Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thursday Mash

It's Alive! The Ipod that is... I determined that the only source for bringing my Ipod back to life was the Apple store, one of which was conveniently located in the Glendale Galleria not too far from my place of employ. Funny that I had never set foot in the place until today even though it is a well known mecca for upscale shoppers..which probably explains why I have never been there. I limped my way through the mall, up the escalator and into the Apple store. Let me just say that this place was almost a parody of geek heaven. One complete wall was taken up with projections of who was next for appointments to have their electronic problems addressed - wait a minute, appointments!! I didn't have one for sure. One of the worker bees who was about my age took mercy on me after asking me 'who told you to come to the store without an appointment?' and snuck my Ipod to one of the geniuses (this apparently is a job description and not a complement to the employees IQ level) who gave it an MP3 defib shock to jolt its tiny electronic heart back to running the way it should. Miracles of miracles when I brought the thing home and plugged it into the PC it works! In fact I am listening to Paul Simon (Graceland) as I type.
Grouch of the Day: What in the heck were all of those upscale shoppers doing at the Glendale Galleria today, spending money on frivolous trinkets and designer clothing? Don't they know that the President says that the end is near? That they should be ashamed for being upscale? That they are in fact the enemy of the people? I guess they haven't received the memo yet. Too busy shopping.
Ungrouch of the Day: Kudos to the Veteran's administration for the treatment of SGT Kurt since his return from Iraq. He came back with various aliments which the VA has worked to cure. He has received a 10% disability for his hearing loss (it is hard to stop shooting and put in ear plugs when under fire) and they are working to resolve his other medical problems. He has received his VA school benefits on time and in full. The VA has been the favorite whipping boy of the Press and Congress over the last years. It is difficult to imagine that they have concentrated all of their efforts to make his experience 100% satisfactory to the detriment of the other Vets out there which leads me to believe that generally they are doing a good job.
Speaking of Military Matters: I'm on the state promotion list for Lieutenant Colonel! Hurray! Should come through sometime in March.
Knee report: Drove the Jeep today to the train station, took the train to Glendale and mooched a ride from one the mechanics to work. The ladies on the train home were very concerned about my invalid condition and had to warn each person who walked near me on the train to stay away from my injured knee. I was more in danger from the young woman sitting next to me who waved her hands about for the whole trip while describing how abused she is at work. I moved my book so it was inconspicuously between her hand and my knee.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tuesday Update

So, are you tired of hearing about the knee yet? Good, glad to hear you aren't! Here's the latest: Yesterday I returned to work, drove there using Mary's car (she's driving the Jeep, she is so lucky!) did my thing all day long. Going up and down the steep stairs at work 3-4 times started to stiffen up the knee. After dinner Mary, Craig and I went to see the Air Force Band of the Golden West at College of the Canyons. What a great show! I drove over and since school was in session we had to park further away than I would have liked. The walk to the theater was hard and coming back out was even harder. I finally had to admit that I couldn't make it back to the car and had to wait while Mary went to get the car for me. Today isn't too bad, or at least it wasn't until I saw what the doctor has billed for the operation: $27,000!!! And that is just for him, that doesn't include everyone else who gets a piece of the action.

I put a picture of the Finch feeder sock on the previous post. The finches are such greedy little buggers that they not only completely emptied the sock that I filled before going to work this morning, they tossed the empty sock onto the ground to show their contempt for permitting the feeder to run dry! Next they will be sending a delegation to see me with demands about the quality of the seed and frequency of feeder filling.

I tried to demonstrate my new bipartisan attitude and watch the President's speech tonight but after two standing ovations before he even began to speak I had to give up. I'll get the highlights from the talking heads later. The adoration from the masses for this guy is becoming unnerving for me.

