3" were 6-6-6. What are the odds? Pretty good if you're the Anti-christ, I reckon! If you're the Anti-christ, isn't it all sixes, all the way down? Phone number: three sets of sixes. Birthday: June 6, 1966. Change in pocket: always $6.66. Social Security: more sixes. Someone called in, I think, to proclaim Obama as the Messiah, too, so go figure: he's both. (But isn't it just like the Anti-christ to be so cunningly deceptive like that?) In other news, D.B. Cooper was a transsexual and Sonny Bono was assassinated by hit men. Always a good show.

Sat on the couch this morning with a large cup of coffee, trying to wake up and have a Thursday, and the Little Ditchman leapt on me as I was bringing the wide-brimmed mug up to my mouth -dousing me self and me couch with freshly-poured hot coffee. She didn't even notice that she'd done it. It actually gave my face and torso a mild scalding, causing me to jump up and forcefully contain a yelp, as the rest of the house was still trying to sleep. I said nothing, changed my clothes. On with the day.

Incidentally, isn't it amazing that the great Mayan civilization could astronomically predict the motion of the planets and the end of the world with their mathematically perfect calendar, but never got around to inventing the wheel before they disappeared? Yes, I know: they didn't need to because they had mastered levitation. And the lucky bastards escaped in giant spaceships.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wha? My church was stolen! It begs several philosophical questions, when you think about it. Like, who does God need to have a sit-down with: the thief or the priest? Perhaps the thief is a priest. Perhaps the question depends on the religious denomination involved. Perhaps the thief is God, wanting to teach the priest a lesson. I'll be thinking about it all day. Anyway, it's probably best not to steal a House of God, since He knows where you live.

I had no idea that Lileks' house, Jasperwood, was built by the man who invented Walnettos ("Yes, I sleep in the bedroom of a man who gave the world Walnettos. I walk in his footsteps every day. It’s an honor, and a responsibility. I should remake that website for free.") Walnettos are included in the standard issue MRE, and scored a perfect 25 spoons in an Army Times survey of hundreds of soldiers. "I would trade my whole MRE for a walnut candy," said one soldier.

My house has a connection to soldiers from its previous owner, too. The place was built and owned by Charlie Piedmont, who was known for his five "Cash-A-Check" locations in Oceanside. Concerned officials from the Marine Corp base, Camp Pendleton, brought to the attention of the Oceanside City Council that its marines were possibly being taken advantage of. Piedmont owned a Cash-A-Check less than two miles from the base gate, where more than half of his customers were Marines. Here's an article. He was interviewed on NPR about the fact that Oceanside would be changing the rules on those places (where the APR can amount to 460%), and other base cities in the country were following suit. He's in the NPR piece whining about how the military teaches its men how to use a rifle but not a checkbook. Here's another golden quote: "How do you tell that young man he can't have those $1,800 wheels for his car when next month he may die?" (Classy!) Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bill Clinton were outspoken about the issue, and in the end, right before the City Council voted on it, Piedmont was the sole voice in opposition to the new local law. Piedmont, who used to work in the casino industry, later complained that he had to shut down a few of his stores after the laws were changed.

When we were on vacation in late 2006, Mrs. Ditchman spotted him weighing in on the Cash-A-Check scandal on Fox News, which was the first we'd heard about it. (It was pretty funny -we couldn't believe our eyes.) I can't abide those check cashing places, but I'll curb my criticism of the man on that point. (Have a listen to the NPR piece yourself, and you tell me your impression him.) We paid too much for the Piedmont estate, which is my own fault, but I will say with indignant righteousness that the man's taste in floor tile was atrocious! (We jackhammered it out a few weeks after signing the docs.) I remember when Mr. Piedmont gave me a tour of the place and I pointed out a large, poorly patched gash in the hallway wall. He told me his son "got mad once," and that was it. For years I felt a cold, hollow bitterness every time I walked past that spot, which no amount of paint could cover up. When the Little Ditchman was born, I ripped out the drywall and rebuilt it.

Lastly, a neighbor told me that the reason the Piedmonts moved was because another neighbor had run over and killed Charlie's little dog, and it had just become too painful and awkward for Mr. Piedmont to go on living here. She refused to say who the culprit was, or if there was any pre-conceived ill-intent, but it makes one wonder... there were some marines who lived on the street at the time.

