Friday, August 28, 2009


I saw a butterfly, actually, sweep past a week or two ago. He glided over the yard and shook his little entomologic insectoid head.

Oh, well. At least we've got pumpkins!

No time -no more time today. Gotta get out and sell patio covers. Good day for it, as it's hotter than a...

Have a lepidopteran weekend. Last one of August.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

In my dream I was installing some large, lighted signs on the roof of a new local business, a pizza restaurant. They were having a big party, and guests as well as customers began to arrive. Things were getting more frantic with all the people showing up, and the owners were becoming insistent that I get the job done quickly. I was having trouble finding my helper, who was supposed to be out picking up some of the signs and helping me install them. When I finally found him, he was drinking beer and hanging out by the pool with some girls. This really upset me, and he looked over with an expression that said, "What's your problem?" I tried to contain my anger and explained how we needed to get this work done pronto and then he said, "You look like you're nextrated."

"I'm what?"

"Nextrated. You're frustrated with whatever happens next."

And then he swam off with the girls, and I woke up for the day, feeling just that.

It's gonna be a hot one! Not the best temps for tearing down an old patio cover and going to the dump, as it seems I do on every other Thursday, but it's work all the same. It's been just SoCal beautiful, though. I think the wind changed direction, all Mary Poppinsy-like. It's blowing offshore, which means sunny mornings, errant afternoon brushfires, and perfect surf days, if there's a swell out there. We've got some late August popsicle-melting weather here, and though the Ditchman butterfly garden is browned and brittle, and the back lawn is hard, cracked, and scorched, it's still nice to sit out there at sunset. Yesterday, it was me and the kids reclining in the wagon, joking about macaroni and chatting about what a winner mommy is, while she was out picking up pizza.

I should do a final butterfly garden update, now that I think about it. I'm a few days late. Perhaps tomorrow. I'll get out there and snap one last pic before it up and combusts on its own under the sweltering ignition of the August sun. It's the least I can do, for all that clicking you've done to get here, y'all!

Gotta get out the door before it gets too hot to work. I'm feeling a bit nextrated. And if you think this looks anything remotely like the Loch Ness Monster, then you sir, are a true believer.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Something boring: I am currently pained by the Apple iDVD program. Why must it switch around my menu photos? Why won't it stick with the background music I ascribe? Just because a DVD can hold 4.7 gigabytes of data and I've assigned 4.699999 to it, what seems to be the holdup? Is the OS upgrade that arrives on Friday going to make a difference? Do I need to upgrade my old video card again? Acckkkk.

We don't have the technology. And sometimes we don't have the tools, either. I was thinking I could save that one side of my front lawn by adjusting the arc of the sprinkler, instead of replacing it with a bigger one (because, hey, it's not the size of the sprinkler but the angle of the arc) but I can't seem to find the tiny elfen-made screwdriver or fairy-fingered alan wrench that makes the adjustment possible. The grass will suffer some more, for a time.

Also, the bathroom door swings open on its own. This drives me crazy, as I would rather it swing shut. It does it in the most annoying way, too, as you could walk in, shut it, (but not all the way) drop your pants and plop down on the toilet, and then... screeeeek, as it opens wide to passersby in the hallway -hello! I've tried everything, including switching the hinges and shimming them out, but still: it slowly, intently swings open. It's colder at bath time as a result, so it must be latched, but I fear that one day the kids will get locked in that windowless room at the wrong time and it will doom them to a life of sporadic, claustrophobic bouts whenever they have to bathe or pee.

And the "D" light doesn't work on my dashboard. And the aquarium temperature is 3 degrees too high. And everything in the garage is stacked in such a manner that I can't fetch the tools I need for the day's work. And the ceiling fan wobbles. And the remote control has cracked beyond repair. And the cream cheese is partially frozen.

I'm being eaten alive by the little things. It must be Wednesday.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ergh. I am annoyed by passwords. Who knew that the future would hold so many passwords? When you were a kid it was fun, barring the door on the treehouse. What's the password? you'd blurt between the paneling. "Weenersnot" someone would reply, and you'd snicker and let them in. (Or alternately: "Buttscab", "Poopnipple", and "Koochpube", depending on the day of the week.) It was the only password you knew, and needed to know.

Today, there are passwords and codes for everything and who can possibly remember them all? I heard of a retired CIA man who trained his family to memorize an 11-digit alphanumeric bit of nonsense that they could use the rest of their adult lives, but even that doesn't work anymore. One hacker gets a hold of one working passcode nowadays, and he tries it on everything for everyone in a millisecond. Computers.

