Friday, May 29, 2009

It's a gaga world, and such has been this week's theme. I had a whole host of links to post today and then I went through the news and found so many more that I just began to rattle and spin on the inside -too much! Yesterday's work day really spent me, and today's does not look particularly promising, so I'm just going to have to let that story of one scientist's theory on the mysterious Tunguska blast of 1908 and how it was caused by a UFO crashing into a meteor in a desperate suicidal attempt to save the earth, go. Could happen.

Lileks' piece today recalls a hilarious series of events and decisions regarding his computer that I have lived almost exactly and again. But do not read it. You will not find it funny, as I do, and you will only find it boring, insipid, pathetic. Unless, of course, you are like us and are obsessed with screws and widgets and parallels and wonder constantly why no one understands you. You would then be our new best friend.

Where does that guy find the time, I wonder? Oh, I know... He doesn't build aluminum patio covers on the side. If he did, his blog would be immensely more interesting to me, but then his skill at the writing craft would diminish and he'd be in a bad mood all the time and his daughter wouldn't talk to him when he came home from a long day up a ladder and then none of it would be worth reading. Eventually, he would silently pass on, like so many other writers throughout history, dissolving into the cultural ephemera like all those labels and ads he saves. (Maybe that's why he saves them!)

Still. If Lileks built aluminum patio covers, I would read it every day.

I almost have Mrs. Ditchman converted over to Mac. She now uses the old Mac downstairs more than her PC upstairs, but I suspect that's due to the location, location, location. Me, I'm a dedicated user regardless of the location. For example, I've been saving up for the summer's new iPhone release and am looking forward to having my Mac with me SIMPLY EVERYWHERE. I am looking forward to not having to endanger the world by pressing a series of 17 keys to plug in my Bluetooth headset while driving. I am looking forward to the power of seamless syncing. I am looking forward to the GPS and the music and the app that will route and track my long runs. Ahhh, techno-bliss!

Mrs. Ditchman could not care less, though sometimes she tries. Nearly all of our business files are on my Mac now, which makes her irascible when she has to email patio cover pics to herself. Her current computer workstation is an old and busted IBM ThinkPad with a dead screen plugged in to a CRT tube the size of a pool inflatable that makes the meter spin and the lights dim in the house when you switch it on. (I can hear it humming as I type.) The new aluminum MacBooks are the perfect thing for her, and would make our Mac-wired household complete, but still she resists. "I think it's smart to have both Mac and Windows in our office," she says. "And all my old files are on the PC." I try and defy the logic, and it's like playing catch with helium balloons.

But there is Parallels. A few weeks ago I was in a Best Buy and saw a little aluminum MacBook hooked up to another screen that was all Windows, while the MacBook screen was all Mac. I moved the cursor from one screen to another and it was suddenly like I had become a pan-dimensional being -like a mermaid, or a Superman, or some clever celestial angel. I was in two worlds at once! I utterly hypnotized myself, moving that cursor back... and forth... back... and forth. I had Windows Vista and Mac Os Jaguar at my fingertips, on two screens! My wife will love this, I thought. Of course, standing there playing with it, I had no idea what to do with the Windows.

Also, I feel I am making headway with Mrs. Ditchman on the other field: homemaking robots. The other day she relented and said that maybe we should break down and get a robot vacuum -it seems one of her Bunco friends has one and has it programmed to go clean every morning. "We would need two," I mentioned, pressing my luck and rationalizing about the two floors of our house. She just nodded and turned. Went to clean the stairs, I presumed. I played it cool, and didn't press her on it. Figured I'd let all the floor-cleaning talk her into it. I'm smart that way.

So robots and Macs may be in our hopeful, idyllic future after all. People who don't like Macs are like New Yorkers who don't like Yosemite, they just can't fit in no matter how beautiful it is. And take a mountain man to The City and his response will be similar to a Mac user: Ugggh. Mac market share is growing, however. Who can say what the future brings, but I fear Mac will always be like Pepsi, playing second fiddle to Coke. I'm a Coke drinker, can't stand Pepsi, so maybe I can understand those tireless Windows users, ever resisting The New Sickly Sweet Other. Interesting how they love their iPods, though. (By the way, the new iPods are rumored to have cameras in them!)

Weekend is coming. Everything leaks, creaks, messes, or needs mowing, don't you know? But keep at it. Be patient. Some day, worlds will marry, and your wife will invest in robots and your iPod will direct them to manage your lawn and garden for you.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

New thing I want:

It's on Amazon for $18.95. Available in various sizes. 790 customer reviews, averaging 4.5 stars. 8,206 of 8,275 people found the following review helpful:

This item has wolves on it which makes it intrinsically sweet and worth 5 stars by itself, but once I tried it on, that's when the magic happened. After checking to ensure that the shirt would properly cover my girth, I walked from my trailer to Wal-mart with the shirt on and was immediately approached by women. The women knew from the wolves on my shirt that I, like a wolf, am a mysterious loner who knows how to 'howl at the moon' from time to time (if you catch my drift!). The women that approached me wanted to know if I would be their boyfriend and/or give them money for something they called meth. I told them no, because they didn't have enough teeth, and frankly a man with a wolf-shirt shouldn't settle for the first thing that comes to him.

I arrived at Wal-mart, mounted my courtesy-scooter (walking is such a drag!) sitting side saddle so that my wolves would show. While I was browsing tube socks, I could hear aroused asthmatic breathing behind me. I turned around to see a slightly sweaty dream in sweatpants and flip-flops standing there. She told me she liked the wolves on my shirt, I told her I wanted to howl at her moon. She offered me a swig from her mountain dew, and I drove my scooter, with her shuffling along side out the door and into the rest of our lives. Thank you, wolf shirt.

Pros: Fits my girthy frame, has wolves on it, attracts women.
Cons: Only 3 wolves (could probably use a few more on the 'guns'), cannot see wolves when sitting with arms crossed, wolves would have been better if they glowed in the dark.

Make sure you check out the customer images. (There's 102 of them.) Here's the rest of the story. They're flying off the shelves! I love this. I love all the irreverent, excitable people out there. I love how there are so many of us, growing swiftly a grassroots movement, just to be entertained. Probably because somewhere, tv failed us.

I also love this. I saw the piece a couple days ago, actually, and my head cocked to one side reflexively like a golden retriever witnessing enthusiastic, mating elephants. It is the perfect merging of science, politics, comedy, and general contracting. There's a future in painting our roofs white! I had so much to say about the notion, but Lileks beat me to it:

Maybe we should paint all our roofs white to forestall the inevitable climate catastrophe. And oil up the barn doors, while we’re at it. I’d be curious to see what percentage of the United States consists of roofs. I think it’s rather small. But it’s an interesting idea, inasmuch as it isn’t going to happen, but will be talked about in serious tones. These things invariably lead to excitable public servants coming back - via jet, of course - from a really exciting convention where there was just a lot of positive energy about change, and then the officials commission a White Roof Study, which leads to someone commissioning a White Roof Commission, which leads to outreach, consciousness raising, and a total of 145 white roofs in town - and this leads to a newspaper story about the Growing Trend towards white roofs. A few city buildings are painted; the mayor is on hand for each. They look filthy after six months. One day in July passersby are treated to the site of city workers hosing down the roof in the middle of a drought.

Lastly, in the same vein, there is this. For those seriously intent on starting the Revolution, there will be one, just as soon as the government tells us to stop drinking beer and Coca-Cola, and no more eating meat and chocolate. The climate Gestapo is coming through town this afternoon to enforce it. Stay starving in your white homes and wolf shirts until the *all clear* sounds.

Up in arms!


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I have been cynical the last few weeks. Cynical with a weird, latent indignant dementia. Before you stop and remind me that I've always been this way, I stop you -no, I haven't! That was a cheerful cynicism! Anyway, this has been different, and there are myriad reasons for it. I won't go into it. I'll just try and stop now. No, I'm better now.

There is a long haul on the books for today. Hundreds of miles over three or four counties. Our work schedule is a mess from the backlog at the manufacturer, so we've ordered everything all at once for the next month or so, just to get ahead of the game. I have been waiting on one order for so long that I finally gave up and ordered it again from another dealer yesterday. Seems that the world is all out of "white".