Life in the suburbs. I'll take a little sack of Walnettos any day.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Look! It's the symbol of the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War (DAC)! You can tell because of the combination of the semaphoric signals for the letters "N" and "D," standing for "Nuclear" and "Disarmament". In semaphore the letter "N" is formed by a person holding two flags in an upside-down "V," and the letter "D" is formed by holding one flag pointed straight up and the other pointed straight down. These two signals imposed over each other form the shape of the symbol, which is fifty years old this year.

It's funny, because I only have a vague sense of nuclear disarmament when I see that symbol. When I see it on bumper stickers or high school notebooks or spray-painted on Prop. 8 signs next to the swastika, I usually just think of those groovy, unshowered long-hairs carrying daisies and hoping for the best while at their highest. I mention it now because everyone forgot to honor "The International Day of Peace" last September 21st, and which is celebrated in all UN member states. According to Wikipedia: "It is dedicated to peace, or specifically the absence of war, such as might be occasioned by a temporary ceasefire in a combat zone. It is a observed by many nations, political groups, military groups, and peoples. To inaugurate the day, the "Peace Bell" is rung at UN Headquarters. The bell was cast from coins donated by children from all continents. It was given as a gift by the Diet of Japan, and is referred to as 'a reminder of the human cost of war.' The inscription on its side reads: Long live absolute world peace."

Which, actually, has never lived at all, when you think about it.

But how could we have forgotten the occasion to celebrate the non-existence of "absolute world peace"? Odd, considering the "thousands of Global Peace Day events each year." Wikipedia continues: "Events include Peace Day Comedy in 55 Comedy Clubs, music concerts, prayer vigils, Jane Goodall's Giant Peace Dove flying in over 60 cities, school activities, UN CyberSchoolBus lessons, Pinwheels for Peace and in some cases the military putting down their weapons for the day. [!] Peace Day events are encouraged by the 'United Nations' Peace Outreach Program' and are held on Peace Day September 21st, and also on the days leading up to Peace Day such as Sept 19th and Sept. 20th this year."

What I wouldn't give to see Jane Goodall's Giant Dove of Peace soaring over downtown Baghdad, the awesome power of which would compel the death-loving barbarians to just unstrap the dynamite from their chests and flag down a humvee so they could give an American soldier a pinwheel and a hug, I'm sure.

Okay, so I'm the only one on my street who put his flag out. If you don't catch this blog today, you might not notice that it's Veterans Day until you go to the mailbox later and find it empty. People forget, which excuses you but not your leaders or your teachers. And some don't care. The New York Times didn't even mention it on their front page today. It's patriotic to mention it, but it's political not to. Or perhaps they all took the day off. (Note: Their home page does have some vague veteran-y things on it.)

Veterans Day was made a legal holiday as "a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace" in case you were wondering. No one flashes the innocuous peace sign to celebrate, because peace signs do nothing to bring about peace -there is evil in the world, and it will eat those hippies for breakfast (actually, it will probably eat them last, after it rests from the fight.) We can, at least, put our flags out.

The greatest force for "the cause of world peace" is the American Soldier, and today we honor the living veterans of all the wars fought (as opposed to Memorial Day, which honors the sacrifice of the dead soldiers.) Veterans Day is always on the 11th. There's a reason for it: major hostilities of The Great War were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the armistice. Twenty years later, the world would be at war again, and American soldiers would be back, fighting for peace at whatever the cost. And winning it.

Meet Frank Buckles of Charles Town, West Virginia. At 107 years old he is the last living American veteran of the First World War:

(Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, left, talks with WWI veteran Frank Buckles during a dedication ceremony for the unveiling of portraits of WWI veterans in the Pentagon March 6, 2008.)

God bless you, Frank.

God bless all who have fought and served.

"Everything worth defending depends on military power. All the joys and privileges we take for granted depend on the application of force by organizations of brave men in uniform."

-Michael Medved


Monday, November 10, 2008

And thus ends our sojourn of paternity leave. Total cost to the family business... really now, shall we go there? We shan't.

It's back to work today. The sun-soaked Southern California heatwaves are behind us, but a few summer-loving holdouts still want their shade, God bless 'em. Even Mrs. Ditchman is heading off to work today, much to the chagrin of everyone in the abode under three who will wait in the car with Granny and a DVD. Look kids, someone's got to pay for those diapers. As long as you refuse to use the potty, we all lose.

