Saturday, October 31, 2009


Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween. It's that great American holiday where you get to dress like an idiot and bribe people to give you candy, as opposed to Easter, that great American holiday where you have to dress nice and you get candy for doing nothing, or Christmas, where it's just candy for a month and no one really cares what you wear.

It's all princesses and carnivores here in the cul-de-sac, though I did see a Transformer earlier this morning on his way to school. The Little Ditchman is going as Jasmine from Aladdin, (or, as she pronounces it, "Jazz-man" which paints an image of a different costume entirely.) We have a joke routine. I say, "What a beautiful Mulan costume!" and she gets all worked up, "No, Dad. I'm Jazz-man!" And then I say, "From Beauty and the Beast?" And she says, "No, Dad. I'm Jazz-man from Aladdin!" And then I rattle off all the princesses while she giggles and stamps her feet, "Jazz-man!" And then I turn to the Little Digger, who is dressed as a tiger, or, according to the Little Ditchman, like Rajah, Jasmine's palace tiger from Aladdin, and I say, "What a great Lion King costume!" I'm hilarious. It drives her nuts, but she can laugh about it now, and has learned that I'm joking.

If you have a stubborn, strong-willed, control-freak little 3-year-old like I do, you need to keep turning the world upside-down so that they gain a sense of humor. Otherwise, they'll never get used to the fact that the world will never fit into their nicely lined-up, organized little boxes. Oy. It's a tough lesson. I know people my age who are still trying to cram that square peg into the round hole. But that's the thing about life: there are no round pegs. One supposes you have to make them. By dulling out the edges of the square ones.

I don't have a costume chosen, though the kid wants me to go as "a batman." It's always a batman, as if there were a society of batmen in some distant underworld, waging their war on crime as a whole nation of batmen are want to do. But I don't have a batman costume.

I have narrowed it down to two super-cool costumes, however, taken from today's news. I could be Earnest Shackleton, famed turn-of-the-century polar explorer whose ship was stranded in Antarctica and smashed by ice, but who led his entire crew to safety in an incredible tale of daring and leadership. His abandoned whiskey was recently uncovered in an Antarctic shack. Fascinating.

More on the scary side is Fritz Darges, the last surviving member of Hitler's inner circle who died the other day at age 96. He wrote a memoir that was to be published after his death, so World War II historians are eager to check it out. He tells a great story about Hitler:

During a strategy conference, a fly began buzzing around the room, landing on Hitler's shoulder and on the surface of a map several times.

Irritated, Hitler ordered Darges to "dispatch the nuisance". Darges suggested whimsically that, as it was an "airborne pest" the job should go to the Luftwaffe [Air Force] adjutant, Nicolaus von Below.

Enraged, Hitler dismissed Darges on the spot. "You're for the eastern front!" he yelled. And so he was sent into combat.

They would both be great costumes, as would The Fly That Enraged Hitler, title of my new book. (Who knew that Hitler and I had such common feelings for the loathesome creatures?) Anyway, I suspect I'll just wear my old Lost Dharma coveralls, which are supremely comfortable. It should be fun. We'll carve pumpkins, eat candy, dress silly, as it all should be. What a holiday.

I hope you find yourself doing the same and loving it.

Ernest Shackleton's whiskey, still on ice.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Well, this explains our marital success.

A recent study showed that the couples who were happiest and had the lowest divorce rate were those where the woman was at least five years younger than her husband -- and when she's better educated.
Mrs. Ditchman happens to be five years younger than me, and put that extra year of college under her belt to secure the diploma. Lucky me, today the statistics fall in my favor! (Some days they don't.)

It's one of those articles on one of those websites that has columns entitled "Orgasm of the Week" and, no, I don't read it, I just ended up clicking on links until I found myself in the Internet wilderness, at the foot of a sign in the forest that said my marriage was likely to be successful because I married up. The article also claimed that healthier, happier marriages have more sex in them. (Wow! This just in! And people with more money are less likely to have financial problems and professional male figure skaters are more likely to be gay!)

So, of course, I pointed out to my wife that our marriage is more likely to be successful if we had more sex. She pointed out another study that showed that women were more likely to have sex with their husbands if their husbands did more chores around the house. I said, "Tell me which chores I need to do for sex and I will do them all right now!" To which she just laughed and changed the subject. See? No woman would ever make such a list, because she knows the man would do them. Then she said that she felt bad making me do chores since I work all day anyway and she knew I was too tired. And I agreed, yes, I was usually too tired for chores. "Uh huh," she said, "but you are never too tired for sex!" Well, no, but that's how much I love you! And then she does the big eye-roll and I go back to watching tv because she was washing the dishes at the time and I knew then what wasn't going to be happening later.

As for me, I dream of the day that I have to have sex with my wife in exchange for her mowing the lawn. (She doesn't know how good she has it!) But life is confusing and difficult that way. Which is totally why I married someone smarter than me.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I am feeling pretty good today, thank you for asking. The knee pain went away just as soon as I stopped running on it, and my understanding is that it comes back when you start running again, which is what makes the healing so tricky. And my fist feels great until I start pounding nails with it! (Maybe that's not a good metaphor.) Anyway, I'm going to have to talk myself into a couple days off, which is a good thing.

Of course, today's patio cover tear-down didn't help. There was a lot of ladder and sledgehammer work, and I often wonder if it all qualifies as "cross training." I count it as such, and just continue on. (If they ever have a running event that includes drill-drivers and claw-hammers, I will be the regional champion.) But it was a beautiful blue-sky and gusty fall day. And I chose the Carlsbad transfer station over the one in Escondido, just for the view.

Thanks to everyone who came to the Little Digger's party bearing presents that whirrr and clickkk and sing and siren and bellow and buzzz, especially at full volume before sunup. You will be amply rewarded in the afterlife for such thoughtful gestures, no doubt, and I will continue my evangelizing of all the virtues and pleasures of simple reading, and at as early an age as possible. Surely, I jest, but books are lovely, silent things. Currently, the Little Digger is utterly enamored of this piece, which was clearly designed by modern devils intent on torturing family-minded adults:

Woe to the giver.

(It was my loving sister.) But did we not all have one of these at some point in our childhood? And did our parents not bark and yell at us for inarticulated reasons at some point in our childhood? The classic Fisher-Price "Corn Popper" may be the earliest documented source of all broken relations between parent and child in the latter part of the 20th century.