Which reminds me. Mrs. Ditchman commented yesterday that our business only employs "whites" and we wondered if the government would force us to take on a minority in hiring. Since we don't have any employees, I would say we are equally prejudiced against all potential employees, but if the government finds out of our intent to coerce our children into labor around the house, we may be legally bound to provide a benefits plan. The way I see it, they've been getting free room and board around here for a few years now, so they owe us! Who knows, with the way things are going these days. We decided it was going to work out all right, since our babysitter is Hispanic and the children are descended from Jewish-Russian immigrants. I don't think I will ever put "white" down on another form again. You just don't get all the advantages like you used to. Anyway, the world is all out of "white".

And North Korea wants war today. Again. Did you know that we have technically been at war with them for over 55 years? There was no peace treaty signed, just a cease fire. A truce. An armistice. North Korea withdrew from the armistice this morning, if you haven't heard. What this will amount to, no one can say. But I suspect it is simple blackmail, and the good nations of the world will unite to send them oil, food, and billions in cash. I'm not saying there's a good alternative, but whatever oil, food, and cash we send them is going to go straight to the DPRK million-man army. If you are born in North Korea, you have no future but in the military -lest you succumb to malnourishment and end up inches shorter than the South Koreans.

Woe, the bad news. See? Remove the cynicism and you're just left with a sullen, hopeless misery. I need a change. A change in attitude, a change in latitude. I need to go camping.

You know what my favorite thing in the world is? Boat camping. Boat camping in the desert -anywhere on the Colorado river. And in the middle of summer when the air is 105 degrees and the water is 80. I love driving the boat across the lake just before sunset, with that warm summer wind in my face. And pulling the boat slowly into the shore, beaching it, and then hopping out across the bow and onto the sand. Shorts and flip-flops for a week, that's what I need. And the only cold around is the beer in my hand.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

After a pleasant and relaxing extended weekend (!) you wake up on Tuesday with every cell in your body crying out that it needs more sleep, your daughter sitting on your bed literally pounding on you to get up, and your head awash with all the work you've fallen behind on, which must be done in order to catch up with the bills you've fallen behind on. So what do you do about it all? Demand a bit more sleep from your daughter, and then eventually get up and get some coffee and sit down with the news, just like every other day.

Well, there's a lot in the news today and, as is typical, none of it is encouraging and even less of it makes much sense. The bad news, and my cynical opinions about it, to follow.

President Obama has selected Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit as his nomination for the Supreme Court. Does she lean liberal in her decisions? Yes, but that is the president's pleasure, and it comes as no surprise. She is being touted as potentially the third female justice in Supreme Court history, if that is an important and qualifying demarcation, and also she would be the first Hispanic justice to serve on the highest court in the land.

Unless you want to count Justice Benjamin Cardozo who was nominated by Herbert Hoover in 1932. Cardozo was descended from Portuguese-Jewish immigrants, but (unlike other U.S. departments) the U.S. Census Bureau does not consider Portuguese to be Hispanic, so there. I have one question: when will all this end? Seriously? When the first Icelandic transsexual descended from handicap Androids is nominated to the Supreme Court, who will celebrate? And for the record, both Cardozo and Sotomayor are Latin American.

The recent constitutional amendment voted on by the people of California is being reviewed by the state's Supreme Court today. They will decide if it is actually constitutional or not. Hold on... Think about it for a second... Does this make sense to you? Our constitutional amendment is not constitutional? Well, if it ain't broke don't fix it, I guess. Anyway, the next time you go in to the polling place to vote for something, anything, say, a judge for example, consider that the judges will decide if the election even matters or not. And then when you try to wave the constitution in their face, they will no doubt advise you that it can only be amended and interpreted through the proper channels -that is, by becoming a judge. [Update: Proposition 8 upheld by court.]

President Obama is still planning on closing the Guantanamo Bay terrorist holding facility, even though congress did not approve the funds for it, interestingly. Closing Gitmo may be good for America's image abroad, if that is important, but if you think moving terrorists into a SuperMax prison is a good idea, read this. You know all those stories about prisoners running gangs, doing drug deals, and ordering hits from prison? Just think about it for a second.

North Korea detonated a second atomic bomb, and then, for good measure, shot off a bunch more missiles to celebrate. Unenforced but strongly-worded U.N. Security Council resolutions are sure to be half-heartedly crafted soon, after it is all discussed in committee. Nothing good can come from North Korea having the bomb, but if Kim Jong-il had at least timed the nuclear explosion with the end of the Lost season finale, well then, that would have been bold. Meanwhile, Iran gets its uranium from Venezuela and Bolivia, in case you were wondering. It's not so much an "axis of evil" anymore, as much as it is "a thousand points of darkness".

20 billion dollars has been given to GM to help them with their impending bankruptcy, it seems. That's about the same amount as the California budget gap, but Obama administration officials say that California needs to solve the financial crisis by itself. I don't really know where to start with this one, except to say that my next car will be an American-made Toyota as I always intended, though I may register it out of state to save a cool grand.

Lastly, the great hope of pop culture, Susan Boyle, started out a bit "shakey" in her performance the other night, but she quickly recovered and was selected to be a finalist anyway. I, for one, hope she wins. If you happened to have been trapped in the cargo hold of the International Space Station for the past month or so and do not yet know who Susan Boyle is, here's the original truly awe-inspiring vid. Watch it again just to get your week started out right.

Before she went onstage on Sunday night, with the world watching, Susan Boyle said:

All my life, I've always striven to prove myself, that I can be accepted, that I'm not the worthless person that people think I am, that I do have something to offer.

There is yet hope for us all.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Today we commemorate the fallen American Soldier and all he fought for, all he sacrificed. By extension we celebrate the genius, joy, and power of American Freedom -which becomes so apparent when contrasted with that sacrifice. We have parades and barbecues, we put our flags out. I went running in the park today. No one stopped me. I have every American Soldier, living and dead, to thank for that. It is utterly profound.

The enemies of Freedom can catch you with your pants down, which is fine because our soldiers are prepared to fight under precisely these conditions:

May 11, 2009: Spc. Zachery Boyd, far left, wore 'I love NY' boxer shorts and flip-flops in a fire fight with Taliban militants after rushing out of bed to join his fellow platoon members.

The space shuttle Atlantis, the most advanced human transport vehicle ever invented by mankind (made in America!) landed safely in California yesterday. It was a very dangerous mission of telescope repair, which just goes to show how seriously Americans take their science. They flew 5.3 million miles to do it, and it cost over a billion dollars. Yes, we take our science very seriously. Isn't this country awesome?

I mention it because I was thinking about deceased astronomer Carl Sagan who said: "National boundaries are not evidenced when we view the earth from space. Fanatic ethnic, religious, or national identifications are a little difficult to support when we see our planet as a fragile, blue crescent, fading to become an inconspicuous point of light against the bastion and citadel of the stars."

He was wrong. What a puffed-up, thoughtless overstatement. See if you can find North Korea, probably the least free place in the universe, in this photo taken from space:

[HINT: It's that dark region between China and South Korea.]

Lots of people on the right have been coming down on General Colin Powell lately for this or that. Whatever. Years ago he was on MTV and asked how he felt representing a country commonly perceived as "The Satan of Contemporary Politics."

He replied,

Far from being the Great Satan, I would say that we are the Great Protector. We have sent men and women from the armed forces of the United States to other parts of the world throughout the past century to put down oppression. We defeated Fascism. We defeated Communism. We saved Europe in World War I and World War II. We were willing to do it, glad to do it. We went to Korea. We went to Vietnam. All in the interest of preserving the rights of people.

And when all those conflicts were over, what did we do? Did we stay and conquer? Did we say, "Okay, we defeated Germany. Now Germany belongs to us? We defeated Japan, so Japan belongs to us"? No. What did we do? We built them up. We gave them democratic systems which they have embraced totally to their soul. And did we ask for any land? No, the only land we ever asked for was enough land to bury our dead. And that is the kind of nation we are.

God bless America.


Today's reading is Mark Steyn's recent lecture at Hillsdale College, "Live Free or Die". It's a good one, however political, about freedom and the dangers of big government.

I suggest enjoying it out on the patio with a premium domestic microbrew, while the coals are warming.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Went to a new brewery yesterday! Coronado Brewing Company, just down the road from where I was struggling through a day of unexpected challenges, beckoned and I could not resist. 'Tis a nice place, though the beer is no match for our North County wonders. And the grub was good.