This old downstairs piece (2002 iMac!) requires a passcode to switch users, which are just me and Mrs. Ditchman. I got tired of punching in the secret password, so I just changed it to "K". The K key is very close to the *return* key, so it makes it a bit easier. Anyway, I can't turn the damn password function off and I have to suffer through the 3-second function to get to my email. 3 seconds! I haven't the time!

Again: it's "K", and I don't care who knows it. You now have access to all of my email and can post dopey updates on my Facebook wall to embarrass me. Mrs. Ditchman also has this privilege, and has so far not abused it. Truth be told, I don't mind her reading my email. She can read it all! If there's something shameful in there, she can hold me accountable. I have nothing to hide, or, at least, don't want to. (She has already chided me for using the word "koochpube".)

Hers is "K" too, by the way. But for entirely different reasons.

So I keep a Word document, named innocuously in an innocuous folder, that keeps all of my passwords. It is like the presidential suitcase. Only one or two other people know about this file, and I update and rename it regularly, to secure my precious eBay accounts and starwars fanboy club login IDs. What else am I going to do?

And then there is the standby list of personal questions, for when a password is changed and forgotten, and that must be synchronized with my significant other so that we both have access to our various online banking accounts. Is our "favorite vacation spot" Hawaii, or is it one of the Hawaiian islands in particular? Which college did we decide we went to? And which named pet are we referring to? If Mrs. Ditchman and I don't straighten this out from time to time the Shell card doesn't get paid and I get stranded at the gas station. Then I would be forced to use a different, lesser-used credit card, which would inevitably ask for another aged password or possibly my zip code, which I still struggle to retain due to some latent dyslexia which only presents itself when recalling 6-digit increments. Dyslexics untie!


Monday, August 24, 2009

Jambo! I've taken to posting in the late afternoon recently, if you hadn't noticed. I guess it's better than not. Seems I've been working early, which also is better than not, I guess, (depending on the work and depending whether or not it merits and wins appropriate pay, one supposes.) Jambo all the same. How can you make it through the day without a blog-friendly Tanzanian greeting?

It was a weekend of minor accomplishment, but I indulged in twice the relief upon ditching the burden. There was that corner sprinkler, you see, that was in desperate need of replacement (okay: installment. I never got around to it in the first place.) The grass is dying! We're in the midst of a generational drought! So what do I do? Install more sprinklers. Anyway, it was bugging me, so I got it done. Also hooked up that full yard perimeter drip-line, as I am water-conscious and drought-aware, in case anyone cares, or notices. Will the grass come back? Yes. Later this winter. With the arrival of cool temps and a single damp week.

Also mowed the lawn, turned the compost heap, and changed the oil in both cars, because I am awesomely manly that way. I only spilled a bit of the used motor oil on the street, and will probably be fined for it, since it's clear I don't give a rainbird's wingnut what happens to the environment. I actually turned off my front lawn sprinkler timer completely, and just go out there and flip it on once a week or so, keeping the front-of-house foliage on life support (just barely) for the remainder of the hot season. The "flipping on" part happens on one of those off days, I'm sure, (since I am an even-numbered address, I get to water Tues/Thurs/Sat or some damn thing) and probably runs after the allotted hours (which are only before 7AM or whatever) and I just know the neighbors are going to report me, annoyed as they are about the old boat in the driveway (recently revealed as illegal in our city) and me cutting aluminum on weekends -the hellacious screech it makes causes every gardener saddled with a gas-powered leafblower to look over in awe and defeat.

Oh well. Went to church to dignify myself and repent about it all. How was church? It was great. Elevating. Holy. Unsullied by secular preoccupations. I was glad I went. I was going to link to the sermon, but it doesn't seem to be online just yet. I'm not in the habit of ordinarily linking to sermons, but this one I found particularly inspiring. Guest preacher, Alan Roxburgh. (He has a book or two.) It's just nice to walk out of church on a sunny summer morn and feel like you just learned something about yourself, about God, and about his Big Plans in this confounding and misguided world. I admit most days church just doesn't cut it that way for me, and I drive off quietly meditating on why God burdened me with this infernal ADD and how sorry I am for nodding off, mid-homily.

Not that He didn't have a reason for it. It's people like me that will keep this country from descending into communist chaos, as I will not tolerate the apparatchik -but not for political reasons, rather, it's just that I haven't the patience for any of it. I must say the paperwork and bureaucracy of several local city's building departments have me currently, and sufficiently, annoyed. I do not believe they are together conspiring against me, though that would be impressive, I just think it's the way of things as the government gets bigger and bigger... and bigger... Anyway, that had nothing to do with church on Sunday, and everything to do with work today.