It's an amazing toy, actually, alienating parents from their offspring since 1957. I admit that it is pretty gratifying when you push it to get that random PLOKKK-PLOKK-PLOKKKK sound, and yet, it is so impossibly annoying when someone else is at the helm. Like cigarettes and social drinking.

The Little Digger is pushing it right now. I may just leave the room, and look for my concentration elsewhere. (Hmmm... it was here before these cute kids came around...)


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Blew out my knee today.

Okay, not really. I think I'm fine. But I was at Mile 21.5, just a few paces past the Here Be Dragons! sign when something in my left knee went pop! I hesitated, limped a bit, and then started into it again and there was a pop-pop-pop-pop, like a flat tire on the freeway. So I quit right there, and walked the rest of the way home. I'm man enough to know when far is far.

Pretty sure it's the Iliotibial Band, which, if you spend ten seconds looking it up on the Internet, you will find it at the top of the list under "Most Common Running Injuries." Furthermore, if you look under "Causes" it will say "Excessive uphill running," which is exactly what I was doing at the time of the first pop. (See elevation chart, above.) I was out for a nice, long, easy run. Up early, I thought I'd jog down to the beach and out to the end of the pier, and then come back along the San Luis Rey River, which has a nice autumnal scent to it this time of year. Then I headed up the BIG HILL and felt so good I pushed myself. I pushed it good and hard, and then... pop! Like all those times I over-tightened nuts on the Chevy 454 in my boat. (They strip right off.)

So I'm hitting the Advil and ice, taking a down day or so. It's all hills around here, anyway, so what's a guy to do? And it's all office work today (well, mostly) but this knee problem probably won't bode well for tomorrow's solo patio cover teardown, but, again, what's a guy to do? Everyone's gotta work.

Here's my run! I put an aid marker where I quit out and walked on home.


Monday, October 26, 2009

As Mrs. Ditchman headed out the door for work this morning I said something like, "I feel that everything is a mess right now, from the house all the way to work, and I don't know how to make sense of it." She was in agreement, but that's the way it's always meted out to us after one of our great-gatsbyian party weekends. There are no servants.

Her side of the family rolled in on Friday, stayed, partied, and then rolled out on Sunday with all the slow, unstoppable force of a harvest moon tide. It was nice having the lot of them, but that tide buoys these ships and causes them to throw anchor. My family, on the other hand, blew in like a meteorological event from the season closer of Storm Chasers. That's fun, too, but have it all happen at once and you could write a book about it. I was up until 1AM on Saturday doing dishes and trying to right the craft, which was when I thoughtlessly had that last glass of wine that almost had me leaning over the stern, but still leaving me green with sea-sickness most of Sunday. Then we went to another party, which will not be mentioned.

But it was a hoot, all Saturday. The Little Digger turned 1 (actually, this Thursday) and seemed to enjoy it through and through, in spite of the burgeoning molars. The Little Ditchman had the time of her life, too, with all her cousins and buddies hopping unstoppably about the yard. I think we are incapable of having "a small, intimate party of family and only close friends" since our family alone amounts to about 35 people. I mean, say "party" and there's already 35 people on the invite list, all ages, but it's nothing to complain about, and, rather, something to be proud of. (Not the amount, mind you, but the mere fact that none of us resorted to killing each other.)

There is sand all over the house. And flies. The sand, I know where it came from. The flies, I cannot say, but they line up at the infrared sensor on the garbage can and let each other in and out of the tossed meat and cake buffet. Every sheet, towel, and pillow case needs to be laundered today, and there are piles of dirty clothes, all thankful for my recently exhibited dryer-repair prowess. This is the last week of October. Most of my monthly goals have not been met. Halloween is Saturday, and then? A long walk home from 2009. But it's a nice night, and I'm looking forward to it.

Nearly all of the surviving Kanowitz blood was present.


Friday, October 23, 2009

DRYER UPDATE: It was the thermal fuse, for those of you wagering from home. The ignitor is fine. I found an ohmmeter for $15 at Home Depot and looked into it myself. Further research online showed that this was the most common culprit of Whirpool dryer failure. I put on my Construction t-shirt and went down to the appliance parts place, were I was surprised to find a collection of extraordinarily helpful appliance repair men. Friendly, even! They sold me the part for $15, (though I'd seen it for sale on the Internet for $8) and I noted their charges for doing the appliance repair: $50 for coming out + minimum $50 labor charge + parts. So I saved a hundred bucks, learned about dryer repair, and got a new ohmmeter out of it. For many people, Knowledge is Power. For me, Knowledge is Savings.

Mrs. Ditchman was pleased, which is all I aspire to, and it made yesterday a perfect one before it had barely begun. She woke up again at 4:47 this morning, because that is the routine, and we are still dreading the coming time change. But I can't let that bother me, as we have other fish to fry, other meat to grill.

"Grilling meat" is sort of the vague theme we are going with, for this weekend's birthday party for the Little Digger, who turns 1 with a full set of incisors. Folks from both sides of the family and all parts of California will be in attendance, so we tried to slim down the list on this go-round and not invite everyone on the world wide web, like we usually do. Mrs. Ditchman scrambled to clean house yesterday, and did a fine job. She is intent on making the cake. I told her to just buy a cake, but she would not have it. Evidently, the mom must make the cake, on top of everything else. I suspect that if all else fails, you have made the cake, and then people at the event go, The mommy made the cake? Super mommy! But ours is super anyway, with or without cake.

She said she was considering making it look like a soccer ball, but I questioned whether that was an appropriate match, so to speak, to the "grilling" theme. I suggested a cake in the shape of a big steak, which I thought was hilarious, but it did not fly. Then I suggested a cake in the shape of a Weber Grill. A big, round chocolate one, held aloft on three sturdy sticks. I think she considered it for a moment, before curbing her ambitions. I googled "Weber Grill cakes." It appears to have been done.

Amazing. There are some divinely inspired cakes out there, and evidently some moms have all the time. But when I see cakes like that, I only see neglected children. And no wishes to blow for.

The weather is near perfect! God must be drinking pinot and playing bocci, or doing some such happy thing. Anyway, God, I appreciate it.

Have a happy weekend.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Attention family: I believe there would be a substantial increase in domestic productivity if everyone would stay in bed until there is at least some semblance of daylight outside. The reasons for being up before the crack of dawn are few, and I see no reason to repeatedly exploit them. The daddy is tired, and the mommy, moreso. Daylight Savings is coming in a week and if we persist in the whimsy of waking at, say, 4:47, when we move the clocks back an hour we will be inclined to wake at 3:47, and this is unacceptable. I understand you have teeth coming in. I hear you having the bad dream. And it appears you have wet the bed. I, too, have similar bothersome ailments. You getting me up in the middle of the night is one of them.