Speaking of... It is disarming when you're having coffee, catching some morning news, and you look over to see your little girl standing behind the couch grunting and huffing, trying to fill her shorts. Usually it's best not to interrupt (we fear the potty has been stigmatized, somehow) but with the blood rushing to her face and those little teeth clenched you can't help but ask if everything's coming out all right. No answer. "It's hard sometimes, huh?" The double meanings lost on her (or perhaps not.) "Yeah," she replied. I got up and got another cup of coffee, diuretic that it is.

0 minutes later, half the people in the house had full diapers. I got the big one, mommy got the little one (double meaning, that one.) I think I would have preferred the little one, but I admit I'm still on the blind side of the learning curve with him. The little squirter aims for your nostril as soon as that diaper comes off, and then there's the wrangling around the umbilical stub and the other, ahem, recently lobbed sensitive regions. And, hey, you could lubricate the engine room of the QE2 with all the ointment, goos, adhesives and creams we have around here! I know, I know: it'll all end some day and I'll miss it. Can't I miss it sooner?

The Ditchman Supercomputer is still in the shop, no doubt sitting on some genius' desk waiting to break down. I'm starting to long for its return, but it's possible I got more standing tasks accomplished these past few days in my avoidance of the office desk, so that's good. Still, having all your photo, video, music, address, and web site projects hauled off for an indeterminate period does bring about some dismay, but I suspect we'll survive.

Lileks was perfect today with a post that starts with a good cropping job and a trip to the hardware store with a detour around a drive-thru, riffs around the mid-section with astute Indiana Jones anecdotes, and then wells up to a glistening finish about the man who baptized his daughter. Didn't everybody in America have the same weekend? I hope so. Change? Bah. As long as America has Americans in it, this country is more or less fine the way it is.


Friday, November 7, 2008

How I could fill a whole day with nothing, I could never think up on my own. But I did it! I suppose the mere mention of the concept invalidates itself, now that I think of it, so we'll just call yesterday A Day Left Wanting. How unfortunate. And how frustrating.

I went to the pet store, which did not have what I was looking for, so I went to another pet store, which had a similar inventory catered to others with even less perfunctory needs, if that's possible. (I suppose it is. I saw a vast array of products and people in line unenthusiastically buying them. Then I left empty-handed.) Then I went to Aaron Bros. for a frame, but they didn't have what I was looking for, so I went to Cost Plus World Market, which also did not have what I was looking for. There were frames, per se, but alas. Why must I be so specific in my tastes? It only creates more grief when I tire of the selection and have to replace it. Went home. Resigned myself to two things: I will never be an interior designer and the cat's lucky to be alive.

I began the re-screening projects, but I pulled the screen material too taught and the things bows like a... well, like a bow. I'll have to re-do that, then.

And then I looked into the computer repair thing. Aackk! Yesterday was the last day of my warranty and the thing hadn't finished breaking down yet! I hauled it off to the geniuses and complained to them, "No, really. It's on it's way out! Just plug it in and leave it for a few days -you'll see!" So they took it on my word. (I didn't have a choice. It was either haul it in last minute or cough up a few hundred to fix it on my own, but I'm still hoping for that free video card upgrade! It's been, like, four whole months -aren't those things obsolete yet?!) Now I'm back clattering on the Old Reliable. My plans to edit video all weekend dashed along with the frames and the screens and the pet supplies.

Let's hope this isn't what it's going to be like in the Age Of Obama. I think I'm going to spend my weekend waxing my board, for when those waters part, I'm gonna shoot the curl.

Have a good one! (This phrase has always bothered me. A good what, exactly? What are you wishing me? A good weekend? Oh, all right.)


Thursday, November 6, 2008

It's National Write A Novel In A Month Month! How's yours coming? I guess the goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in a single month. There are no prizes, outside of the thrilling pride of boasting about the novel you just wrote. I was going to get started but... I need to rearrange my sock drawers.

Actually, 50,000 words is not that much. About 175 pages. That's about 1600 words a day. My blog entry yesterday was 900 words. I could spend an extra ten minutes a day and have War and Peace by Christmas, but who would read it? (Who could?) I'll put it on the list for next year's goals.

Been working on the house this week, and that with two kids! (Thank you, Mrs. Ditchman.) I do a little bit here, a little bit there, paint this and that, patch this and that, nail those over there, dig some here, dig some there, and it seems to go on forever. But then one day you turn around and -hey!- I'm going to sprint to the finish line! That's how it's been around here for years now and we're down to the last couple rooms. I'm sure they'll be beautiful when we're done and then, as a result of the wintry economic climate, the bank will take the house. Oh well. (They're gonna love it!)