Ipod update: The Ipod is still under warranty! I thought I had it longer than a year but Kurt set me straight on that. According to Apple's own website it is under warranty until April. So hopefully whatever is wrong with it is a warranty item. Off to the store to see what can be done.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


I'm guessing the knee is continuing to heal. I go to see the doctor Monday afternoon to get the bandage removed and find out what the next step (no pun intended) is for the recovery. I imagine it will be some P.T. Let me just say that for what is relatively minor surgery my body is certainly not springing back to full strength. I am sleepy just about all the time and any physical effort makes me feel overheated and weak. I saw Sarah Conner on the TV show Sarah Conner Chronicles get a 9mm round through her leg two weeks ago. Sure she was hurting, especially when the doc had to dig the bullet out of her leg in an improvised operating room. But when the following week's episode rolled around it was like nothing had happened to her. I guess I'm just not tough enough.
If you look carefully at the white thing framed by the two tree limbs you will see a finch feeder with some finches clinging to it. Of course the picture does not do credit to the bird frenzy that plays out daily at the two bird feeders that we have on our Mimosa tree in the back yard. The finches in particular are all over the feeder like day trippers at a cheap Atlantic City buffet. Sometimes there are up to eight of the little buggers clinging to the sock. The other feeder gets the rest of the bird nation which yesterday included a scrub jay and some doves.

Since we are talking about birds, here is the cockatiel Buster with his pet boy Craig. They get along well together and Buster is training Craig to take him out of his cage and sit still while Buster walks on Craig and pulls his hair.

Friday, February 20, 2009

After the Surgery

Day one of the recovery period after the surgery. I had some pain yesterday but even more of an issue was trying to walk with crutches. It isn't as easy as it looks! Mary was so sweet to me yesterday, baking cookies for me and making sure everything was just so. The vicodin not only took away the knee pain, it handled my shoulders too! This morning I couldn't stay awake. I kept dreaming I was up but then I would wake up and still be in bed. It got frustrating after awhile so I heaved myself out of bed. Then the nausea set in. Finally I resorted to a diet Pepsi which calmed my stomach and woke me up. Then my stomach got queasy again from watching CNBC and their documenting of our slow motion economic collapse. Reading about history and living during historical events are two different things, but more on that subject at another time.

The hospital called to see how I was doing and how my experience was yesterday. Since I remembered very little of it I told the nice person that the experience was as close to fun as I could have expected.

More later...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thursday Rant

While I'm waiting to go for the surgery today I thought I would post this link to a trader on the CME expressing his displeasure with Mr. Obama's mortgage rescue plan:

His question comes down to this: "do you want to pay your neighbor's mortgage?" The President's mortgage rescue plan rewards bad behavior. People who lived and borrowed beyond their means will be bailed out while the rest of us who followed the rules, lived prudently, saved, and paid our bills on time are chumps. Why bother doing the right thing when those who are stupid get a do-over? In fact, the playground do-over is a corner stone of democrat policy. Bad behavior, poor choices, stupidity? Go ahead and take a do-over and re-set everything. Done it again? That's OK, have another do-over. The responsible people in this country are carrying the load for the do-over crowd and the President is telling us that we are essentially chumps for doing the right thing. What happens when everyone wants do-overs?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Special Edition

EXTRA, EXTRA, READ ALL ABOUT IT.... Craig entered a speech contest being held by the Lion's club for high school students. The competition played out today in the Castaic school district office. The topic was "Will California Be Left High And Dry?" referring to water shortages in the state. The attraction for Craig was the $25 participation prize. Two other students entered and Craig won! (" Oh great" was Craig's muttered response) so now he is onto the next level of the competition at City Hall on March 12th. The judges liked his unique approach to the topic as well as his humor and style of speaking. Mary and I attended the competion. We are proud of him and we knew that he would do well.

On to City Hall! Hooah Craig!

Adventures in Medical Land part two

So, I was supposed to have the knee operation today, but here I am typing and not recovering from the operation. Yesterday I had my day-before-the-operation visit with the surgeon. We chatted, he told me that he would see me the next day for the operation and I went on my way to work. At lunch I received a call from his billing operation with the stunning news that they no longer accept my health insurance, and in fact did not accept it when I first visited the doctor in January! Needless to say the operation was called off. The doctor offered to let me make payments on the operation if I wished to proceed which I (not surprisingly) declined. I later got a call from the doctor himself who apologised and told me that 'it was just one of those things' and that he felt bad about how it all turned out. He referred me to another doctor in the valley to see.