Can't you see how we trudge through our daily chores like mindless zombies? Don't you wonder why we are constantly dropping dishes and bumping into walls? Your daddy works with sharp-edged tools on a daily basis and needs to maintain his concentration, which he derives from full nights of undisturbed sleep. Your daddy loves you, little ones, and wants to hold you and tickle you and play with you, but he won't be able to do this if he accidentally saws his limbs off.

In the same vein, you should know that your mommy doesn't like screaming at you any more than you like to hear it, and probably even less so. Her patience is dangling from the end of a rope in a bottomless well. Be aware that this is not the woman I found and married before you were born. That woman was carefree, content, and from time to time wore makeup. I know it sounds like a distant fairy tale, but it's true. I believe peace and tranquility will one day return, my winsome queen will once again rule, and there will be harmony to the hinterlands, but as long as we're not getting a full night's sleep this nirvana is a useless pipe dream.

Virgil wrote that sleep is Death's brother, which is why siblings must never be allowed to fight. You kids don't know how lucky you have it. Don't get me started. And don't try to string us along by being intermittently cute -this isn't going to work anymore. You think you know how to whine? Because I'll show you a real whiner. The book will be published when you reach adolescence, the world will read it, and you will be shamed and embarrassed to no end. Think I'm kidding? Just stop and think about it. No, really. Just. Stop.

This is a simple plan that will have lasting effects: STAY IN BED, ASLEEP, UNTIL DAYBREAK. If you have to go to the bathroom, get up and go. There's no reason to come and wake us to say you need to go. Furthermore, it was only a dream, and that sound was nothing. Please, for the sake of all that is holy and pure, let mommy and daddy sleep. Don't make us beg.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How do you like our new washer and dryer? Nice, huh! Okay, so not really. But it would be, if we had found $2000 in change within the old dryer casing.

Our dryer broke, which surprised me, because my money was on washer failure. (Dryers are known to last a century, but washers not so much, the way men don't live as long as women. Anyway, you need both. You could get by without one or the other, but you'd end up dirty, wet, and miserable.) Mrs. Ditchman mentioned that the dryer wasn't getting hot a few days ago [SEXUAL JOKE DELETED] and I dismissed the notion. Later, when I ran out of clothes to wear, the issue reached crisis proportions. So I went out to the garage and took a look, thinking it was probably just a clogged lint vent, or something.

I took it apart and herded the dust buffaloes to some other corner of the garage. Then I put it back together, with the sum total of my efforts resulting in still no heat. Then I educated myself and reverse-engineered the thing, with the help of the Internet, and now I have it narrowed down to one of two parts: the gas ignitor or the thermal fuse. I'd test them, but my ohmmeter melted when I left it on my dashboard one hot afternoon. Anyway, it's probably just a ten dollar part. I may buy one of each and replace them both, because, hey, what the hell? Now I have to find an appliance parts place which I dread because in my experience these guys hate selling parts, since they make their money fixing the appliances themselves. But I, too, know the difference between $10 and $150, and with all those savings I could afford a new ohmmeter.

I was looking for the manual. I asked Mrs. Ditchman about it and she mocked me for even asking. Mocked me! Seems the dryer is one of the last remaining pre-marital possessions, and "I bought that dryer 15 years ago when I was young and didn't care to save that stuff," meaning the manuals. I looked anyway, and ten feet away from the broken dryer, on a shelf in the garage, is my box of manuals -because I save them all- and behold! At the bottom of the box: the dryer manual, c. 1996. I showed it to Mrs. Ditchman, commenting on how wise she was to marry me, a man who could meticulously organize her life. She said, "So, did you fix it yet?"

No, but it's clean. About 6 pounds of lint, enough to make a sweater (but we'd have no way to launder it.) This is all a pressing issue, since later this weekend we have family staying over and we can't all be standing around dirty, wet, and miserable now, can we? Although, a broken appliance never stopped us before. We could all just go camping.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

How was the Home Show? It was like most all the other Home Shows, and thank you for asking. After sitting and staring at the booth filled with granite and stone, on the other side of the aisle, Mrs. Ditchman got bored and got up, went over there and started pricing stuff out for our bathroom. Mrs. Ditchman! Get back to work so we can afford that stuff!

Some weekends of business are trial and error, others are fail and folly. This one had a smattering of all the above, for better or for worse. I had completely forgotten that I had Daddy Night at the preschool, which the Little Ditchman was really looking forward to, so I rushed home after setting up the booth without doing the quality work I usually do. It was on Mrs. Ditchman to get down there early and touch-up the paint on the new (fancy) columns on Friday morning. She ended up being an hour late, since she backed the Tundra into the fairgrounds security vehicle (no damage, no worries) and we gave up trying to make it the nicest-looking booth EVER.

Booth competition is funny. A few years back there were six or seven dealers selling aluminum patio covers, which amounted to an atmosphere of demoralized sales. We stuck it out, and now we're down to three or so competitors at this show circuit. Some time ago, we decided to one-up everyone by displaying the new! 2x3 lattice style, which never really sells, but differentiates us from the other displays. Now, everyone is showing off the 2x3 lattice, but we have upgraded to the new! square columns. They can't keep up with the Ditchmans! (Next year, hanging flat-screen tvs with slideshows of wow-tastic patio installations.) Anyway, the current hot products are fake grass and solar panels, and it's, like, every other booth. Some fake grasses are nicer than others, but all the solar panels are the same ugly. Glad I'm not in that business. Yet.

Our business seems to be getting a reputation, at least amongst the other sellers. We do the best work (!) but we're not the cheapest, and we're not the biggest operation out there either, so Mrs. Ditchman has a sophisticated technical breakdown of cost-averaging, or some such thing, which makes us competitive -she is wicked smart. And highly attractive. I installed studio lighting in our display booth that highlights and compliments her pretty hair, and the customers line right up.

My wife has many adventures at the Home Shows, while I am home herding our offspring. On Saturday, she was pulling in to the fairgrounds and noticed one of our aluma-shade competitors in the parking lot. The way she tells it, he threw his truck into reverse for no apparent reason and crashed into the guy behind him. (I guess this would be called a front-end collision.) Later, she met up with Dr. Fix-It and went on the air on KCBQ to say how bitchin' and affordable our aluminum patio covers were. She texted me: Did you hear me on Dr. Fix-It? But I don't sit around and listen to the radio all weekend, so, No. This is the second time she's messed around on the radio, silly girl, hawking goods over the airwaves. (Meanwhile, who's manning the booth?) If we sell a single job from that, we're going back on KCBQ and buying ad time.