My computer is beginning to show me artifacts again. Yes, it sounds like a nice archaeological diversion, but it's really the video card going south for the winter. Same thing happened a while back, you'll remember, and the Apple Geniuses did what they could. I just looked up my warranty and it expires TODAY! It's funny, because I got a phone call last week from the nice people at Apple wanting to know if I'd like to extend my warranty for another couple years and a couple hundred bucks. No thanks! I said. Works great! A couple days later: artifacts. Mighty suspicious. I can see the ad now: "I'm a Mac." "And I'm a PC. Tell me Mac, how do you stay in business?" "Oh PC, we build our obsolescence right into the operating system! The computer then knows exactly when to break down, forcing the user to turn to us directly, since there are so few authorized retailers." "Genius!"

So I better get on that this afternoon, but the thing breaks down only intermittently at this point, so I'm not optimistic. At least this didn't happen. (Yet.) I don't believe Apple would let something like this go, actually, because killing off your base of customers is not a sound business policy. Anyway, come on Apple, you're losing me!

I want to welcome my sister to the blogosphere! Hey sis! Can't wait for the next post! It was cold here in Oceanside last night and we were all complaining about it, so those visions of sunny Hawaii are an inspiration to us all. Glad to hear they get the Internet out there!

Check out: Life In Kailua.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

(Just kidding. I don't own any guns.)

Seriously though, good game Barry. What a fight. You deserve it. There are a few very good things that can come out of this that I will concede. One is that racism is now dead in America, and we should be able to finally move past it. Whites elected a black man for president. Wow! Are there still racists in our country? Yes, and probably as much so as in any other country (if not less.) There will always be scummy people tarnishing the image of this great land, and there's only so much you can do about it.

Secondly, though our nation's image abroad is not of particular importance to me, it is to many, and Americans electing Obama shows the world that we can move in a creative direction and change our image if we so desire. Good things should come of this, and I, for one, look forward to them.

And third, for all the talk about unity and "bringing our nation together" I really want to see it. Of all things, Obama, I bid you: make it so. I happen to think that there will be some unity coming. I expect the defeated party (my side) will not lash out and riot, as some left wingers threatened to do if McCain had won. This country could use some unity, given what's at stake in the world. Anyway, that's a lot more important than our image abroad.

I can totally understand why Obama won the presidency. With two wars and terrorism and a collapsed economy and nuclear arms proliferation and growing fears of global environmental crisis, the man in charge will take the fall. He got two shots at it. Let's let someone else screw it up for a while! (Ha!) What baffles me is why anyone would choose to not only re-elect, but add seats to, the congress with the lowest approval ratings in the history of the country. With all the talk of Bush's approval ratings being so low, does no one notice that congressional disapproval ratings have hovered at 75% for over a year now? It's nearly impossible to find anyone in this country who thinks congress is doing a good job! At one point, it was even below 10% approval. (As one politician put it, that's family members and paid staffers!) Republicans got a truly astounding trouncing yesterday.

Add to the show that Joe Biden won twice last night (he held on to his Senate seat), Illinois needs a new senator (Obama's got a new job), and Alaska re-elected a convicted felon, who will serve out the beginning of his term from a jail cell while Sarah Palin selects someone to replace him. Crazy.

All told, the big winner was me! The local moms group has been bringing over dinner every night. I opened a nice bottle of wine and hung with my beautiful family. Plus: I got the week off!

Also, conservative talk radio is going to be really good the next few years! There's nothing like solid conflict to electrify the drama! For the record, my man in 2012 is Bobby Jindal, current governor of Louisiana. I heard he got on a plane for Iowa last night, kicking off his campaign. (No, seriously. He did.)

Lastly, on the way to the polling place yesterday, I noticed this just around the corner from my house, in my neighborhood:

I don't know where to begin with this. I do believe that racism, as we have understood it this past century, is dead in America -but other problems clearly linger. When we disagree in this county, we debate and hold a vote. The debate should be civil. The vote should stand. Obama is our president, o' ye with the can of spray paint and hate in your heart, and these are our laws. Grow up or get out.