That's a Monday. I'd rather fail on my own this Monday and seek the Lord's guidance come Sunday, than fail at the hands of some vast man-made apparatus every other day -if only because I haven't the energy for the blame.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Oh, damn. I'm late for work AGAIN. But at what cost? I finished copying files from the old, cow-graffitid Gateway! Windows 98! It wouldn't recognize the USB thumb drive to save its life, (which I guess it knew I eventually wouldn't) but I finally figured it out. It was like explaining an iPhone to Mr. Edison. So, down to the garage the old beast goes. That's 2 square feet of office space we could use. (Like for a file box of 2007 tax receipts.)

I got the fabled "Blue Screen of Death" a couple times. Fascinating. I must say that swapping that old thumb drive back and forth from Windows 98 to Mac OS X actually brought out the worst in the Mac, too. I even got the "Grey Shroud of Termination" which falls gently down the screen and politely asks you to power off everything. Not sure everybody knows about it. You only see it every so often, but when it descends upon you, it saps you of all your good, Apple Inc. cheer, as well as the hope for an increased market share.

And now it's on to the IBM Thinkpad transfer. Windows XP! I abhor dealing with the PC interface. Good lord, it's like driving across England -all the signs are in English but everything's on the wrong side, fries are chips, and you can't get a burger or a cup of coffee to save your life. Oh sure, Europe works fine and all, but give me AMERICA! This is the way people feel about Macs -with simultaneous admiration and contempt. Mrs. Ditchman resisted for a good long while, and then when she finally sat down to one it was a few minor complaints for a week or so, and then... silence. I took the laptop to camp with me and she was begging me to bring it home. Begging!

Okay, slight exaggeration. The new Mac OS is coming out next Friday and after work today I'm going to grab my sleeping bag and get in line at the Carlsbad Mac Store! Oh, man, is it ever going to be sweet! Just seven days to go until my blissful clickety-click upgrade. Can't wait.

Have a mactastic weekend!


Thursday, August 20, 2009

I woke at 10:15PM on the couch last night and thought I can still sleep a bit more here and get up to bed at a reasonable time without Mrs. Ditchman chiding me for it. She'll just think I'm watching tv. Woke again at 2:00AM and went upstairs.

Brushed my teeth, climbed into bed, and laid there for a moment wondering why I was too tired to bring myself up to bed in the first place. It was colder upstairs, oddly. I think the window in the bathroom was open, as well as some window elsewhere, and this causes a nice midsummer draft through the house all night. I like it. I prefer the outside smells to the inside ones, especially in August. Tonight, however, it was a bit colder. The June gloom is still hanging on, and the warm, monsoonal moisture of the southland has so far this year been a no-show.

So I'm laying there, figuring I've got about a minute and a half to consider a polite prayer before I drift off to sleep. I opt out of the nightly kiss on my wife's pretty skin because of the hour, and just as I am about to boot down I hear, downstairs of my consciousness, the distinct sound of a cat's meow. It's Rocky, is the first thing in my head. My God, I swear that sounded like Rocky... And three seconds later Mrs. Ditchman rolls over, "I just heard Rocky," she says, wide awake.

My soul clipped a hurdle in the nether world, like some small backfire of faith. Dammit, I think, I didn't imagine it. And then I turn to Mrs. Ditchman and lie, "You heard Rocky? That's crazy," and I roll over facing the other way, thinking about how we buried him out there in the yard just a few months ago, just a few feet away. "It was Rocky," she confirmed. At 2:08 AM.

My mind began to burn the night oil and I knew now I'd never get to sleep. What seems to have been the problem, Rocky? Did we not bury you properly? Oh my God, did we euthanize you too soon? Why have you returned? Do you have unfinished business? I found myself feeling guilty that he had to return, just shy of his feline paradise.

The cat. The cat! Your cat! Why would you have any fear about this? But there are unknown, unexplained things, and they can put fear in the hearts of the ignorant and the faithless. I spent the next twenty minutes considering it, and worrying about the kids down the hall. I wondered if ghost cats could hurt children, and how I would explain the spectral presence of the cat Mommy had for nearly twenty years, and then put to sleep. But not really...

When we got up this morning I admitted to Mrs. Ditchman that I had, in fact, heard the unmistakable meow, too. I wanted to ask her about it -ask her if she thought that it was distinctly Rocky. She said that it was, but I bravely dismissed that there are a number of cats in the neighborhood that prowl around at night, looking for trouble and picking fights with the local raccoons. Then I remembered how Rocky always got up around 2AM, after sleeping nineteen hours of the day, and how he would meow loudly in the middle of the night at his empty water dish or some randomly closed door -it became more irritating after the kids were born, when we were more tired from the constant tending to them. I'm here, Rocky would meow out of the dark. Stop forgetting about me.