I ran into Dr. Fix-It later. No, really. On Sunday I drove down with the kiddies to meet her, and tear down our booth after the show was over. I found a great parking space behind a large truck right near the entrance, and while pulling into the space I rear-ended the guy -tapping his tow hitch and bending our license plate. The truck's owner was standing right there, and he had witnessed the whole thing. I warily got out of the car as he approached me. He took one look at me (or, perhaps, my shirt) and asked, "Are you Marci's husband?" to which I admitted so. He held out his hand and introduced himself.

"Dr. Fix-It," he said.

Nice guy. He wasn't worried about the damage, said it happens all the time, and, since he was Dr. Fix-It, it was assumed he could have managed the repairs himself. He said my wife was great on the radio, and I told him this came as no surprise to me. We chatted for a bit and I went into the big hall and did my part, shelling out five bucks for a bad domestic beer in a plastic cup and then tearing our whole cover down and loading up the Tundra. At one point, Mrs. Ditchman's name was announced over the fairgrounds P.A. system because she had won movie tickets from Dr. Fix-It. In the end, we celebrated with Pizza Port as we often do after the Home Shows. I forgot my wallet, so I couldn't refill my growler with the Poche Pale, (Grrrr.)

Did we sell any jobs? Is the economy rebounding? Are we back in business? Will we be able to live in Oceanside and tell the story for another few months? Will I live another day to drink a better beer? Time will reveal all. For now, we tighten our belts and fend off bankruptcy and foreclosure for another season, thankful that this weekend's accidents were little more then dentless, painless anecdotes to another humdrum work detail.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Home Show. Home Show! Oh, I was trying to be enthusiastic, there, but what's the use? Ditchman Aluminum, and all associated bank accounts, are approaching desperate levels, and that right before the holidays. It happens sometimes. Questions arise: if I put that extra coat of paint on the display, will it attract that one necessary customer who will provide work for the family for another week? If we invest in new hanging flowers, will it bring in the labours needed to resupply the Barbie accoutrements for the Christmas season? Will all that effort I put into the new slideshow compel wealthy San Diegans stuck in the sun to swarm like bees around Booth Space #265, all of them willing to shell out cash for shade?

No one can say, but we press on all the same. It slows this time of year, but it seems to be slowing sooner and faster this year, which frustrates. Mrs. Ditchman has a nasty cold which, I imagine, doesn't drive strangers toward our display and away from the other, lesser, aluminum patio covers in opposing booths. FREE VIRUS WITH EVERY ESTIMATE! is not a seasonal offer with selling power, unfortunately.

I am home chillin' with the chillun, which is great, though, demanding. I always forget that one cardinal rule, which is: WHEN ONE WILL BE HOME WITH THE CHILDREN, ONE MUST DITCH EVERY OTHER THING THEY WERE PLANNING ON GETTING DONE THAT DAY. If I don't keep this in mind early on, then the day is flooded with the frustration of a thousand distractions. If (on the rare occasion that I am thoughtful and wise) I give myself over to them the second Mommy leaves, and I remind myself that this day with them is a precious one, then the day usually moves swiftly and perfectly. I resolve to do that today. It's beautiful out, and dammit, I am going to enjoy it.

Or, I could just leave the tv running Playhouse Disney all day.

Got a call from my sister yesterday who said, "Go online and get SKYPE!" So I did, and minutes later, we were video chatting -she in my living room, I in hers in Hawaii! It's an odd experience, the video chat, as you sit and stare, thinking, Hmmm. Gee, your hair looks great. But it is a wonder, and a laugh. She got the kids and they waved. I took the laptop outside and showed her the garden watermelons. The Little Ditchman didn't get it at first, thinking it was just a bad quality video of her aunt, but when the screen started asking her questions and waving back, that cocked-head Golden Retriever look gave way to grand understanding. Then, when her cousin got home from school, we just left the computers running while the girls played dress-up and Duck, Duck, Goose. Now, I'm not sure how you actually play Duck, Duck, Goose on Skype, but the 3-year-olds figured it out. Then they played Hide and Seek, which is fun since the seeker just gets to point at the screen. So Skype is the babysitter-nouveau! Only problem is the time difference, as bath time comes 3 hours earlier here, at which point there is all manner of wailing and gnashing of baby teeth. Anyway, my sister said she'd make a virtual appearance at the Little Digger's party next weekend. We'll just leave the laptop at the door and she can greet people with cyber-aloha as they enter.

My neighbor, who is currently stationed in Guantanamo, has video Skype, too. They just leave it on all the time, I hear, and it's like he's home with the family, just doing business in his office while the kids do homework and mom folds laundry. It sounds nice, actually, and I'm sure it's the safest and most pleasant way to have your family join you at a military-guarded terrorist prison camp on the last communist outpost in the Western Hemisphere, at the far end of some desert island in the Caribbean.

Don't worry about me, today, though. I'll be fine. I'm enjoying almost every moment on this perfect fall day. Almost. Wish we could Skype that Hawaiian beach sand.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Does this concern you? The Chinese have created a Black Hole. A Black Hole! It sucks in and warps space-time! Light cannot escape! What do you do with your own black hole? I don't know. Hide things in it? Destroy the earth? Jump in, escape, forget everything.

And Al Qaeda has infiltrated the LHC which can't be good. What the terrorists will do when they get their dirty bomb hands on the elusive Higgs Boson particle is also unknown, but it no doubt threatens all humanity, if not the universe. European scientists are planning on firing up the LHC again next month, if you didn't hear, so the world may still end before Christmas. (The LHC broke down last year when they fired it up the first time, so it's been out for repairs since then. Some say it will never fire up, since that would cause the universe to implode, and thus we are living in a reality where the LHC will always break down. Like my boat.)

The tabletop Black Hole idea was from a few guys at Purdue, but leave it to the Chinese to run with the concept. Evidently, our scientists are too busy crashing junk into the moon and building bigger bombs. Why do I mention it? I don't know. It's just science. Bomb science. Projectile science.

It's all science, nowadays. I was reading about the chips they're planning on using in the new Mac Pros, which will have 6 cores and 12 threads for each CPU, and utilize 32nm engraving vs. the fat 45nm today. What does all this mean? Smaller and Faster. That's all, just smaller and faster. I have no idea how they do it. I was sewing a button on my pants yesterday and it took me twenty minutes just to thread the needle.