I was chatting with the supervisor at my polling place yesterday. She said that one year she had a voter, a Russian immigrant in his seventies who had just become a citizen. He arrived before the polls opened and stood there in the rain. He wanted to see the swearing in of the poll workers. He wanted to see that the ballot box was empty and sealed. He wanted to say the pledge of allegiance. He wanted to vote. Then she told me that at the end of the day, this old man returned. She recognized him and asked him what was up. He wanted to make sure that the vote box was still sealed. He wanted to watch them count the votes. He just wanted to be sure that it was all real. Millions died in his old country. Millions.

To the guy that was waving the Russian hammer and sickle flag in front of the white house last night after Obama won: Wrong flag, sir. Put it away or get out. It's possible you don't belong here.

That kind of stuff just makes me mad. There is no place for swastikas or hammer/sickle symbols in this country.

No place.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard."

-Henry Mencken

Blah! Blah! Blah! Rightwingrahrahrahmumbojumboblah!

Vote today! Vote often! Vote for your dead ancestors! I cast a ballot for my newborn! He's a dyed in the wool Republican! I know, because I bought the indoctrination dye off the RNC website! VOTE!

I'm tired of all the ads telling me to vote. I mean, okay already! Setting aside my strong, patriotic feelings that only white, male landowners should vote -just as our founding fathers intended it- I am always saddened by these MTV-style ads urging the youth to vote. I mean, voting is good, a civic responsibility and a moral obligation and all that, but I would find it vastly more heartening if the MTV ads encouraged people to learn the issues, understand state's rights and the separation of powers, and know our country's history so that prior electoral errors are not repeated -but, alas, it doesn't fit into a sound byte.

And then you have this "early voting" thing. I mean, what is this? Absentee I can understand, you know, if you're off fighting for our country or having a baby or something, but voting a month early? Do we even need an election day, then? Why not have "late voting", too, after the results are in? It's only fair for those of us who weren't really paying attention to the campaigns. I don't think voting should be easy. It should be hard. You should have to take a test. You should have to know a few things. You should be able to recite the alphabet backwards while intoxicated. Winston Churchill spoke with wisdom when he uttered, "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."

I'll vote later this afternoon, after the midwife comes to visit. I don't expect to be asked to show I.D. Funny, you have to take a test to get a driver's license, but you won't need that license as a form of I.D. to vote for or against those roads you drive on. You will, however need a valid I.D. to get free sandbags in the event of a flood.

But what an amazing campaign! I found it truly fascinating to watch, though now it is becoming fascinating to watch in the sense that it's impossible to take your eye off a brutal car wreck. All the smears and comedy routines and unexpected economic downturns, and then yesterday the feel-good candidate's grandmother dies and doesn't get to see the boy she raised elected to the nation's highest office? At one point I think I heard that the image of Obama's face appeared in someone's wheatgrass smoothie. (Wait, no, it was in the seaweed at low tide.) Man, what drama! At this rate, one half expects McCain to pull out the biggest upset since Truman/Dewey, and then die of a heart attack from the shock of it all.

Moments later, President McCain collapsed in a massive coronary failure, giving America its first woman president.

Still, what a day. I now have a TV in the office here, up on the wall, and I'm going to leave it on until midnight (even though the first polls don't come in until 3:00.) I find politics a fun diversion, if you didn't notice. I flopped out of my government class in high school (my best friend's girlfriend was the teacher's aide and she fixed all my test scores), and I only passed with a C in my political science class in college because I figured out what the teacher wanted to hear and I gave it to her. Now I listen to right-wing talk radio all day to distract me from the demons in my head, and my mind has been filled with all sorts of genius (liberals read: gibberish.)

I'm not a debater. Try debating me, you will win. It will only take a few minutes, but launch into what you know and I will quickly transmogrify into a sobbing, quivering bowl of lukewarm flan intent on appeasing you. This is why I prefer the written word, sequestered safely up here in my second-story suburban tower with the curtains drawn and the cel phone on mute. Perhaps I should disable the Comments functionality on my blog today. Anyway, I know nothing. I am but an insignificant shill in the boundless liberal landscape of this blue Left Coast. But wow! Politics are spellbinding!

Which is why I have the other blog, The Suburban Conservative. Savvy bloggers who have read my lame profile any time in the past few months may have stumbled upon it on their own, too appalled to bring it up in polite conversation. I don't blame you. I meant it as a place to post all the political stuff out there that I found funny, with a conservative bent to it. (I mean, come on! Where are all the Obama jokes?!) The fact that I haven't posted much over there recently is not for a lack of material, by the way, but rather because there have been certain, uh, familial distractions of late that have kept me from keeping up with all my blogs. Anyway, I mention it here because I thought some of you might find it interesting and/or amusing. Perhaps you need more reasons to alienate yourself from me. I promise after today I'll put all my political wanderings over there, and won't bother you with them here. You don't have to check it out. I only have two readers anyway.