Do I believe in ghosts? Not really, but neither am I prepared to disprove their presence. One thing I do know: if we are loved, (and perhaps even if we are not) then when we are gone our old life will make every bit the impression it did when we were here, if not moreso. A dead spouse, a dead parent, or a dead pet, for example, can have more influence, more presence, and instill more small terror, than the living can on any given day right there in the middle of your living room.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"Armadillo" is the word my group of friends have used as a code word in conversations with third parties to quietly inform the friend (usually drunk, depending on the friend) that he has crossed the line of social acceptability with the third party, like a conversational kick under the table. I consider the word something of a dumb choice, in that it's hard to work into a conversation surreptitiously. Sample dialogue:


FRIEND ONE and FRIEND TWO are having a nice conversation with a THIRD PARTY at a pleasant, neighborhood cocktail hour. FRIEND TWO is drunk.

This party has turned out to be really nice! It's great to meet some new friendly people!

And I love what you've done with the place! The Master Bedroom is terrific!

(mildly slurring)
Yeah! It sure was terrific last night!

You mean with all those armadillos on the bed?

FRIEND TWO does a spit-take.

And so forth.

Anyway, at least to some degree, the term seems to be catching on! I love this. I think there's a genius in it. Get an armored truck, paint "SURVEILLANCE VEHICLE" on the side, and then just park it wherever there seems to be trouble. This slices through to a heady truth about life: people behave when they think they're being watched. It's one of the reasons why parents raise their kids to believe in God -they know they're not going to be there all the time to supervise. So am I saying God is one big armadillo? One could argue that, I guess, but then you'd be putting the world in jeopardy of imminent social chaos. Some try.

Security forces around the nation are watching this in earnest, thinking: that one's going to be tough to beat.

"Police say they have a four-week waiting list of requests for the Armadillo."


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Lately, I've been obsessed with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Assessment in that never-ending pursuit of a clearer understanding of The Self. The MBTI has been around for fifty years or so, and you probably remember taking it in high school or college or for some lame office job you had once. It's the psychometric questionnaire that breaks down your entire personality into a four-letter word; ENFP, INFJ, etc. How accurate is it? Who knows, but it's at least as accurate as your horoscope.

Though I joked on Facebook that my score kept coming up LMAO, I'm actually an ISFP or an INFP, depending on how many beers I had before I took the test. (I've taken it a few times, now.) So, according to the MBTI, I have an introverted attitude, I tend to trust tangible, gatherable information instead of trusting my intuition, yet I feel my way through the decision-making process, rather than detaching myself and following set rules, and I tend to use my perceiving function instead of my judging function when relating to the outside world.

This may come as a surprise to many of you.

Or not. I was satisfied with the ISFP rating when I read that Steven Spielberg was the same way. Mrs. Ditchman scored the same as George W. Bush, but I won't say whether she was proud of this. Anyway, I found the 68 questions fascinating in how difficult they were for me to answer. You're supposed to use your intuition if you can't decide on the answer, but I don't trust my intuitive reflexes, as deduced by the MBTI. Sample Question/Personal Response: Would you rather be a senator or a scientist? Hmmm... I don't know. I like both. Why can't I be both? Don't we need people who are both? Wouldn't one be a better senator if one used the scientific method?

And so forth. So my wife and I took the test and found that we were complete opposites. This was at least as refreshing to hear as it was entertaining, but it still doesn't answer why she leaves the kitchen cupboard doors open all the time and then tries to deny it. I was going to force the test on the Little Ditchman, but she just demands more jelly beans, makes a scene when I say NO, and then cries and runs away, wets the bed, and makes further unreasonable demands all the livelong day. She is unclassifiable.

Anyway, it got me all interested again in the Forer effect, which I remember learning about in college (though, not really.) What is the Forer effect? It's that magical moment where you pick up the horoscope on your birthday and find that it pegs you exactly. What else is it? Well, analysts here at TMST headquarters have done a few psychometric studies of our own and have found that our readers are generally described as follows:

You have a need for other people to like and admire you, and yet you tend to be critical of yourself. While you have some personality weaknesses you are generally able to compensate for them. You have considerable unused capacity that you have not turned to your advantage. Disciplined and self-controlled on the outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure on the inside. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations. You also pride yourself as an independent thinker; and do not accept others' statements without satisfactory proof. But you have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. At times you are extroverted, affable, and sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, and reserved. Some of your aspirations tend to be rather unrealistic.