Does anyone out there know how anything works nowadays? Can anyone explain water pressure in a house? Does anyone know where the electricity comes from, or how the pictures go from nothing, anywhere, to a big flashing screen, sending the neurons in your brain firing off in uncontrolled nostalgic bursts? I could give you a vague generalization that would pass for an answer. Someone, somewhere, has all the answers, but as technology becomes more advanced, are engineers going to have to go to more school, or will they all be specialists? It seems that some day we'll all be inter-reliant, specialists in a world without know-it-alls, if we're not there already. And the robots will fix the robots.

I suspect we'll get the robots to do the simple stuff, too, eventually, but then only the robots will know how to do any of it, and something will be lost. Machines will one day be in the garden, but they will never express an honest admiration for the seeds. The fear is that we'll eventually be helpless and dependent, but I don't believe humans are so stupid, with our primitive pastoral sensibility. Still, civilization transforms itself, and old ways become extinct, like Huck Finn on that raft down the Mississippi, with the steam boat that powers through and destroys that simple dream of free-drifting downstream.

They say the tabletop Black Hole could revolutionize solar power. I hope so. I want to sit on my back patio, basking in the sun with my own little black hole, flipping bottle caps into in it and watching them whirl down, crushed into a singularity, while it all recharges the robot that will bring my pale ale. So, you see, the dream goes both ways, forward in time and back, to some event horizon where you have to choose between the dreams, lest you get sucked in one way, or the other.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Jonathan said it was a "negative split", which is a term I'd never heard before. I'm not inclined to the "negative split", and, I suspect, neither are most people, which is probably why I've never heard of the term. Anyway, I'm pretty sure it was my first. I like the idea of it, and it seems perfectly profound: a negative split. As if running was a way of turning and fighting.

And no, really: I passed 506 people after mile 18! I found this out on a neat little graphic interface on the marathon race results page. It also says that 2 people passed me after mile 18, which makes me wonder about their stories. The application is called "RunPix" and it gives you all kinds of handy stats -like average pace, average speed, and a little map showing you where you were on the course when the winner broke the ribbon and made you anonymous.

As well as this:

These things are becoming so teched out, but I love it. There was a big screen at the finish, with all of us crossing the finish line, and it was visible in daylight. And the chips for the times are all disposable now (Why, son, I remember when you had to actually pay a deposit for those!) Mrs. Ditchman was checking the race web site on her iPhone to see what mile markers I was passing, and then she actually called me during the race. My iPod stopped, beeped, and there she was, asking me how the run was going. It was kinda fun, actually, since I was feeling so good. The only bummer was that Google Latitude wasn't living up to expectations so that she could track me in real time on a web map, like Jack Bauer calculating a terrorist intercept. (Still waiting for Loopt to come online for real and for free.)

Additionally, the good Sean was running the virtual half-marathon with us and we were exchanging messages and photos during the run, a thousand or two miles apart. What a future we live in! I sent him a pic of us in the post-race beer tent. He said we looked like we deserved another round. Too bad he couldn't buy us one. (But the technology is there!)

I admit I had a little trouble with the iPhone, actually, since I had forgotten to click off my Voice Activation module and the tiny mic was picking up my heavy breathing and interpreting it as "fast forward". Also, the "jiggle" function was not turned off and was thus shuffling the songs after fast-forwarding them. It took me a mile or two to figure it out.

It was really only the second time or so that I'd ever run with the iPhone, so I was working out some of the bugs on race day. Truth be told, I'm in love with my iPod Shuffle -the last generation. It's orange. It clips on my shorts and feels weightless, as I spring forward with music lifting my heels. I used to be against running with music, but I changed, and those days are now behind me. (Though, I must say running with music on during a race detracts from the experience. I've done two races now with an iPod and I keep the volume low and switch it off when I run past bands, turning it off entirely for the last couple miles.)

And I've used MapMyRun on the iPhone a few times to track my mileage, which is great. But I'm really waiting for a Special Edition iPod Shuffle that accurately tracks your time, distance, and pace on a Google map, and keeps a log of all your runs. Also, it must be tiny and have a clip. It would be an iPod just for runners, but it seems Mac has yet to get so targeted with their products. I'm just putting it out there.

All this tech gear, and I am reading that best-seller on running right now, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, which tells the story of the Tarahumara Indians and their love for running -the purity and the camaraderie of it, and how they do it all barefoot in the wild. It's a good book, and it reminds me that none of this junk matters, that the reasons why we run are so soulful, so human, and so lasting, and that no bit of technological innovation will ever make them any moreso.


Monday, October 12, 2009

I indulged in the running of the 25th annual Long Beach Marathon yesterday, which was perfectly enjoyable, and I have little pain today as a result, as if to prove it. And I say "indulged" because it is tough on Mrs. Ditchman to get up pre-dawn and drag the children a hundred miles to a lesser-known city, and then haul through traffic and road closures, embattled with 50,000 other spectators and participants. She juggles the needy kin for a few hours, all to see me huff by in a matter of a few seconds, and then she puts up with my blabbing about it at race's end, standing idly on the other side of the beer garden barrier as I celebrate with a few draughts. She is a true champion for being able to negotiate it all. My champion.

The race was great, with perfect conditions and spirited participants. It runs around the harbor, past the Queen Mary, and then does a big out-and-back along the beach, half of it right on the sand (that is, on the bike path.) Most people run the half-marathon (about 10,000 runners), though there are a good 3000 or so running the full race, which also has an out-and-back course. Since I only trained for a month, (I ran no more than a single day in August) I had a modest time goal of beating 5 hours. I came in at 4 hours, 45 minutes.

It seemed a fairly well-run event. I could nit-pick ten or fifteen things that bugged me, but in the end everyone really seemed to be having a good time. I wasn't a big fan of the marathon course, though the half was nicely scenic. One thing in particular that I thought was a hilarious bit of planning was that one side of the 3-foot high beer garden barrier actually abutted a narrow part of the course at around mile 6. This means that if you were in the back of the pack, quick finishers of the half were already standing there wearing their medals and having a 9AM beer, roundly cheering you on. Something about it just seemed wrong, but it was altogether too funny for me to stop and contemplate.

I ran the first 10.5 miles with my old buddy Steve, (the guy who I mentioned last April who had run the Carlsbad 5000) who took up running again in his fifties after a heart valve replacement a few years back. It only took a little bit of prodding, but he was willing to sign up a few months ago and endure the rigor of all those training miles to work his way up to 13.1. I told him I would run with him every step of the way, no matter how fast or slow, and so I did.