There are signs in the place warning of a 3 beer limit. I found this off-putting, and gave them the benefit of the doubt, assuming that the beer was so good that they were trying to make sure everyone got some. But the beer was a standard set of ales -not bad, mind you, just perfectly acceptable brews that heralded the end of the work week instead of the coming Kingdom of Angels. So I asked. Turns out everything got out of hand in there once. They're going for a nice family brewery, (they have "kid's night") and they need to be amenable to those fascists in the local bureaucracy -Coronado can get strict with the rules, of which I, as a local contractor, am plentifully aware. Anyway, no self-respecting brewery can successfully impose a 3-beer limit. Good luck with that.

It's Friday. Do well. Have a hoppy weekend.


Thursday, May 21, 2009


Butterfly Garden, 2 months ago:

Butterfly Garden, 1 month ago:

Butterfly Garden, this morning:

Stunning, isn't it?

Truth be told, I suspect much of that is just random weeds. Ho, hum. Sorry for the disappointment. Maybe in another month. I'm doing everything I can. And what else am I going to do besides stand there on the lawn all afternoon screaming, "Grow faster!"

I must have bad dirt, if there is such a thing. And cutting back all my watering times can't have helped either. But there is some growth. And, I swear it's true, I came out to check on it all a few days ago and I saw a butterfly flitting over the fence, come to check it over himself, see if it was ready for move-in. It was your standard lone monarch, looking healthy and focused, and he alighted on some of the plants to analyze their potential. A scout. I think he was mildly impressed, but when he saw me coming, he flew off to places beyond the fence. Luxurious gardens of milkweed and yarrow, proliferating at the neighbors', no doubt.

It's tricky, these bags of unidentifiable seeds. You just bury them in the ground and see what comes up. There's no telling what they'll really look like and whether they'll settle in your climate, in your soil, so you wait and see what green pops out. There were some weeds in there that I recognized right away and yanked, but there are others that I can't be sure about, so I let them go to flower and decide from there -and then it's usually too late, when they've spread like voracious interstellar triffids on the back lawn.

But lean in close... as there is some alien life to be found among it all:

It's amazing that in any pile of greenery, whether on a garden isle, midwestern farm, or weedy lot, you can usually come across some odd beauty, some tiny amazing thing intent on growing in spite of the odds, neither caring about those odds nor feeling sorry for itself. It just follows the blueprint of its DNA and accepts the given set of circumstances. But it doesn't know that it follows any blueprint, and it doesn't know that it accepts any circumstances. It just is. Not like us, who labor and spin.

The pursuit of gardening is really no pursuit at all. It's like chasing a driverless car, parked on the side of the road. You're standing there, waiting for something. Is it that the car has yet to leave the curb? Or were you plotting a chase where there was never one to be had? Eventually the flower blooms, whithers, and dies, all in the span of a week or so, and it is as if God, Himself, has emerged from the house, waved to you as he got in the car, and then has driven off, leaving you standing there on the curb, awestruck. Dumbstruck. And forgetting the chase entirely.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009




We were having our Sunday morning pre-church coffee and coupon-clipping hour, perusing our one newspaper of the week, when the wife said from behind the front section pages something like, "Maybe you should get more serious about brewing your own beer." I think I spit-taked my Columbian Supremo. This is like your wife saying we need a bigger, flatter television. I tried to play it cool.

"What makes you say that, honey?"

She pointed out this article in the North County Times. There have been several news pieces covering the local microbrew industry in the past few years, and I've always found them hopeful and encouraging. (Civilization is advancing. Society is rejecting bad beer.) Also, it appears that a few years ago I wisely bought property right in the heart of the Napa Valley of microbreweries:

"It always shows up on top-10 lists of brewery cities in the country," Gatza said.

The "city" is San Diego, but North County actually has about as many independent breweries as San Diego, and both numbers are growing. Two companies offer local brewery tours throughout the county, complete with tastings and a pub meal. The standard Saturday tour at Brewery Tours of San Diego focuses on North County breweries.

North County breweries have racked up their share of accolades. The Brewers Association named Port Brewing as the nation's best small brewing company for 2007. The association named Alesmith Brewing Co., in San Diego's Miramar neighborhood, as the best small brewery last year. Beer Advocate magazine called Stone the "best brewery on earth" in December and rated five Stone beers among its top 25. Food & Wine Magazine's June issue dubs Highway 78 a "near-mystical" route for visiting breweries.

A near-mystical route! It's true. Some misty mornings I load the tools into the back of my truck and I catch a glimpse of the glistening dew on the hop fairies' wings. And then, when I'm driving home on the 78 after a long afternoon of patio cover installation, I feel the pull of the siren song of the alesmiths, but I resist and head on home. It's a personal battle I fight at the end of every day, lashing myself to the Tundra lumber rack like the Argonauts did Jason to the mast.

(Alesmith is a fine brew, by the way. I picked up a few bottles a couple months ago on someone's recommendation and Wow, I thought. That's good beer.)

So I'm thinking about it again -as if I needed another project. In my defense, there is some crossover betwixt my passions: the reverse-osmosis water filtration system I have for the reef aquarium will purify the water for the ale. And there's no reason I can't grow organic hops out back in the garden. (There is a worldwide hops shortage, you know.) We have the tools! We have the technology! We have the will!

Okay, so we don't really have all the tools -but what we lack in tools we make up for in will! It's beer, man!

Later that day, Mrs. Ditchman asked how much it was going to cost to remodel the master bath.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Working down the street from this today:

It's the University of San Diego, or USD. Not to be confused with SDSU or UCSD, or USD (University of South Dakota) one of which Mrs. Ditchman attended and graduated second in her class. (I always forget which one.)

The school is a pretty one, sitting atop a mesa and overlooking Mission bay with its 16th-century Spanish Renaissance architecture, but the place always seems strangely empty to me. I guess everyone's in class.

USD is a Roman Catholic university, and every time I drive by it I notice the subtle Christian influence in the design work. The windows in some of the buildings are all four-pane, with the two top panes being small, and the two bottom panes being long. This makes a cross in every window, which, when you finally notice it, you can't un-notice -and then there are CROSSES EVERYWHERE. It's kind of weird, but then so is God sometimes. He's nowhere to be found, until that one day when you notice that He's everywhere.


Monday, May 18, 2009

I felt the earthquake yesterday. It was at 8:40PM. I was sitting in a tall kitchen chair, and the thing just began rocking. "Earthquake!" I said, and waited for the world to end. I looked up at the bookshelf, and the plant hanging off it was swinging. There was a kerploosh in the Sparklett's bottle, and the house creaked. And then it was over. Lasted all of about 6 seconds. 4.7 on the Richter scale, and I would say about a III-IV on the Mercalli.

I turned on the news to see the devastation; Los Angeles on fire, Santa Monica slipping into the ocean, HOLLYWOOD sign tumbled over to read "HO...W.OD", but... nothing. We called Mrs. Ditchman's sister in L.A. to see if she was trapped under a six ton I-Beam. She was fine. "What earthquake?" she queried.

Whew! And ten million people got down on their knees and thanked their lucky stars for barely escaping the apocalypse! Though I doubt it. But some day, people... Some day.

I did not accomplish all that I wanted to this past weekend, unfortunately. I have yet to fix all the sprinklers, and the garden suffers as a result. This is unfortunate news, given that Thursday is the "Butterfly Garden Progress Update" -aren't you excited?! We'll be promoting it all week here at TMST with a teaserific ad campaign that will have you wetting your pants in anticipation! Try to control yourselves. I recommend tonight's distraction of the 24 season finale. Will Jack survive to battle contemporary evil for another season? (Signed union contracts presuppose that he will, but Kiefer Sutherland's recent arrest for head-butting calls everything into question.)

Because it is my current passion, I did get a long run in on Saturday. How long is long? Over 30 miles. Yes, I ran 50K! Why? I'm not sure, really. I guess I just had a bug up my butt. I've never gone that far before and I wanted to see if I could and I wanted to know what it felt like. Besides, it was a nice day for it -mild temps, overcast all afternoon... So, how did it feel? Awesome. No, how did it really feel at the end? Well, I felt like I was going to collapse, barf, pass out, and drown in my own vomit, alone, in a puddle, on the asphalt at the Oceanside Metrolink transit station park & ride lot. Just being honest.