Did you find any of that agreeable to your own personality? Yeah, so does everyone.

It is considered unethical to compel anyone to take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Assessment, and the test should always be taken voluntarily. You're on your own. The test is somewhere on Facebook, if you're interested. You can then publish your score for the world to see. Everybody's doing it.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Well, I feel like an unenthusiastic failure , and unburdened with optimism. The Burden of Optimism might have been the title of Obama's bestselling book, if he had wanted me to read it, but he settled on The Audacity of Hope, which was clearly a wise move. The subtle difference between the two titles delineates the difference in character between us. Don't ask me to explain it. And unfortunately that book will never be written. (But if you get around to it, send me an autographed copy.)

Some nights you go in to kiss your 3-year-old daughter good night and she shoes you away, "No, Daddy. Go downstairs." And some days you wonder how they haven't repossessed your part of the cul-de-sac yet, and as well you have no energy for polite deceptions, and so you just suffer amid the simple truth: that you really don't know what you're doing. And every promised endeavor remains undone, and every distant hope just that. You want to blame God for planting those hurdles in front of those well-intentioned hopes, but you know the truth. And if you feel this way from time to time, then from time to time you are like me: an unenthusiastic failure.

500th post! Okay, I admit that at least half of those posts were really not post-worthy, either in their bitter excuse for not posting, or in their just plain biting bitterness. Solly! I'll keep trying. Still, 500 posts could be a book, even if you cut out much of the bitterness. Perhaps I will. When I get to it. Put it on the list.

This year is well past half over and I'm still only up to #3 or so on my 10 Goals for the Year. How unfortunate. At least I'm at #3, I say, since I'd be even less of a success without them. "Audacity" is not something I particularly lack, now that I think of it...

audacity |ôˈdasitē|


1 the willingness to take bold risks : "Her audacity came in handy during our most recent emergency." (See note at temerity.)

2 rude or disrespectful behavior; impudence : "She had the audacity to pick up the receiver and ask me to hang up."

ORIGIN late Middle English : from medieval Latin audacitas, from audax, audac- ‘bold’ (see audacious )

The willingness to take bold risks can come easy to me, as does the rude and impudent behavior. It's the consequences of the audacity that I seem to have trouble with, and nearly every time. So there's the rub, I guess. The Big Question: are you willing to be responsible enough to manage and suffer the consequences of the risk? I guess I try not to think of such things at the time, pre-leap. If I hesitated like that, the risks would never be made.

But not Obama! Our president was ever-willing to hope boldly and impudently! Anyway, I'm still finding the title confusing and mildly odd, however... inspired!

500th post! There were some news items today that piqued my interest: A plant that eats rats, and a lady who is pregnant with 12 babies. I wasn't going to mention them -it just didn't seem worthy of the occasion, but then I thought... aw hell, they're both pretty audacious. Some days the carnivorous plants are the most significant things.

I know what it is: it's PCDS. I get it around this time every year. "Post-Camp-Depression-Syndrome". It happens when you have an utterly profound seven-day stretch of a spiritual and energetic high that is unparalleled the remainder of the year. It's camp! Then you come home and find yourself wondering if those messed-up campers are going to be all right, or if you made a difference in the world at all, or even if you can at home... So I diagnose myself with a made-up disease to excuse it all. At least I don't get PCDS like I used to, now with a pretty wife and cute kids and a lovely home to return to, but still, it's there. I'll get through it. It's a rat-race, but I'll get through it.

Just gotta keep one eye on those rat-eating plants, unexpected hurdles of God, Himself. (For the rats, that is.)


Friday, August 14, 2009

Today is the birthday of The Most Significant Thing! TMST turns 2 today, which isn't particularly significant. What is significant is that it is the same day as little Grace's birthday, which makes it all easy to remember.

I'm going to be celebrating these high and holy holidays by continuing the 2-week long TMST hiatus through Sunday, and then diving back in with my 500th post on Monday.



Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Just thought I'd mention that I'm still alive. Home, though not entirely back, from camp. It was an amazing week. What can one say about it?

Well, a lot, actually, but I'm late for work, surrounded by mess. If you demand more about last week's happenings, you can check out some of it on YouTube, here.

Superb, unmitigated adolescent fun!


Monday, August 3, 2009

Unretouched, Monday morning sunrise out at Camp Fox, Catalina Island:

I'm at camp! It is beautiful here, and I won't be posting much at all this week, sorry to say. Summer camp! It's where the season crests, and for a moment you're forever young. It's quite a sight, and really something.