I suspect Obama will win today. Lincoln was the last guy to win who didn't look good on television, and that's the way it's been ever since: Kennedy, Carter, Reagan, Clinton -heck even Bush looked better on TV than Gore and Kerry. So it will probably be Obama, (because he's just so clean and articulate! Also, he sold more scary Halloween masks.) I had an analogy (however poor) that I shared with my wife this morning: "You are the general manager of a community organization like, say, the YMCA. You have two applicants to be the new camp director. One of them is an older guy who might not connect with the youth, but has a long, impressive resume, a record of public service, commendations for his accomplishments, and excellent references -some even from people who totally disagree with him on management style. He is totally qualified for the job. Then you have the other applicant who struts in with his charm and charisma and his nice smile, you immediately like him and you know all the kids do, and you take a look at his resume and there's not much there, it's more a list of his ambitions than his experience. He gives a great interview and speaks in broad idealistic terms instead of practical methods and solutions. He leaves the office and you feel great, even though he has some questionable friends on his MySpace page. Anyway, who would you choose?" I think this is when my wife pointed out that we're talking about the United States of America here, not summer camp.

Okay, so it's a flawed analogy. It may surprise you to hear that I'm not going to disembowel myself with a claw hammer or bang my head against a lead refrigerator for four years if Obama wins today. If Obama wins, he will be my president. "I believe my highest allegiance is not to a political party but to the Constitution of the United States." I admit I might mope a bit with the we'll-get-them-next-time attitude, but then I'll go back to regular life (which I'm actually looking forward to.) I think it was Jefferson who said that in a democracy, the people get the leaders they deserve. It's true.

Of course, Jefferson also said that "a government big enough to give you everything you want is also strong enough to take everything you have."



Monday, November 3, 2008

Got up this morning and the world felt like a new place. Everything in the home seemed different, and not the tired old wares you stare at day after day. I'm smiling more and just plain happy to love my roommates, even though half of them don't pay rent, expect me to feed them, and lack control of their bowels -but, no, hey I don't mind!

Of course, it could be the time change. You may think us lucky, having a new baby and then getting a free hour of sleep a few days into it, but let me remind you that these kids get up when they get up. They don't think, hey I get to sleep in an hour! On the contrary, they're the only ones already getting all the sleep they need. But I don't mind!

Mostly. It's election week! And if you hesitated to click on this blog this morning because you don't want to be T-boned by my conservative ideology, well, you lucked out. (My vote doesn't count in this state anyway.) I'm not going to get into it. The election is quite a show, but in this house it's a sideshow. Obama talks about "Change!" all the time but there are two kids here who need a real change, if you know what I mean. And if the McCain slogan was suddenly "Family First", he might have a bit more of my attention. But acckkkk... it is what it is. I've got plenty to say about it. I'll spare you.

Halloween was excellent, and we have the candy to prove it. Spent the weekend trying to figure out how to work this new family, all the while fielding the well-wishing, phone calls, and visitors. It's great. I started to edit a video of the new little digger, but I got so choked up I couldn't continue. Perhaps I'll fortify myself with a few beers tonight after everyone goes to sleep and then try again, but... that's right about when I fall off, too. We'll see.

I've got a week of getting stuff done around here, with a minimum amount of aluminum to wrangle, and I'm looking forward to pulling ahead a bit on the chores. It's November! The holidays are coming and anything not caught up on before Thanksgiving will drop off the schedule entirely, leaving me with a diminished sense of self come the new year (and we can't have that.)

Until then, enjoy the quiet and the sleep, oh ye without children!


Saturday, November 1, 2008

And the winner of the pool is:

Lynne who guessed 6lbs 3 oz and 20 inches. She even got the sex right!

Keaton's actual stats were: 6 lbs 8 oz and 19 inches -two ounces and an inch smaller than his big sister. Lynne was the only one who guessed in the 6 pound range. Lynne, I have some of your winnings here. Everyone else who participated, you owe Lynne ten bucks!

The "Marci's-So-Glad-You-Were-Wrong" award goes to "netchaos" who guessed 3 inches longer and two pounds heavier. Ouch.

Thanks for playing!

P.S. I loved how a bunch of you changed your vote on the poll after he was born. Hilarious.