THIRTY MILES! I am very proud of myself and will now proceed to brag. I took it easy, and did it in about 5 hours -which is just a few minutes longer than my finish time for the Tahoe Marathon in 2004. The trick to these long distances, I think, is really just to take it easy in the beginning, and then, throughout. It's a funny thing to be taking a walk break and to have guys running past you with water packs and Power Gel belts and GPS devices and heart rate monitors all strapped on to their limbs, and then to pass them an hour later still feeling uppity. I slowed down to what must've been a 10 minute/mile pace towards the end there, and a biggish woman smirked passed me, going uphill. At least, I think she was smirking. I didn't yell after her, "HEY I'M ON MILE 28!" though I admit it was tempting.

It was pretty humid and breezy, so I suffered some dehydration. Since I didn't carry any water with me, I had to stop at a gas station for some Gatorade at about mile 18. The look on the attendant's face is priceless when you fall in there, huffing and puffing, and then you pull off your shoe and hand him the sweaty twenty you've kept under the insert for just such an emergency. He got me back though, by trying to hand me 96 cents in change. (He got to keep it.)

And I did the whole thing without any Gu or Power Gel, which is probably why I felt like hurling at the end. Anyway, I just wanted to see if it was possible, and it was. Do I have a 100 mile Ultrathon planned? No. I still think that would be dumb. Will I ever do it again? Maybe. Do I recommend it? Sure. Strangely, I'm not very sore today, I'm just tired -which does not bode well for today's patio cover installation. But I'm tired every day, it seems. I can go out and run thirty miles, but I avoid slogging up the stairs in my house if I don't have to. The human body is funny that way.

Here's my course, out and back on PCH, from the nifty website MapMyRun.com. It's a great run, with a view of the surf breaks nearly the entire length and restrooms and drinking fountains along the way. And, though I know you were thinking it, I'm not totally stupid: I ran along the train route. In case I happened to fall apart somewhere along the line, I could've just hopped the train back to the car.

But I didn't!


Friday, May 15, 2009

I got a lot done yesterday! It was a day off, which really makes no sense given how backed up with work we are around here, but the orders had all been placed and there was a wait period that I indulged in. I mean, I worked a little. I updated the business web site (17 minutes) and phoned a few customers about the delivery and build schedule (took all of 4 minutes). Having your own business: awesome! Having a Thursday off: priceless.

Home work has been backing up, so I mowed and fertilized both lawns, changed the oil and filters in both cars, repaired the tortoise pen, (which is not a euphemism for my writing career) and planted four or five banana trees in the yard -which I've been meaning to do for some time. (Yes, even the banana trees are backed up around here.) I was busy all day. It's amazing how busy you can find yourself on a day off, but it felt better to get those things done and caught up than to just take it easy. At the end of the day I popped open a bottle of beer, a Widmer hefeweizen. I'm sure you're aware of it, but beneath the caps on all the Widmer beers is a little prost, for when you can't think of anything. Yesterday's read: "To doing absolutely nothing on your day off!" Well, uh... no. It kind of bummed me out. I didn't want to toast this. I hesitated, but drank the beer anyway. It was the right thing to do.

After dinner, everyone went upstairs for bathtime and left me to clear the table and clean up. I always switch the music on at dinnertime, and usually go with "swing" on weeknights, sometimes "adult alternative", and "blues" on weekends. But our cable's MusicChoice channels have recently melded the "Swing" channel with the "Singers & Standards" channel, and this has wholly bummed me out. What was once a sweet selection of big band and jazzy classics now has Rod Stewart mucking up the playlist with his gravelly syrup every fourth song. And then, sitting there alone, I felt the old familiar depression edging in, out of nowhere. I abruptly found myself dwelling on all the debts and ingratitudes and unjustified pains in my world, and then I looked around at this beautiful house and heard the bath running upstairs and the pitter-patter of small feet, and the sun was setting over the newly planted palms outside and, surrounded by the dirty dishes -for which I was truly grateful- I just prayed that, were it all horribly and unexpectedly taken from us one day, that the good Lord would grant me the strength to handle the big hopeless changes with at least some integrity and, perchance, wisdom. But nothing lasts, I worried.

And then Frank Sinatra came on.

He was belting out "The Best Is Yet To Come," and I suddenly felt better. As quickly as that bold grey demon had slouched in unwelcome, it had evaporated into the ether. I felt better because I believe that some angels are the Lord's intermediaries and I believe that they sometimes work the DJ booth. And I felt better because maybe the best really is yet to come -how can any of us be sure otherwise? Anyway, my prayer had been answered. My problems weren't solved, but my attitude was, and before the song was over I had gained a sense that I could handle the problems, and that God would rather I took care of them myself. You may think it childish and simpleton, but I felt my fears dwindle because that Sinatra song came on at just the right moment. I don't believe it was an accident, and yet neither was it a miracle. It was just life, and I happened to notice. On the surface it appears that God works in big things and in small, because we humans like to differentiate, but I suspect that God doesn't see it this way. God works in all things, however mundane, dismissing or comparing not a one.

And then I went back to clearing the dishes, feeling fine, and singing along. It was just a fleeting moment of despair, a rogue wave, a test. But the boat seemed sound.

Hopefully, this weekend will be more of the same sort of accomplishment, of things getting done, I mean. The garage is a mess, my desk has dumb stuff on there that shouldn't be there, (it all must be filed accordingly) and some of the photo library needs to be annotated and updated. And I want to fit in a long run tomorrow. A real long run. It would be nice to have a clean slate for Monday, as the coming weeks are madness. Madness! I actually had a bad dream about all the aluminum last night -I couldn't get it all done! People were upset! I'm sure you've had the same dream.

Stay busy! It's always harder to relax later if you don't work to deserve it.


Frank Sinatra recorded "The Best Is Yet to Come" on his 1964 album "It Might As Well Be Swing", accompanied by Count Basie, and under the direction of Quincy Jones. It was the last song that Sinatra sang in public, on February 25, 1995.

The words "The Best Is Yet to Come" are imprinted on Sinatra's tombstone.

"The Best Is Yet to Come"
Music by Cy Coleman
Lyrics by Carolyn Leigh

Out of the tree of life, I just picked me a plum.
You came along and everything started to hum.
Still it's a real good bet, the best is yet to come.

The best is yet to come, and won't that be fine?
You think you've seen the sun, but you ain't seen it shine...

Wait till the warm-up's underway,
Wait till our lips have met,
Wait till you see that sunshine day,
You ain't seen nothin' yet!

The best is yet to come, and won't it be fine?
The best is yet to come, come the day you're mine.

Come the day you're mine,
I'm gonna teach you to fly.
We've only tasted the wine.
We're gonna drain that cup dry.

Wait till your charms are right, for these arms to surround.
You think you've flown before, but you ain't left the ground.

Wait till you're locked in my embrace,
Wait till I draw you near,
Wait till you see that sunshine place,
There ain't nothin' like it here.

The best is yet to come, and won't that be fine?
The best is yet to come, come the day you're mine.

And you're gonna be mine...


Thursday, May 14, 2009


So, I'm pretty sure they blew up the nuke last night on LOST. I mean, who knows with these things? But there was a slight fizzing sound and the screen washed out all super-white after Juliet who was not-yet-dead banged on the device with a rock, and everyone knows that a bright all-encompasing flash is cinematic lingua franca for thermonuclear detonation. But don't worry. Even though there was a nuclear explosion and the island and everyone on it was instantaneously vaporized, they'll be back for one more season. After all, it's LOST.

I, for one, am glad they lit the bomb off last night and didn't put it off to the end of the series, which would have been a cheap wrap-up. Now they have to reconcile whatever devastation to the space-time continuum that they have wrought, which should be interesting. You know they just had to detonate the thing. It's one of the unchangeable dictums of dramatic storytelling: if you put a gun in a story, sooner or later you have to use the gun. (Or, in this case, a big A-bomb with the word 'jughead' chalked into the side.)