Another surprise, the doctor saw me that same day and the surgery is scheduled for Thursday; same location, different doctor. Of course I had to do the same procedures with the new doc that I already went through with the previous doc which will result in more bills and co-pays.

I had contacted my insurance company twice to be sure that the doctor was covered by my policy. They assured me that he was but he wasn't and the contract that they had him under had expired (according to the billing office) years earlier. It seemed that I had taken every precaution regarding the insurance and it still had problems!

Stay tuned for further developments after the operation....

Monday, February 16, 2009

Monday Mash

My Jeep and I don't seem to be seeing eye to headlight. It is ultra high tech with a myriad of gee-whiz electronics like stability and traction control, electric differential lockers and even satellite radio (I didn't pay for this, it came free for a year). So, what's the problem? It's making me look bad. I've been driving manual transmission vehicles since 1976 and by now I've pretty much mastered how to do it. Except with this vehicle. The accelerator pedal is drive by wire i.e. there is no physical connection between the pedal and the engine except for a wire and a bunch of streaming electrons. So, when I let the clutch out and depress the pedal nothing happens for a second while the computer decides whether I am really pushing on the pedal or maybe just kind of caressing the pedal and not actually expecting the engine RPMs to rise to match the load brought on by the clutch. When all of this is sorted out the engine starts to stumble, shudder, and.....stall. How embarrassing. The other day I took a quick jaunt up into the local hills and drove to a vantage point with a panoramic view. The children and I had a picnic there about 20 years ago when they were all small. I can still see the ravens riding the air currents rising up the promontory and swooping over us as we sat there. But I digress. After taking in the scenery I walked back to the Jeep only to see another Jeep pull up and out jumped a Dad, Mom, and their young daughter. We chatted for awhile and they looked approvingly at my cool Jeep with the neat-o winch, spotlight, highlift jack and the like. I could see their minds thinking 'this old guy is not only pretty cool but he is an old Jeep hand. Just look at his cool stuff! I bet he can drive that Jeep through anything.' I recommended the view to them and made my exit. Let the clutch out and the computer did its usual befuddled stumble and what do you know? I stalled it. The other Jeepers turned away, not willing to see my shame.

Same thing happened tonight at a traffic light. If the radio hadn't been turned up I probably would've heard someone shout 'if you can't drive it, park it Grandpa!' Sooner or later the Jeep and I are going to come to an understanding. Its job is to make me look good and if it doesn't, well then......I'll think of something.

Most Stupid Thing Seen on a Freeway: The Lexus SUV in front of me on the 10 freeway that suddenly stopped in the middle lane because the driver realized that they wanted to get off at the exit that they had almost passed by. I mean completely stopped in traffic moving 65 MPH. I swerved around them and saw other cars dodging away from the Lexus which then proceeded across 2 lanes to take the exit.

Personal bragging: Shot a 4 round 3/4" group on Saturday at 100 yards with iron sights - no optics except my eyeballs and spectacles. Used a 1955 Lee Enfield and S&B Czech Republic ball ammunition. Since I've already posted this all over the Internet I might as well put it here too. I still have the target if anyone would like me to autograph it and send it to them.

The Ipod is still spaced out. The software is corrupted at the very least. So sad.

Two days until the knee operation. I've never been operated on before. I'm not nervous mind you but I hope there isn't a long recovery period. I hate being less than 100% capable.

Speaking of cool I ordered and received today an ACU parka. I tried it out tonight when I went on errands (yes the Jeep stalled on me). The 25B clerk at the Radio Shack liked the parka but then his was free from Uncle Sugar and I had to pay for mine.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Alas poor Ipod...

