Saturday, January 31, 2009

Range Day!

Today was range day. That means I went to the shooting range, made a lot of noise, put a lot of lead into the ground to help add to the future superfund status of the range, and generally confirmed that I still have 'it'. For those who know me I have been shooting for many years and going to the range is like going golfing for other, less Neanderthal types. I find that the Zen of accurate shooting calms me, focuses my mind, and forces me to put cares and worries to the back of my mind because a shooter can either think about shooting or about his job but he or she can't do both.

I got into shooting as a teenager after years of having numerous realistic looking toy guns as a kid. The 50s and 60s was a different country than where we are today. It was acceptable and expected for boys to strap on a set of toy Cowboy revolvers for a visit to the grocery store or to the 5 and 10 (that is a 5 and 10 cent store - the 50s version of the dollar store today). Firearms were a lot more accepted all the way around back then. Guns could be ordered through the mail and purchased at the local hardware store. Pay your money and take your gun. In fact that is how I got my first firearm. It was a Marlin .22 rifle with a cheap 4x scope on sale for $30 at the local hardware store. My Dad took me down, he bought it and off we went. I was in the shooting game!

I was an inept athlete as a kid. I couldn't bat, catch, dribble, dunk, or run. I had no coordination, skills, or strength. I was pretty much a nebbish. When I got the .22 rifle I discovered that I could hit what I aimed at. I was good at something! My High School (Churchill Area High School, home of the Chargers) had a rifle team. In fact most of the schools had co-ed rifle teams. My mother suggested I check it out and so in my junior year I did. Much to my surprise I was not only good at it, I was very good. I was not just very good, I was the top shooter in the school and later #2 in the state (darn!). I discovered something: it is a lot easier to survive High School if you are part of something and even better if you are good at something. The rifle team gave me confidence, introduced me to girls, provided me with a minor celebrity status, and gave me a hobby to carry me for a lifetime.

So as I mentioned earlier I still have 'it'. 'it' in this case is the ability to hit a mark at a considerable distance (400 yards) with a rifle from the standing or kneeling position using only my unassisted mark 1 eyeball. Well ok, I do wear glasses but otherwise no optics were involved. A minor triumph but at this stage of my life I take them how I can get them. The weather was nice, the wind was calm and Jupiter was aligned with Mars so today I couldn't miss. The 400 yard target is a steel plate that announces to all on the rifle line a hit with a resounding 'clang'. A miss generates a puff of dust for all and sundry to see so your ability and manhood is on the line when you take that shot. Getting up from the shooting bench and either standing or kneeling when taking the shot increases the odds. Take the shot, hear the clang, and you may hear murmurs of 'nice shot' from the others. Get the dust puff and the others know that you are a poser and not a marksman. Brother, I am still a marksman! With an FN49 rifle (the Belgian equivalent of the U.S. M1 rifle) 10 pounds of walnut and steel, I scored a solid 5 for 5 at the 400 yard plate. Yesss! The old guy still has it.

Later I moved on to the handgun range. I brought an array of handguns. Everything from an HR .22 9 shot revolver to a Ruger Old Army .45 cap and ball revolver. No steel plate was safe from my bullets. Some Boy Scouts at the range were amazed and fascinated with the fire belching, smoke spewing cap and ball revolver. All in a day's shooting boys.

I finished up massacring steel cutouts of cartoon cowboys with a Winchester 97 riot shotgun. I channeled Lee Marvin and Burt Lancaster in the 'Professionals" as they fought to save Claudia Cardinale from the clutches of her bandito kidnappers. Too bad it turned out she went with them willingly. No matter, the steel banditos jumped and bounced satisfyingly when hit with the blasts of buckshot from the trusty '97.

All in all, a day high on stress relief and confirming that at least for another month, I still have 'it'.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Things Found While Bicycling

Daily Grouch: I am feeling rather mellow today so I do not have a grouch to discuss.