How was the show? Was it heavy-handed? Over-wrought? Melodramatic? Yes, yes, and yes. And awesome! And now I can get on with my life, thank Jacob. It'll all be back in 2010, so I'm free until then unless there's another dumb Hollywood strike which would screw up EVERYTHING. Well, okay, I'm not entirely free yet -there's still the final couple hours of 24 on Monday. It turns out the other day was not quite the end of the season, as it conflicted with the finale of House -which I gave up on since they started scheduling it during bathtime. (I caught the end though: so-and-so got married and House went crazy and got shipped off to an asylum. Good enough for me.)

I can only handle two shows, anyway. There's just not enough time or attention span in the world for three or more full shows. Everything else I view, like Mythbusters, DWTS, American Idol, Deadliest Catch, or the news, I'll see six minutes of and I'm full. It's all I need to get me through life. Maybe I'll catch House reruns over the summer, or something. I miss it. And Mrs. Ditchman misses it too, she said. It's a great show.

Mrs. Ditchman. Mrs. Ditchman sleeps through every episode of Lost. And since Lost went all the way to 11:00 (!) last night, I admit it was something of a struggle to stay awake for the nuclear event. Then the news comes on and Mrs. Ditchman wakes up and asks me what she missed. It's Lost! You missed everything! Uh, and nothing. We all did. Then she asks -and this after every episode- "But what happened?" And then you say, "Well, whatshisname died. Again. And there was a massive explosion and everyone died. And that one guy who talks to the dead is the son of that other guy. And also it turns out that that one guy with the gun is not a bad guy but a good guy." And then she says, "Huh?" And then you say, "I don't know! They went into the future and then had a flashback!" And then she says, "I'm lost" and I guess that's what the producers are going for. The bastards.

But it's fun! Since there's only one more season, I think I'm going to try and watch the whole series over again on DVD later this year and see if I can glean a better understanding of where they're going with it all, or even if it makes a gnat's ransom of sense. You gotta respect a show where every character is named after a famous philosopher, scientist, or biblical character. And then set it in the tropics on a '70s commune and throw in a bunch of Star Wars references and time travel and a polar bear and a submarine and a nuclear bomb. What utter silliness. What attractive women. What good tv!


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The letter of the day is 'G'. Number? 9.

The Little Ditchman is watching Sesame Street. We've been trying to teach her the sounds that all the letters make, and she just looks at us like we're crazy and loses interest, and sometimes she just brazenly says the opposite of what we're trying to get her to say. Oh, well. So we decided to try Sesame Street.

I don't think she's ever really seen a whole show, which may sound odd, but she's only three. (Although, she is an Elmo fan -what three-year-old isn't?) So I put it on this morning and she seems to like it; she's laying on the couch sideways, feet up on the armrest, finger in her mouth, staring at the screen. The classic child repose. When I just plain asked her if she liked it, she didn't turn to look at me. She just nodded her head, "Mm hm."

It's not her parents' Sesame Street. The intro today is all digital effects and muppets with legs, which will never strike the Little Ditchman as odd-looking the way it does me. Currently, Anderson Cooper of CNN is on, standing in a trash can, interviewing Oscar The Grouch with some questions about whether or not the letter 'G' is a grouchy-sounding letter. Oscar is not nearly as grouchy as he used to be, and I'm sure there's a reason for this -perhaps the denizens of the street finally got through to him. (That would be nice.) Also, Cookie Monster seems to eat fewer cookies and now has a similar fetish for fruits and vegetables. I'm going to avoid the temptation to be cynical about all this, and just state plainly that this is good for America and the world at large. Things are changing for the better! (Though Oscar was at one time chided for being grouchy, and as well he should have been.)

Amazingly, some of the same actors are on the show that were on when I was a kid. The show started around the year I was born (1970), so these people have been going in to work and conversing in slow, friendly tones with children and puppets for nearly forty years. (I hear most of corporate America nodding in agreement and sympathy, I know the feeling.) What must it be like to work on Sesame Street? I imagine it's a lot more fun than working at Disneyland. Disneyland is the same sterile, silent, over-sized characters all day long, all year long, trotted in and out by the Disney Secret Service for your pre-arranged, non-verbal greeting. Disneyland is a vacation destination, somewhere you go once a year on holiday. Sesame Street, by contrast, is home.

Sesame Street is ever a surprise and full of life. There are always new characters (kid-sized) and new faces, and the media format is all over the map. You never know what you're gonna get. Just a minute ago there was a big furry elephant stuck in a bathtub. Everyone was pitching in to help get it out. (They ended up using peanuts.)

Yet, somehow the show remains familiar day in and day out -even forty years later. Perhaps it's that streetside staircase. You know the one I'm talking about. I grew up in Southern California, and never saw a streetside staircase until I was 27, but they've always seemed friendly and inviting -a place where the big quandaries of life were resolved: kindness, death, using the potty. Where Disneyland is all escapist fantasy, Sesame Street is part of the real world. Mickey Mouse will gesticulate and wave at you, maybe give you a nice, silent, overstuffed hug and an autograph, but the denizens of Sesame Street will sit on that staircase with you and just hang.

And there is a carefully delineated crossover with some of the more irreverant muppets. (I just saw one of the chickens from The Muppet Show do a background cameo.) But having the characters talk with real kids -what a concept! Though I wasn't a big Street viewer when I was a kid, (I was more of an Electric Company guy) I always wondered how those kids got to be on the show, chatting with Grover and happily sounding out words, and I remember being somewhat jealous. But I never would have been picked for an appearance, I'm sure, because I was the kind of kid who would've just shyly stared down at the guy under the table with his arm in the felt.

A 1996 survey found that 95% of American preschoolers have watched the show by the time they were three years old. Sesame Street is an American original -like Coca-Cola and Levi's and, well, Disneyland. My generation knows not a world without it.

And sometimes it was just plain funny:

(It's 2009. No kid today knows what that thing is either.)


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Wikipedia in the news again. I find this story fascinating, and I wish I'd thought of it. Good on Shane Fitzgerald (if he truly is who he says he is) for making asses of the lazy journalists of the world. We want their names!

Interestingly, Shane Fitzgerald does not have his own Wikipedia entry. Oh wait a minute, yes he does! He's the Irish Green Party politician who was elected to the Leixlip Town Council in the Irish local elections of 2004! Oh sure you are, Shane. How wily of you to be just obscure enough to not arouse those sleepy Wikipedia administrators.

Anyway, I was sorry to hear of the man's passing. Maurice Jarre is one of the great film composers of the twentieth century and I doubt he would have said anything that dopey, unless under duress. I don't think I would have believed it if I'd read it, and only underpaid obit writers who'd never heard of the man would have printed that. I wouldn't have printed it. I would've come up with something much more profound. I would've spent some time on it.

About Maurice Jarre, I have this to say: only a brave composer like Jarre could so deftly integrate that timeless instrument, the Triangle, into such a sweeping epic as Lawrence of Arabia. I've been playing the triangle for years and I still can't get it down.

(Wait for it at 1:40...)


Monday, May 11, 2009

Your worlds marry as you get older. It's a damn funny thing. Of course, worlds also fall apart as you get older, but hey, we knew this. A few weeks ago there was a Lost episode entitled "Some Like It Hoth" which had a subplot that had me laughing. It appears Hurley, who is currently unstuck in time somewhere in the 70s, was re-penning the script for The Empire Strikes Back. He was making a valiant effort to change the future so that Return of the Jedi would be a better movie, God bless him. Later in the episode, there is a tearful moment of drama:

MILES: My dad didn’t leave when I was 10. I–I was a baby. I never knew him. And I don’t want to. It’s not happening.

HURLEY: That was Luke’s attitude, too.

MILES: What?

HURLEY: In Empire, Luke found out Vader was his father, but instead of putting away his lightsaber and talking about it, he overreacted and got his hand cut off.

[Gas cap clinks]

HURLEY: I mean, they worked it out eventually, but at what cost? Another Death Star was destroyed, Boba Fett got eaten by the Sarlacc, and we got the Ewoks. It all could’ve been avoided if they’d just, you know, communicated. And let’s face it. The Ewoks sucked, dude.