He's been doing the walk/run method, which has always been a challenge for me, and it paid off. He had a respectable time goal of "just beating 3 hours" and came in at 2:51:21, limping to the finish with sore knees in the last couple miles. He loved every minute of the race, though I could tell he was beginning to feel the pain at about the halfway point. I tried to cheer him up and said, "Look at it this way: you've only got 6 miles to go. I've got 20." and then he nearly fell off the course, he found that so entertaining.

Running your first big distance race is a lot harder than running your 13th marathon, and a much bigger accomplishment, so I wanted to see him do it, and be a part of it. Steve actually thanked me for getting him out there, and then running it with him, and he was grinning from ear-to-ear in the beer tent, which was a pleasure to see. It's a sh!t-eater's grin, after your first big race, and non-runners can't understand it. But it feels fantastic.

As for me, I was challenged by a marathon where I walked most of the first half, which was the oddest strategy I've ever taken on. Coaching Steve on the power of Gu and all those running supplements, I was also taking in a bunch more calories than I am used to on race day, so it had the weird effect of energizing me all morning. At mile 11 I bid him goodbye, plugged in my iPod, and took off running -feeling like a million bucks. I ran all the way to the finish line, passing 506 runners after mile 18 (web site stat) and bounded over that final timing mat feeling like a Starr, myself. My feet were sore from being on them for so long, but I must say it was nice to finish a marathon for once where I didn't feel like I was going to puke and pass out. (Mrs. Ditchman chided me on this. She's been trying to get me to eat more Power Gel and take more walk breaks for years. Right again, Mommy.) For future reference, getting all that marathon's-end walking out of the way in the beginning is worth it. (It may have been the fastest second half of a marathon I've ever run!)

So I'm glad I did it, as always. Steve says he's gonna keep running. I reminded him that he was half way to a full marathon, and that if he quit now he'd have to start the training all over again when he does finally commit to The Big 26.2. The look on his face said he was going to go for it, since, who would want to go through all that again?

As for me, I'm already signed up.


Friday, October 9, 2009




Day's end:

Of course, you can see the subtle difference in height that was originally problematic and required adjustment. By "adjustment" I mean I had to hack off that one corner of the roofline, there. It wasn't pretty. But, I guess you can't see the damage now, and everyone is happy. The inspector comes today, and I won't be there. I'll be here. Doing today, what I was supposed to be doing yesterday, and demanding payment from these folks.

Do I get paid twice for this one? Boy, do I wish it were so. But that's the way it goes sometimes. The other workers on the job were duly impressed with my adroit aluminum-handling prowess, but at the end of yesterday I had to endure the same joke a hundred times: Ha! Looks great, but now it's too high! Oh, you're all hilarious.

So I'm all sore, again, which is not the week of tapering I wanted pre-race weekend, but like I said, it's the way it goes sometimes. It should be a fun weekend. Great weather for it. I think I'll carbo-load with steak, wine, and a half pound of hearty, aged cheese.

Have a light-on-your-feet weekend!


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Remember a few weeks ago when I mentioned that job I was on where the general said the inspector could "bite him"? Apparently, he did. I got a panicked call yesterday that the patio cover was too low, by about a few inches. Now, I had called the guy before I installed it to tell him that there would be an issue with the height, and that's when he said "height is not an issue on this job" and "the inspector can bite me". So I went ahead and built it. But there were issues, and there was biting. Today I am tearing it all down, and then building it again, a few inches higher.

I'm trying not to get upset about this. There are other things I was going to do today, like watch the kids as Mrs. Ditchman went on some estimates, and maybe clean my desk, or the garage. But now I have to go out and re-live last Tuesday, which wasn't the greatest day ever, and not one high on my days-in-life-to-re-live list. Oh, well. If this is the karmatic price I have to pay for having such beautiful children, a loving wife, a fine home, and good health, then I will pay it cheerfully (or at least give it my best shot.)

The job I'm on is a whole-house remodel for a quadriplegic war vet. He's having this elaborate motorized crane system installed in his house that will move him in and out of the bath, among other things, and then granite countertops, jacuzzi tubs, hardwood floors, elastomeric house coating, new roof, windows, and all the other home-and-garden trimmings you can think of. It will be bitchin'. His next door neighbor's house, meanwhile, burned down because they were growing pot and it got out of control. Different worlds, equal work for contractors.

The disabled vet is also getting a terrific aluminum patio cover in the backyard, with a full 88 inches to the ceiling, and exactly 80 inches to the bottom of the header. My God, it will be beautiful. Again.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I'm just digging the new Dylan album. I respect those who can't stand Dylan, can't understand Dylan, and just don't get him entirely. I used to be like that. And then one day, some trickster angel flipped a previously unnoticed switch in my brain, and I suddenly changed my mind, and fell for his music.

The old minstrel is 68 now. In 1988, when I graduated from high school and hated him, he went on tour. He called it The Neverending Tour and it's been going on ever since. So, now that I like him, I could still make it.

As I get older, I've found myself, more and more, listening to distant, lasting music from dead people I've never heard of. Historic blues and jazz stuff, real music, American music, and I think what I like about it is the sheer anonymity of it, with the sounds just standing for themselves. (I swoon over Big Bill Broonzy singing "Black, Brown, and White" with that one eternal voice and single instrument, recorded in all its glorious mono.) So much music is hype, ego, and pretense. I can't hear a single single nowadays without considering the musician's current or last girlfriend, their dumb politics, that dumb movie they were in, or that dumb thing they said at that last dumb awards show. (I can't even look at Springsteen anymore.) So if you had told me to go out and buy the new Dylan album, I most likely wouldn't have. But then a month ago I heard "I Feel A Change Comin' On" and couldn't help but be moved by the simple textures of it, and soon found myself humming along, loving it, asking, Is that Dylan? It sounds like Dylan. Really? It's Dylan?

Someone on iTunes wrote this Customer Review of the new Bob Dylan album, "Together Through Life":

Imagine you've never heard Bob Dylan before -never heard Greenwich Village Bob, Protest Bob, Poet Bob, Surreal Bob, Electric Bob, Hit-Maker Bob, Nashville Bob, Christian Bob, Jewish Bob, or State of the Union Bob. Imagine someone said 'we just found these recordings from some obscure old blues guy no one's ever heard of living near an abandoned coal mine in Minnesota. Give this guy a listen.'