Before I mention all of the cool things I have found while riding my bike to and from work I should mention the beginning of a typical Los Angeles high speed pursuit that started right in front of me! After leaving the dentist I was sitting in my Jeep at the intersection of Magic Mountain and Valencia Blvd when I heard the sirens of approaching emergency vehicles. In the blink of an eye a sherriff's car flashed through the intersection on the red light without slowing a bit. Two more hung a right and headed down Magic Mountain at high speed. Suddenly three more crossed in front of me although these two slowed a bit. It turned out that they were in pursuit of a stolen SUV and the chase ended in Sylmar with a foot chase through the back yards of the neighborhood where the stolen vehicle crashed into a pickup truck. Just a typical day in Southern California

So there I was riding my bike on the way to work when I spied a CD disc laying in the road. This is not an abnormal thing since I probably see a CD on the road every other trip. Once when my Wife and I were out for a walk we found a whole case of recorded CDs laying in the gutter but that does not count since we were walking and not riding bikes. I wondered about this CD and all the others that I see. Does a frustrated driver toss it out the window when it skips? As MP3s become more popular will discarded CDs dwindle away? I put my mind to the categories of stuff that I see and even sometimes stop to pick up on my bicycle commuting and came up with this list (but not in order of finding frequency):

1. Shoes but never in pairs. How does one shoe end up on the road?
2. Women's undies.
3. CDs
4. Tools. I have stocked my tool box with sockets, screw drivers, wrenches, etc that must fall from cars where they were left while being worked on. 13 and 15mm sockets seem to be the most popular sizes.
5. Money. I wish I had saved the loot that I pick up instead of spending it. The street in front of bus stops are a particularly good place to spot change.
6. Wallets. Sometimes containing money and credit cards and sometimes empty. I've found and returned at least 4 wallets over the years. Once I took one to an LAPD station to turn in and the officer argued with me about leaving it there. Sheesh!
7. Credit cards. Stolen and then discarded?
8. Watches. Well only one and it had been run over.
9. Electronics. A couple of cell phones and once an Ipod that was laying in a busy intersection. I didn't want to stop and try to pick it up and get run over for my troubles.
10. Jewelry. I picked up a very nice gold necklace that had been run over and sort of flattened. I turned it in to the Glendale PD. They told me that if no one claimed it in a period of time it would revert to me. When I asked about it later no one knew anything about it at the station.
11. VHS and cassette tapes. These are a vanished species. I haven't seen either for a couple of years.
12, Hats and caps. I usually don't pick them up but I did see a nice black ski cap once that I stopped and picked up. After washing it I wore it for some months riding my bike until I lost it. Karma at work.
13. Gloves. Again always one. The other must be with the missing shoe.

I am sure there are other items but I can't think of them right now. I won't mention the roadkill.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Alchemy Lives!

Daily Grouch: Why does every morning commute make me feel like I'm an extra in "Mad Max"?

Most odd thing seen today: A young man sedately pedaling his bicycle no hands, listening to his Ipod and texting on his cell phone. Now that is multi-tasking!

Most odd thing seen in 2008: A teenage girl pushing a baby stroller with a dachshund sitting where a toddler is usually seen. The dachshund may have been a toddler measured in dog years.

So what is this alchemy lives! about? Simply this: my boss (and we all have one at some level) who apparently thinks that I am an alchemist feels that I must take a situation reminiscent of lead and transmute it into the equivalent of gold. And, if I don't produce the gold soon, well, dark and unpleasant things may happen. My only hope: spin this out until some variable changes which provides the solution to produce the gold.
Which reminds me of a story:

Once upon a time in China, there lived an Emperor who owned a majestic white stallion, the finest beast in all his Kingdom. One night, a thief tried to slip in and steal the horse, but was captured by the palace guards and thrown into the dungeon.
The next morning, he was dragged before the Emperor's court. "How dare you," bellowed the Emperor, "lay hand on my royal steed! Jailer, put this thief to death!"
Immediately, the thief bowed deeply. "Your judgement is peerless and wise O Emperor," he calmly replied, "but my life is of little value. I should offer you a gift before I depart. Your mount is quite a fine one, but if your eminence would spare my life for just a year and a day, I swear to you I can teach that horse to sing hymns!"
The court burst in to laughter at that, but the Emperor was intrigued. After all, you didn't get to his high position by turning down freely offered gifts, no matter how far-fetched they seem. To the surprise of all, the Emperor quickly accepted the offer.
As they were leaving the chambers, the jailer whispered to the thief, "You are a fool!"
"I am a fool?" replied the thief, smiling broadly. "Much can happen in a year and a day. The Emperor may die. The horse may die. I may die...
and maybe the horse will learn to sing!"