So Star Trek came out last weekend. It's a prequel, if you didn't know, because we are in the Age of Prequels. It made a bajillion dollars and created a cultural sensation over the past few days, and because I am almost 40 and have two little kids, I missed it. I may sneak out later this week, if I can get away with it between appointments, but (for the same reasons previously stated) I'm not in a desperate hurry. Just like there are white Christmas lights people and colored Christmas lights people, there are Star Trek people and there are Star Wars people -with a certain amount of yard ornaments Lord of the Rings crossover. Neither is better, and all are equally mocked. (Though I personally suspect that one might be more mocked than the other. Not saying which.)

How do the worlds marry? Well, the new Star Trek is made by the creators of Lost. This is a good thing. Every Star Wars fan agrees that all of the Star Trek movies except for Star Trek 2: Wrath of Khan have been dopey and plodding. (The movie ended with Spock dying, if you'll recall, and gave us hope that the franchise had died with him, once and for all. It had lived long, and prospered enough.) But putting J.J. Abrams in charge will breathe some life into this franchise the way Eric Stolz did Uma Thurman with that adrenaline syringe in Pulp Fiction, remember?

In a way, this is like your kids marrying your best friends' kids. It sounds like a great idea on the surface, but in reality everyone significant in your life suddenly becomes an in-law, and from there on out it's just inbreeding, genetic deterioration, and uncomfortable holidays arguing about the Christmas lights.

Anyway, it's Sweeps Week, which is a like a mini-age. 24 is going to end for another season, the fate of Jack Bauer yet unknown, (though, strangely, in that other funky dimension called reality, he is contracted for an eighth season) and Lost is going to give us another 7-month cliffhanger: they may or may not explode the atomic bomb that they happen to have in storage under one of those sweet Dharma bungalows. If you don't know what I'm talking about, don't ask. No really. Don't bother asking anyone because no one understands a thing that's going on. (WHICH IS WHAT MAKES IT SO FREAKIN' AWESOME!) Exciting as it is, I, for one, am looking forward to the long programming break of summer.

So I'm a Star Wars guy, but probably only because I was born in the 70s. Add ten years to my age and perhaps I'd be a Star Trek guy. Who knows? (But I suspect it's not worth it.)

All that to say, I thought this was 45 seconds of hilarious:

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Saturday, May 9, 2009


"Where did you get that fancy Blogger template?"

I found it on Google, which is a popular Internet search engine.

"Is this the same Sean Hawkins from high school/college/Europe/who I met at camp/dated once/crashed my car/drank my last beer?"

Yep! Wasn't that awesome?! (But I'm not the one who built your patio cover. That is a totally different Sean.)

"How do you find time to write and run every day? You're lucky!"

I usually don't go to work until 10:30, and then I work until 6 without breaking for lunch. Mrs. Ditchman understands that the writing is important to me, and she gets a happier husband if she gives me some time for it. Same with the running. I find that I have more energy and a better attitude if I write and run every day or so. This enables me to accomplish more with my time, but between the business and the kids, there is barely time to watch an hour of Lost and Dancing With The Stars once a week. By the way, I encourage Mrs. Ditchman to play bunco, get a pedicure, eat Golden Spoon, and go to Jazzercise as much as possible. And, yes, I am the luckiest person you know.

"Who is Mrs. Ditchman? Isn't your last name 'Hawkins'? Isn't she your wife? Did she keep her maiden name or something?"

She is my wife. It's a pet name. Studies show that pet names are a sign of a healthy marriage. This seemed like the easiest way to go about having one.

"But why 'Ditchman'?"

On our honeymoon we stayed in a renovated turn-of-the-century bungalow on an old coconut plantation on Kauai. On the door of each cottage was a metal placard that had the name of the original family who lived and worked there. Ours said "DITCHMAN", the multiple meanings of which I find fall-over hilarious.

"I love it/hate it when you write about aluminum patio covers/your kids/the suburbs/Macs/running/movies/literature/history/pop culture/politics/God/Star Wars/the End Times. Why don't you write more/less on this?"

If I wrote less, I would get sick. If I wrote more, everyone would get sick.

"I was totally offended when you wrote THAT the other day. How could you?"

I try not to be insulting. I really do. I never want to insult anyone, or have to, as long as I live. As far as "offending" people, there's really only so much I can do about this. Everyone in life chooses what to be offended by from moment to moment. I know some people who are offended by everything, and I know some people who are offended by nothing. Generally speaking, those who are less often offended by things are happier, more mature, and have a more developed sense of humor than those who find themselves more often offended. It's true. Look around and laugh about it.

"You have a lot of opinions about things. I disagree with most of them."

Is this a question? If it's not a question, then it belongs on a post entitled TMST FSC (Frequently Stated Comments). Maybe next week.

"Why do you have so many dumb opinions about things?"

Everyone who is putting pen to paper and fingers to keyboard is stating an opinion, even (and sometimes especially) novelists and journalists. People with opinions will motor upriver to the source, (though sometimes they will take a wrong turn) and people without them will drift downstream without purpose to the unrelenting chaos of the open sea. It takes guts to have an opinion. Those who say they have no opinion are either apathetic, ignorant, or lying. Anyway, that's my opinion. Everyone reserves the right to change their opinion about anything at any given time, and should be respected for it.

"How come you deleted all your sidebar links?"

You know, I'm sorry. I was just trying to streamline things for the page at one point and I had so many people asking me why I didn't link them that it was just becoming overwhelming. If you post something that I find cool and that I think my readers will find cool, I will always link you. Please don't take it personally, but I try to create my own content. Perhaps in the future I will have one link to a blog of all my links. If it makes you feel better, I don't even link my own wife's blog. (Which, by the way, is http://themundanedetails.blogspot.com.)

"How come you turned off the 'Comments' functionality?"

Several reasons. Though I was initially a big proponent of the fun comments, I found that I was constantly checking back to the blog to see if I got any comments, and it started to rule my life. And then, if I didn't get any comments, I wondered who I had offended that day. So I just quit on it, and resolved that I was offending everyone every day. Yes, I am that insecure. I figured if anyone was so moved, they could just email me. The address is in my Profile. Also, I tired of the comment spam and those feckless, anonymous cowards who feel the need to be a heartless, faceless critical voice, like someone tossing a grenade out of the jungle.

"Wait a minute, do you even care what I think about you, or not?"

Of course I do. But I try not to. I guess it depends on how respectable you are.

"How did such a thoughtless dork like you end up marrying a beautiful woman, running a successful business, and having such cute kids?"

Again, I am the luckiest guy you know, but I suspect I'm not as thoughtless as you suppose. And I try to see the world through the prism of my blessings, and then build on that.

"Oh, please. I thought you didn't believe in luck?"

I don't, actually, but those who do would have a hard time with my theories on life, so I just simplify to be agreeable.

"I don't think you know anything about gardening."

Again, not a question, but you're on to me, aren't you?

"You seem like such a nice, funny, and intelligent guy. How could you vote for George W. Bush both terms?"

I vote for someone based on their principles, not their personality, and regardless of what the polls say. I didn't vote for Arnold Schwarzenegger. I don't care if you're an actor, an a$$hole, or an optimist, I just want to know what you honestly stand for and whether or not we agree. I will accept the outcome of an honest election.

"How come you spell some words and vu!garities with $ymbols?"

To throw off the search engines, bots, and parental controls.

"Do you really think the end of the world is coming, possibly on December 21st, 2012?"

The end of the world comes every day for someone.

"How many hits a day do you get?"

Not very many, really. Google Analytics tells me that most days it's 20-30 "absolute unique visitors", usually peaking on Wednesday and Thursdays, (interestingly) and sometimes I break 100 -which usually has to do with you linking me. (Thanks! It's the highest compliment in all of Blogdom!)

"I'm that person who reads your blog every day in Carlsbad/Beverly Hills/Arizona/Thailand/Starbucks! Do you know who I am?"

No! Send me an email!

"You're an excellent/sucky writer! You should write a book/get off the Internet!"

I'm working on it.

"I went back and read one of your posts for a second time and it was totally different. What gives?"

I'm a big re-writer. I love to re-write. I find it easy and fun and I'll re-write anything and everything. It relaxes me, like channel-surfing does you. Sitting down with nothing and starting anew is difficult and painful. In a few days, all of these questions might be replaced by something unique, creative, thoughtful and brilliant! (But don't bet on it.)

"Whatever happened to 'The Suburban Conservative'?"

It was the project that broke this camel's back. I have too many projects! I may bring it back some day. Maybe today!