You'd listen to these songs with dropped jaw, wide eyes and palpitating heart. You'd shout from the rooftops that we've just found an undiscovered master of authentic American, from-the-gut, honest, unflinching, been-on-the-road-and-lived-life-hard, music.

Overstated? Yes. But I bought the album anyway, and now I can't stop playing it. It's got some dark stuff in it, stuff about life's redundant unfulfilling meaninglessness, the looming specter of death, and the hopeless nothing that may or may not wait for us at that End, but with some upbeat chords, so it feels a lot like life -hopeful, bluesy, misery frosted with love. Yes, he's still got that funny voice, and he's still an ugly old guy, but somehow all this music fits him better now (as does his look, his face timeworn and ragged from the adventure of a lifetime.) He's a legend, and can't seem to shake it, so he just moves along and makes his music. (As long as he stops doing stupid stuff like this, the genius will go places! Seriously, what's going on there? An angel in her underwear is being stalked by some spooky sexual predator?)

Dylan has been all over the map with his spirituality, but instead of being insipid about it, you get the feeling that he's done some honest searching in his life. He's got a reputation for changing his religious tone over the years, so recently he's kept his faith pretty close to his chest in interviews, but it's out there in his music, and I kinda like it. Is he a Christian? Well, evidently he was for a while, among other things; Jewish, Bohemian, etc. I found this quote on Wikipedia from his Christian days:
Years ago they ... said I was a prophet. I used to say, "No I'm not a prophet" they say "Yes you are, you're a prophet." I said, "No it's not me." They used to say "You sure are a prophet." They used to convince me I was a prophet. Now I come out and say Jesus Christ is the answer. They say, "Bob Dylan's no prophet." They just can't handle it.

And that, to me, is the quintessential Dylan. He can speak some truth while diminishing himself, all the while knowing that the truth will inevitably fall in unappealing ways, to some.

In 2000 I was 30, and I was in a desperate period. I drove a hundred miles by myself one day to see the movie Wonder Boys at the last theater I could find it playing at, during the end of its run. I loved it. And I loved the Dylan song in the credits, "Things Have Changed", which ended up being a bigger hit than the film. I bought the CD and couldn't stop playing it. The words were speaking to me in sharp, hard-hitting verses, like a heavy, leadened dart thrown at everything I thought I was standing for at the time. A few months later the CD was on the driver's seat in my car one day and I accidentally sat on it, and broke it into a million pieces. I'd never seen a CD break like that before, and I remember that I was kind of shocked by the sight of the shimmering mess, but I stopped listening to the song then and there, out of necessity, and started making some changes in my life.

But it takes a long time to make some changes.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Neither will I be running today. I am still experiencing soreness, though I suspect that it's from that episode of incidental digging yesterday. Seems I've been digging a lot lately. No good reason, really. I dig. Dig? When was the last time you dug? I mean really dug -throwing your back into it, quickly-blistered palms, earth-rising-around-you digging? You envy me, don't you?

I suspect not. Get someone else to dig for you, and you're a smarter man than me. Than I. Whatever. No digging today, though. Just building, which is better, but takes more thought. That's the hard part -all that thinking. You go to college to learn to think, so you won't have to dig. Or so they say. I went to college. All I know now is, do enough thinking in the sun, and you'll soon find yourself yearning for some blessed, mindless digging.

Had an engineer recently come up with some design specs so we could legally load solar panels atop the aluminum. Plans suggest two footings at 38"x38"x38". That's a hole, half my height! I'm not even sure my Tundra can haul that much concrete for even one of those footings. What is that- like, 1500 pounds? Looking forward to hand-mixing all that concrete with my little mixing shovel, I can tell you.

I suspect the engineer just guessed, and padded the figure. I mean, he doesn't have to do the digging -what's a few inches to him? But do they really teach you these specifics at engineering school? Because they should also teach you how heavy aluminum is. Which it isn't. Which is why I can ordinarily do these jobs by myself. Ordinarily. Anyway, we paid the guy to do all the thinking.

So I could dig properly. Without being bothered.


Monday, October 5, 2009

I will not be running today.

And, thank Jehovah, it is a relief. My hip flexors and iliotibial bands are ready to abandon the tour altogether, and leave me in a slump here at the house. I've run 31 out of the last 34 days, in some vague attempt at peak performance, or, at least, fitness, discipline, and consistency. I succeeded! Well, okay, somewhat.

I read Half-Fast from time to time, and it is the most honest blog on running that I've seen. The guy is good at conveying what all of us runners go through, and in his often-funny posts, he dares answer the unanswerable questions: How come I don't have the running bug? Why was I so stupid to sign up for that race? and How come I miss it so much when I don't run? A few months back he got it in his head to go on a 30-day running streak, for no very good reason. (Here.) He didn't report on it too much during the 30 days, but here's his first post, and here's his wrap-up.

So I decided to try it. Why? Because it sounded like a good challenge. Because I wanted to see how my body would react to all that running. Because I'm an undisciplined bastard and I didn't learn my lesson on over-training from last May. Like Half-Fast, I set up a few parameters of my own that I would abide by:

-It has to be every day, sometime between when I wake in the morning and when I go to sleep at night.
-It must be at least a 5K.
-Walking is fine, if you're too tired or have some pain or an injury, since it's about just doing it, and not having to do it well.
-Time and distance must be logged every day so the data can be properly analyzed.

I missed 3 days. The first day I missed I was sleeping over at my sister's place and had been up all night smoking cigars and sucking down mojitos, and let me tell you: this does not inspire exercise the following morning. It was 6 days into it, and I just felt like a failure, but I got back out the next day and just kept at it, thinking, So you missed a day. BFD. 2 weeks later I missed another day. I blame work. It was a Home Show weekend, and the time just did not manifest for a quick run. Oh sure, I could have got out there at 11PM and jammed 3 miles in, but after a long day of work, I'm sure I would have gotten hit by a car since I would have been flailing wildly about in the middle of the road, in the dark. I have two kids and a wife. It would not be considered responsible risk-taking, if there is such a thing.

The 3rd day I missed, I have no good excuse for. It was a long week. I was tired. So in the end I added 3 days onto my month, and just pounded the pavement to make up for the 3 lost. And then I added one more, to punish myself, which makes 31 out of 34. And now... I rest.