My poor Ipod. Such a loyal friend and companion. Felled by a swift moving affliction that has rendered it confused, mute, and catatonic. I was happily downloading music from various CDs into Itunes and then moving the music to the faithful Ipod the other night. I had just finished the last of about 10 songs when without my knowing it, the Ipod's mind slipped away leaving it unable to respond. I think it had a stroke. It no longer communicates with Itunes, nor will it play back the music that it holds in trust for me. I've tried the various remedies touted on the help section with no results. It sits there stupefied, unable to respond.
Out of idle curiosity I looked at replacement Ipods today but I felt disloyal and kind of, well, shabby looking for another when my good companion lies in an electronic coma. Maybe it will shake off whatever has caused it to be in this condition and if it does what if I am caught listening to a replacement Ipod? It might be crushed.

On a different subject, take a look at this clip of a boy and the Canadian Army. I believe this is from the Netherlands during the annual Nijmegen march (but then again maybe not): even though it is labeled Belgian Boy salutes the Canadian troops. He's too cute. Some info on the Nijmegen march:

Something much less cute is this clip regarding the budget busting stimulus bill: Our children and grandchildren will be paying the tab for this. It is a crime.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Adventures in Medical Land

As a card carrying middle-aged grouch I've noticed that my body is falling apart faster than a Yugo sedan in a Detroit winter. The eyes went bad a long time ago and the hearing is also on the fritz. Then a disc herniated in the back which caused excruciating pain. Weeks of ice, pills, and therapy including being stretched on a modern version of a torture rack finally got the pain to a manageable level. "Our goal is to manage your pain" the therapist told me. I thought the goal was to make the pain go away. More recently shoulder pain in both shoulders turned out to be torn muscles. More therapy, ice, pills. "Our goal is manage your pain" the therapist told me again. This was starting to get old - wait, that's me, I'm getting old.

What more could happen? How about a torn something or other in my left knee that randomly causes me to be crippled and literally unable to use the leg until whatever has come adrift floats back into its corner to lurk and strike again. That was enough - I'm getting something fixed once and for all. No more therapy, no more 'managing the pain'.

Sooo...see the surgeon, set a date to get the work done. Easy, huh? Not so fast Bub. First I need to get the pre operation inspection from my primary care doc. This means a co-pay, plus deductibles, plus time off of work. Ok, I will do that. Ready now? Nope, then we have the 'day before the operations visit' with the surgeon. This means another co-pay plus deductibles, plus time off of work. Ok, I will have to do that. So, every thing's ready? Are you stupid? Of course not. Check with the Surgeon's office: do you take my insurance? Yep. Great. Check with the anesthesiologist: do you take my insurance? Nope. Great. Now what? Call the surgeon's office - what do we do now? He has no clue. Mary suggests calling the insurance company ( I was going to that next anyway). The anesthesiologist isn't covered, but the facility is. So, in a round-about way the knock out doc is covered. Great! Not so fast. When the sleep doc submits his bill it will be rejected. Why? Well he isn't in my medical plan, you twit! But, when the surgery facility submits their bill then the insurance company will acknowledge that the sleep doc is in fact more or less covered under the plan and pay his tariff. Unless they forget all of this and fail to pay the bill. Which means that I will have to arm wrestle UHC best out of three to force them to recognize their own policy and pay up.

It's almost enough to turn me into a socialized medicine proponent. I said almost enough, not enough!! Sheesh!

Gratuitous Photo That Has Nothing To Do With This Topic:

Saturday, February 7, 2009

"You're in the Army Now..."

Today was my Army Day which in my case is not The Army but instead the State Military Reserve, the less strenuous version of the National Guard. I do this once a month unless there is something else going on such as being activated for fire duty or the like which results in extended active duty time. As the weekend approaches I start to get a feeling of 'not this again' and 'I want my weekend'. Then the night before when my wife and youngest son are enjoying staying up and watching a movie and I have to go to bed so I can be up at 0500 to drive an hour and a half to Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base, well I really start to feel sorry for myself.

Then it is Saturday at the traditional O-dark 30 get up time.