"Does the world really need more mouthy, beer-swilling, conservative Christians like you?"

Yes. Have them call me. I need someone to hang with.

"I don't get it. What is "the most significant thing"?"

Fifteen years ago or so I got sick of writing the same thing in my journal every day: "I'm tired... I'm bored... I'm depressed..." so I decided to record simply the most significant thing that happened to me that day. I would put some thought into it at bedtime, and sometimes it was a world event or a death or a nasty breakup, and sometimes it was a sunset or a profound thought or a comment overheard in a coffee shop. This eventually changed my perspective on things: items in life often indicated as "significant" aren't necessarily important, right, just, trustworthy, or true, and they're usually merely the most obvious or memorable quality of things, however manufactured. (Television news is an excellent example of this "perceived significance".)

Anyway, I came up with the seven most significant things in my life. In the midst of this pop world, they would be considered ironic, but in fact they are indispensably and truly significant, and the lack of the pursuit of any one of them on any given day makes me feel incomplete, (and I usually get a bad night's sleep as a result.)

They are, in no real meaningful order, as follows:


To say any one of them is the most significant would be overstating it, and if you've read the blog for a while, you know how I tend to overstate things. Anyway, that's the joke. And -except for the days when I am tired and bored and depressed- most of the posts fall into one or several of those categories. And "7" is a nice prime, biblical number.

But let me know if you have an eighth.


P.S. Someone suggested "Beer" as the eighth, and it was a terrific suggestion. But, after some thought, I realized it would conflict in a tie with "Wine", so they both hereby fall snugly under the "Passion" category.

Hope that clears a few things up.


Friday, May 8, 2009

In case you're wondering where the stuffed Pluto is, it's in the refrigerator sitting on top of the leftover pasta.

I think it was a couple days before I noticed. I mindlessly moved them over, reaching for the pickles or beer or something, my tunnel-vision finely honed to a pinhole in my lasting tiredness this week. (Alright already! You're tired! Get over it!)

I'm looking forward to this weekend and its promise of the semi-normal. It's the first weekend sans BIG EVENT since February, when the days were shorter and we could while away our time strolling the Costco aisles, watching the big screen tvs and lounging in the patio furniture, inhaling cheese samples... Though Mrs. Ditchman does have to work all day Saturday, diminishing the normal to "semi" levels. Oh well. I predict we'll all be tired all weekend.

The garden is drying out and plants are dying off, so some corrections must be made as a result of the recent heat. This will occupy my spare moments for the next 72 hours. We are officially in DROUGHT EMERGENCY now, and I need to get on top of the sprinkler system. I'm currently buying in to the conspiracy that the local city officials have turned everyone's water pressure down about 20 psi without telling anyone. On a run a few weeks ago I noticed some non-descript white service vans parked by the water towers. Men in dark sunglasses were furtively carrying large wrenches with a certain menacing intent that told passersby not to stare and to keep walking. Anyway, now my tankless water heater doesn't click on for the kitchen sink, since the pressure is so low.

So what'd I do? Got my own wrench and hiked open the release nut on my house's pressure reducer under cover of night, that's what! That'll show 'em! If I disappear and you find that my cel phone is disconnected and these blog posts are suddenly deleted, don't contact the authorities -don't get involved! The conspiracy is too vast! Anyway, I'm hoarding old Sparklett's bottles filled with tap water in my garage. (How else am I going to water my doomsday garden? How else will we survive?)

I'm not crazy.

Have a clandestine weekend! (Meanwhile, don't trust anyone with fake plants.)

P.S. And, there, I fixed it. Everyone happy? Good, because you only get one change and -hey, hasn't that waterfall been running all day? I don't want to have to report you.




Thursday, May 7, 2009

I'm tired. You're tired. We're all tired. Everyone's tired. I'm tired of complaining about being tired. I'm tired of hearing about how tired everyone is -tired of it! Stop being tired already! Put some coffee on! Work less!

As if we could. Why do these kids get up so early? Why do they scream all night? When does anyone sleep around here? Of course, I have no problem just falling asleep dead and away at any given time. It's the ladders. I'm convinced it's the ladders. And the heat.

Aren't your sweat glands like one big muscle? So if you're sweating all day, aren't you exercising that muscle all day? I don't know the science, but hot work days make me more tired. Today will be a hot work day, so dear family, expect me to be extra tired tonight. I'm not looking forward to it, either.

Headed out to Valley Center, California. A semi-rural community with no actual center, as it happens. Every time I go out there, I'm looking for the main drag and a "center" to the valley. The town is actually pretty spread out atop a large mesa, probably to dissuade visitors, and sometimes you'll cross intersections that don't appear on the GPS screen. Perhaps this is why John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Fred Astaire, Bill Murray, and Benji built their mansions out there -to confound the paparazzi. The place is also remote enough that I can't get any radio reception, so it's a Podcast day.

I really do like the heat, it just makes for challenging work conditions. I'd much rather work in the heat than the cold, so, yes, I am much more suited for volcanology than arctic research. It's just as well. The radio wouldn't work there either.

I better get going. I've gotta get a run in before work!


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Decided against the run this morning. ALL YOUR MITOCHONDRIA ARE BELONG TO US! That, and I think I woke up every thirty-eight or thirty-nine seconds last night, for one reason or another. The Little Ditchman came in and tapped me on the shoulder for something, then she climbed into bed next to me. At least, I think. Mommy bolted upright, clapped her hands and pronounced, "OUT!" Or something. Anyway, it was dark, and there is no family bed here.

Later, it was the mommy who was poking me and saying I was getting up. I was? (And this was no illusory Facebook poke -it was the real deal.) You want to say something like, Well, you were out working until 8:45 and I had to do all the kid stuff after work and I'm exhausted, but then you realize that the shoe's reversed most other days so that argument won't fly. Still, you're Dad. Play dumb. Act useless. It's what you're good at. (I slept another hour.)

Ran out of screws yesterday! Euphemism, symbol, irony, or metaphor? Yes, all those things, as well as redundant. Again! How is it possible that I could run out of screws two whole days in a row? Look, it's a "Spanish Brown" thing, you wouldn't understand. Anyway, it was an honest error as they were two totally different sizes of screws. One is a #8 x 1/2" Hex-headed Tek screw, and the other is a #10 x 2 1/2" Hex-headed HWH SMS washer screw, both with painted ends. (The order form calls the #10 a #9, actually, but silly goose, there is no such thing as a number 9. Even I know better.) See how boring? My job is more screws than a chicken ranch and not half as entertaining.

So I've got to get back out there today. The landscaper wants me finished and gone so that he can do his job, though we aren't really in each other's way. I guess he just wants the property to himself so he can do his magic. (I can respect that. I'm the same way.) Also, he was complaining about some of the jobs he has right now: "Difficult people! Real a$$h0les! I'm the kinda guy who won't take work from people who yell at their kids wrong -I just walk away! But, you know, with the economy like it is..." Yeah man, I tell ya: I'm the same way. Why, just the other day this guy was clubbing baby Harp seals on his back patio and I just had to suck it up and ask him where he wanted the shade.

Good news: Mrs. Ditchman sold a job where the customer is so handy, he wants to build it himself! My work consists of ordering the materials and bringing it over and picking up the check (however smaller.) But awesome! Note to self: Build less, pick up more checks, get tan somewhere else.

Tomorrow's job is quite the opposite, however, so that the Fates can make up for it. See the picture-perfect, enchanting patio cover up top that I built last month? Well, the nice customer would like the column on the right to move over about 11 inches. So tomorrow it all comes down, it takes a jump to the left, and we do the time warp. It was not a mistake. And it's supposed to be the hottest day of the week.

It's all screws at my job!



"all your mitochondria are belong to us"
"family bed"
"Facebook poke"
"chicken ranch"
"clubbing baby Harp seals"
"the Fates"
"a jump to the left"


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Still hurting some. No injuries, no real pain per se, just a general crying out from every last mitochondria: ENOUGH! Perhaps that post-marathon patio cover I built yesterday was over-doing it. Marathon event coordinators never promise Monday off of work.

Back today to finish it up, to be honest. Never in my life have I ever been so thankful to run out of screws. I actually ran out of screws yesterday! Which is like a computer programmer without an electrical outlet or a Disney animator without a pencil (or an electrical outlet, I guess, nowadays.) These things don't just stack together by themselves, you know.