So, to all of those work-a-day alchemists out there, laboring without resources to turn nothing into something or else!; remember that the horse may yet sing.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy Monday

Grouch of the day: it's Monday. Enough said on that subject.

Second string grouch of the day: Why do the students at California State University Northridge have Martin Luther King day and Cesar Chavez day has holidays but not President's day? Not to take anything away from two great men but do their acheivements outshine those of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln?

I'm still trying to get a handle on this blog machine. I am attempting to bend it to my will but it isn't cooperating. I guess the best thing to do is to read the instructions first, but then again why change after so many years?

As I mentioned in my profile, I am a proud citizen-soldier from a long line of citizen-soldiers. On my father's side of the family my great uncle served in the 74th PA volunteer infantry and was at the battle of Gettysburg. My uncle served in the Army during WW1 and of course my father was a WW2 veteran. On my mother's side of the family my Grandfather and great uncle were both WW1 veterans. My brother carried on the Air Force tradition serving during the Vietnam war era. I was a cold war warrior serving in the Army on active duty and the reserves for 20 years. My oldest son is currently a Sergeant E5 in the Army National Guard and an Iraq war veteran. My youngest daughter is currently an E4 in the Air National Guard. My oldest daughter tried to join the Army reserves but her asthma kept her out. We'll see what path my youngest son chooses. At age 15 his road still stretches a long way ahead. I am proud of all of these and also of my lovely bride who supported me in my military service, pulling my boots off my aching feet after a hard day's duty, ironed my uniforms, sewed insignia and generally was there whenever I needed her.

Speaking of SGT Kurt, click here: to see a video of his time in Iraq. I recommend it highly.

More to come....

Sunday, January 25, 2009

So long Dad

Another WW2 veteran passed away last week. Not a hero (except to his family), just a Joe who got drafted, served his time and got on with his life. Edward Grant Vogeley born 1912, died 20 January 2009.
As a kid he had a pump .22 so worn that he had to hold it shut when he fired it. A personal triumph as a 10 year old was when his Dad and his friends were shooting at a bottle on a tree stump with a .38 revolver and all missed it. My grandfather handed the revolver to my dad and told him to take a shot. He did and broke the bottle much to the surprise of all there. 86 years later my father still recounted the story with pride.

Drafted in April of 1942 into the AAF and selected to participate in the then secret Norden bombsight program as a technician/repairman. Next to the A bomb and the proximity fuse the Norden was 'the' secret of WW2. He did his time, got promoted to Corporal, and due to his interest in small arms was selected for small arms school where he developed a life long love for the 03 Springfield and the 1911A1 pistol. Along the way he met my Mom, 10 years his junior, at a USO dance. A whirlwind courtship and they were married in 1945. She was the love of his life until her death in 1979. When ground casualties mounted in 1944 my Dad along with other AAF personnel was placed on levy for Europe as infantry replacements. He wore Coke bottle bottom glasses and was blind without them. He recounted to me drawing his combat gear, being issued a Carbine and processing for shipping overseas when he encountered a clerk from his neighborhood from before the war. My Dad's orders for Europe were changed for Langley airfield. That unknown clerk probably saved my father's life. He was domobed in 1946 with a Victory medal, American Campaign medal, and Good Conduct medal. Just a Joe who did his job.

Post war he labored in a job that he didn't like but it paid enough to support 5 kids in a 2-1/2 bedroom house. He helped spark my interest and ultimate dedication to firearms and the shooting sports. Later in life a particular joy for him was visiting me in California and going to the range for a day of shooting. The 03 was always his favorite and he shot it well into his 80s.
Until the end of his life his only concerns were for the well being of his children and for his country. His father died when he was 12. He finished school in the 8th grade, attended a business school and then went on to work to support his mother. No college for him. He wished that he had attended college on the GI bill after the war but he had a wife, a son and a mortgage to feed. He experienced the great flu epidemic, the depression of the 30s, WW2, and the joys and heartaches of raising a family. An extraordinary man who was like so many of his generation: gruff, stoic, a whiz at adaptation and making do, completely dedicated to his family.
Just another veteran like so many others. No band played for him, no parade when he came back. He came home, hung up his uniform and went on with his life. I will miss him so.

Go with God, Dad