BECAUSE I HAVE A MARATHON SCHEDULED NEXT WEEK! Which seems so dumb, alongside it all. I am angling for a 5 hour finish time, and, if I survive, I'll tell you all about it next Monday. But for now I am resting on all my laurels and healing a bit. This past month has been really satisfying, and I have Mrs. Ditchman to thank for putting up with me disappearing for a half hour or so every day. I didn't tell her I was trying for a full month because I wasn't sure I could do it, plus: it was extraordinarily selfish of me. But she knows me better than anyone, and it was clear to her that I was up to something after the first couple weeks, and so, like a good wife, she let her husband be. She's the greatest.

All told, I ran about 138 miles. Last Saturday I put in a 20-miler where I ran down to the end of the Oceanside Pier and back. It took me more than a few hours, and in that time you consider the wildest things, like how 3 miles a day for a week is about the same distance, and here you are knocking it all out in a single morning. Somehow, none of it computes, because it seems so much more difficult to get out there and go at it every day for a week, instead of one long morning, but that's running.

Some days I didn't want to, and ran anyway. Some days I had pain, and ran anyway. And some days I built patio covers, and ran anyway. This was probably the hardest thing, and then it felt like some sort of bizarre, dispirited, one-man biathlon. And some days I felt I was running slow, only to find that I'd made a monthly PR. And then there were the days where I felt like I was flying, only to discover that I was merely gliding. 3 miles a day, every day, really gets you concentrated on the effort, and makes you consider every little thing, like which tiny pains are serious, which are to be ignored, and how when all parts of the body are pitted against your spirit, they rain down lies.

Because you can do it. I don't think I disliked doing it as much as Half-Fast seemed to, at times. I found that after a month that it had just become part of my daily routine, and when I was tired and sore I just ran a bit slower. It's true that my aged body would have benefited from some recovery time, but one thing was clear: every time I thought I was too tired to run, I found that I really wasn't. I could do it every day for 25 minutes, and after a week or so, it wasn't difficult to run at all. The body is made to run, and doesn't seem to have to use those aluminum patio cover-building muscles to do it. Really, the hardest part was always just finding the time and then physically getting the shoes on and getting out the door -and the difficulty of this should not be understated. But if the mind can get out the door, the body will follow. The body is amazing that way. It obeys. (Well, most of the time it obeys.)

I don't use any fancy computer thingy to keep track of all my runs, even though my iPhone has that Nike running ap built right in, and I just write them on a little calendar that I post next to my desk. Mrs. Ditchman started this house trend a few years back, and it's fun to see how many more days a month than me she works out -but this month I finally got her beat! The hand-written calendar is an Old School method, but this way I can see, at all times, how much effort I've been putting into it. It's never really been about quality for me, but my confidence is boosted by the quantity, which is probably why I run marathons. I just feel that if I get the quantity in, the quality, and desire for it, will follow somehow, eventually. And it does. For me.

So, hooray for me. I, more or less, did it, as Nike has been campaigning for, for years. And I did it with no injuries, save for that vague shoulder-to-ankle smartness from Saturday's 20-miler. Ooof. And then a 5K yesterday on top of it all the next day, just to see if I could.


Friday, October 2, 2009

It's a Friday, end of the work week, first Friday in October, and the only day of the week that begins with F -as if any of that mattered. I went to sleep last night with a thousand plans for Friday, and then awoke this morning with the will for none of them. Could barely make it through the first cup of coffee. I am pressing on, however. It's 10:30. The morning is half over, and that's half of a third of the day! I can make it!

I carbo-loaded last night, too, gearing up for a long run this morning, but when I awoke to find all my running gear in the laundry, all the hype was sapped. So here I am, all carbo-loaded with nowhere to go. Also, I burned my bagel, fed the tortoises some plants I had sprayed pesticide on earlier this week, and the Little Ditchman refused to eat her waffle and demanded a nap at 8AM. And the Little Digger was up at 4:30AM again, like he's done every day this week. Don't look now, but Friday clapped its hands and became F-day, without even trying.

It could be worse. You could be the CEO of the Wisconsin Tourism Federation, arriving at work every day with all those memos on your desk that read "WTF". (They are now the "Tourism Federation of Wisconsin", which is still funny, because now you just say it in your head backwards.) I can hear the CEO screaming But it's not our fault! No sir, it's not your fault, but you're gonna have to change the name anyway, and at your own expense. It happens sometimes.

Or you could be an executive working for the Office of Government Commerce, but you don't get along with the kid who delivers the inter-office mail every day. He hates his job. He hates you. Each morning, without fail, he hands the mail to you sideways, and you both know why. There's nothing anyone in HR can do about it.

Have a nice, long weekend. (Two S-days in a row!)


Thursday, October 1, 2009

I believe the family has fully adapted to the automatically-opening, motion-sensing trash can in the kitchen. It was not difficult, though I admit there are side effects. Sometimes, late at night, when I'm tired, I wave my hand in front of the toilet seat and wait for it to pop up. This always ends the same way: with me looking around to see if anyone noticed.

But it appears that we are not the only ones who have mastered the automated, motion-sensing trash can.

I was sitting at the downstairs computer, which is on a small table adjacent to the kitchen. It was night. Everyone was asleep. The house was still and quiet, and I was enjoying the down time, alone, reading some news. Out of the silence, about fifteen feet away, the trash can opened. It seemed to have happened all by itself, and then, after holding its lid up for the three seconds or so that it's programmed for, it shut. I just smirked and shook my head thinking, Damn electronics. I knew that thing wouldn't last a month. And then, a few minutes later it happened again... *open* ... *shut* ... I figured it was a signal that maybe the batteries were going bad or something, so I got up to check it out.

I went to the trash can, stood there for a moment, and waved my hand in front of it. It dutifully opened as commanded, as per Asimov's Second Law of Robotics, and that's when I saw him: the housefly. He emerged from the trash, waved thanks! and flew on by. I guess the thing can't be opened from the inside.

I didn't believe it, of course, and went back to my seat at the computer. I waited. I watched. Sure enough, the fly returned, bored with wherever it had gone for half a minute, and it approached the trash can and alighted upon the corner, near the lid. It crawled around a bit, found its way to the infrared sensor, walked over it, and up came the lid. It hopped down onto the trash, and down went the lid.

I couldn't believe my eyes. I went back over to see for myself and opened the can. Again, the fly emerged, flew out and off. I thought, Impressive, young Skywalker.

Back at the computer, after about a half hour, I was beginning to go insane from the *open* ... *close* ... *open* ... *close* ... and this clever fly with his convenient new fly-thru buffet. The little insectoid genius seemed to have learned to escape before the lid closed.

So I killed it. Because the last thing I need in my life right now is some hyper-intelligent housefly controlling my kitchen.