They say the recovery time is longer as you get older, though you can still handle the feat itself. Something about this doesn't make sense, but 48 hours after a marathon, I ain't arguing. I really feel like running right now, too, which seems odd. I just kind of want to be out there on the quiet suburban streets, which is a nice feeling to have. How about a long slow run/walk, as it's described in the books? Perhaps tomorrow.

And there's the rub. A day off to recover and you feel great. Some days after a long run I can still feel the energy -the endorphins or whatever- 24 hours later. But take three days off and the lethargy of life sets in. I can't get up off the couch, as my psyche dances a pathetic pity/pride samba: "Get up off the couch, loser!" "But I ran a marathon the other day." "That was nearly a week ago, you quitter!" "I could go out and run fifteen right now, if I wanted to." "Yeah? Let's see it!" "But I'm recuperating. Don't want to get an injury, you know." And so forth.

The best thing you can do is put the next race on the calendar, do a full power-down and re-boot. I'm thinking about it. No, I am. Really. I'll be thinking about it all day, while I'm schlepping aluminum up and down the ladder under the hot Cinco de Mayo sun.

But I'm no dummy: I picked up some margarita mixer on the way home from work yesterday. There's always room for more celebrating.


Monday, May 4, 2009

Never underestimate the prolonged difficulty of running a marathon. Seriously. It's far. And the marathon begins the day before -when you pick up your mother-in-law, load up the kids, and drive a hundred miles to the event. Check in to the hotel, figure out everyone's dinner, get your goodie bag at the expo and a few hours of uneasy sleep, and then try to find your way from one end of a point-to-point course to another at 5 AM without a map. There were a few problems. Hotel shuttle left early without us.

That being said, I got a new personal best! 3:46:32 (6 minutes faster than my previous record). But when I got to mile 15 I was actually thinking, damn, I wish that was mile 16 -as if it would've made any noticeable difference- and from there I did a slow disintegration. My realistic goal for this race was just to beat my PR, which I did, but I had a secondary, however more lofty goal of landing somewhere in the 3:30-3:40 range. I passed the 3:40 pace guy in the first two miles again and didn't see him again for a couple hours.

I don't know how those guys do it, staying on pace so consistently, but they always do, it seems. I thought he might have passed me when I stopped to drop a few ounces in the Port-a-John at 5, but I couldn't be sure. At the mile 21 marker, in a long straightaway, I turned to see if he was back there and I smacked my head into some poor guy's chest -thonk. I apologized and let him pass, and it was then that I noticed that it was the 3:40 pace guy -so I had been keeping ahead of him all along! I was stoked for a minute or so, and then I just watched him drift off ahead of me, while my legs increasingly cramped up. I guess I added six minutes worth of walking from there on out.

I'm not sure what happened. I think it was partially a lack of recovery time after a tough work week, and I just ran out of gas. But I also had a lot of cramping, so perhaps I had eaten too much the night before or had my body salts all out of whack or something. And I didn't get a final long run in during training, like something around 22, which I hold was a real mistake. Or maybe I just went out too fast -but I don't think so if you scrutinize my split times (bib #1020). Who knows with these things? The weather was perfect. The course wasn't too tough. I was going good and strong for the first half... and then?

Oh well. For the record, the OC Marathon is actually pretty nice. The Half Marathon, which garners far more entrants, runs along Newport Harbor and then on paved paths around the lagoon, which is beautiful. The rest of the race is only partially on the wide, engineered streets of Irvine, (nearly empty on a Sunday) and it then winds around on more bike paths along the concrete flood control rivers and other wild lands. A real surprise. I had expected asphalt and exhaust for 26 miles, and got quite the opposite. Race recommended? Sure.

It had its low points. Whoever set up the fifty Port-a-Johns at the start line in a circle facing each other was either feuding with the race coordinator or completely insane. I'm not sure I can aptly describe that pile of planning, but no one seemed pleased. If you've ever experienced the lines for the bathrooms at the beginning of a marathon, perhaps you can imagine the mayhem on your own. It was awful.

The expo was not particularly wow-tastic, as I'd seen most of the products before. This was a new one, however. I chatted with the company's owner and he gave me more information than I personally required, but I went ahead and bought some. It's pretty good. Evidently, the coffee I'm currently drinking is causing me to "age too fast" -it's what the guy said. (Aging too fast! I knew it!) Anyway, the additives have aided African witch doctors, Buddhist monks, and Himalayan Sherpas for centuries. (So, gimme some already.)

The real champion was Mrs. Ditchman. Up at 4:30 AM to nurse the baby and then out the door in the dark, wondering why she thought she could do this. She popped a few Tylenol and stood there at the start line with me and 6000 other people, bravely mentioning in passing, "my knee hurts." She'd been training as best she was able the past couple months, but two weeks ago she was about 12 miles out and in so much pain that she had to catch a bus back to the car. This kind of shattering disappointment is hard on the psyche, compelling you to quit with a thousand lashes of stabbing pain. She hadn't run in two weeks. The strategy had become to just STAY OFF IT, (impossible, if you're a working mom) take a daily Celebrex, and -come race day- give it her best shot. I left her in the back of the pack when the gun went off. Gave her a kiss and rushed off, worrying about her for the next 26.2 miles.

The Half Marathon ends at the same place as the full, so when you get to mile 13 you see two signs with two arrows in opposite directions reading "Half" and "Full". I thought this would be a good out for my wife if the pain got unbearable, and a few hours later I looked for her at the finish line, but she was nowhere to be found.

"Oh no," I thought. It meant she had tried to go for it, which I was secretly hoping she wouldn't do. Either that, or she was in some ambulance shuttle somewhere, being shuffled off to parts unknown with fifteen other limping dropouts who'd set their goals too high. "Live to run another day and save the legs for the rest of everything," I was thinking, but I know Mrs. Ditchman, and I know that she is not one to be stopped by mere pain. Her legs would have to fall clean off to put her out of the game. (And I'm not sure that would even stop her, as she clawed arm-over-arm to the finish line.)

And sure enough, an hour or so after I had stopped my clock, I saw her wobbling down the finishers' chute! She had a big smile on her face, and beneath that: steely gritted teeth. She was in a mental battle of superiority, mind over body. The mind had won, but the body wasn't happy about it. I snuck into the corral and got to hug her, amazed by the feat, but she was busy with other runners coming up to thank her -people who had wanted to quit but felt encouraged by my wife and decided to press on. I'm one of those people and I know the feeling. I know it daily.

I asked her later when the knee really started to hurt. "Mile 6," she said. Oh sure, I thought, it's only 20 more miles after that! She said she was tempted by the Half Marathon fork in the road, but opted out of giving in. Why? Who knows -probably because it was right around when the second dose of Tylenol was kicking in- but we were walking away from the line at the beer tent and a man, probably in his fifties, came up with his whole family. He was a big guy who looked utterly thrashed -like he'd just emerged from a human-sized garbage disposal. He was beaming. "Marci! Marci!" He hobbled over and bear-hugged her and introduced her to his family, who looked on in astonishment. "I couldn't have done it without you!" And then he shook my hand. Why did he shake my hand? You tell me, but I think I know.

Why do I do it? Because when I get out there on the pavement, just me and a few simple tools (the shoes) and with the wind blowing off my sweat, I get a feeling in my head that comes from nowhere else. It's the feeling that all the pain in life can be surmounted and overwhelmed by my living spirit, that I can accomplish anything. That it's that spirit that matters only and forever, and that there is hope for a good clean finish, and glory in the pursuit of it. The tiny, daily melancholies that come at me every day don't have a chance out there on the run. There's a feeling I get when I'm miles deep into it and it is simply this: I can take anything. It's the Infinite Loop that makes people call runners "crazy," but I'll do whatever it takes to feel that way, if even for a moment. Life's unworkable otherwise.

Later, I met some people in the hotel elevator. They were all business-like: stiff ties and makeup, saw my shirt and said, "Oh, the marathon was today? I thought that was weeks from now. How'd you do?"

How'd I do? What kind of question is that? It's a marathon, for literal crying out loud!

"I won!" I exclaimed, and their brows furrowed simultaneously. They eyed my medal suspiciously. They weren't sure whether I was joking.

They must not be runners.