"Oh! How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning,
Oh! How I'd love to remain in bed
For the hardest blow of all is to hear the bugler call: 'You've got to get up, you've got to get up, You've got to get up this morning!'"
Someday I'm going to murder the bugler
Someday they're going to find him dead
I'll amputate his reveille and stomp upon it heavily
And spend the rest of my life in bed!
A bugler in the army is the luckiest of men
He wakes the boys at five and then goes back to bed again
He doesn't have to blow again until the afternoon If ev'rything goes well with me I'll be a bugler soon!
"Oh! How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning, Oh! How I'd love to remain in bed
For the hardest blow of all is to hear the bugler call: 'You've got to get up, you've got to get up, You've got to get up this morning!'"
Oh, boy! The minute the battle is over
Oh, boy! The minute the foe is dead
I'll put my uniform away and move to Philadelphia And spend the rest of my life in bed!"
Irving Berlin 1918
On go the ACUs. Around my neck my dog tags, the same pair that I've had for about 30 years. On go the boots, shove the beret in the pocket, grab the day's paperwork, orders, regs, forms, and minutia, all jammed into my nifty ACU National Guard back back. Off I go for the 65 miles to Los Al.
As I approach the front gate I start to feel a shift in attitude from 'poor me' to, dare I say, some anticipation? The soldiers at the front gate waving the vehicles through are from my unit and they look STRAC today. A cheerful "Morning Sir" and a snappy salute from the gate NCO and a sketchy return salute from me and I'm in.
Once I'm in the building, greeted by numerous soldiers and NCOs and ready to start the day's tasks I realize that I like this. I really like it. I feel needed, respected, and part of something that is important. I listen to the questions, provide answers, offer advice, plan, coordinate, direct, order, command. I listen to the war stories of the other old war-horses in the unit. I make a quick run to the PX to buy stuff for SGT Kurt. I see the young troops, some looking like they just got out of high school and wonder if I was ever so young.
The good feeling lasts all day and when it is time to turn out the lights, close the door, thank the troops for a 'good drill' and wish everyone a good month until next drill I feel a bit reluctant to leave. I'll be back, next month....

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

It's All Downhill From Here

Happy Wednesday!

Grouch of the day: Drivers who give me the little wave after they come within inches of inflicting a life altering event on my person from their misguided automobiles. Today it was the guy in the blue little import who found himself in the wrong lane bearing down on defenseless me on my bike. He swerved to the side and gave me the jaunty little wave, as if to say "hey, nothing personal".

Strangest sight of the day: A young man with a 70's Afro of wild hippie hair riding his bike towards me on a collision course that turned out to have his eyes closed. When I shouted to him to watch out (as we were about to collide) he opened his eyes and we skimmed by each other.

Thinking about it that was two narrow misses in one day. Good thing I made it home!

My bike riding continues to pay dividends. Yesterday on the way home I spied an Army two quart canteen (without the carrier) laying on the bike path. A quick U-turn and the booty was mine. I did wash it out thoroughly. Claire's fortuitous call tonight from Ft. Bragg enabled me to request a carrier for it from Clothing Sales so soon hopefully I will have a nifty canteen for hiking or biking.

We got a book from the library called "The 1001 Historic Places to See Before You Die" Craig is up to 7 so far. Mary and I have a few more than that since we can count locations in the U.S., Mexico, Great Britain, Western Europe, Southern Africa and (for me) Japan. Hopefully we'll some more before we croak. I mean pass on.

Rain tomorrow through Saturday. What happened to the blue skies and temps in the 70s? I pay my weather tax and I want my nice weather!

It is nice to know someone who knows someone who met some famous people. In this case the person at the begining of the chain is Barry Goldwater Jr. Can you I.D. the famous people in these pictures? Can you pick out the secret service agents in the second picture?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Monday mash

Daily Grouch: The guy who was blowing his horn at me as I sat in my traffic lane waiting for the light to change to proceed on. He was behind me and wanted to be in front of me. Guess a bike doesn't belong on the road. He squeezed between me and the curb and presented certain hand gestures as he went by so I gave him my best 'whats a matter you?' hand gesture back to him. What a grouch!

My playlist for this morning' commute: Blondie, Moody Blues, Johnny Cash, Jewell, Moby, Kansas. Pretty eclectic stuff. 'Dust in the Wind' has to be just about the most profound pop song ever written.

I saw 'Gran Turino' yesterday. It was a very good movie but sad. It is probably Clint's last movie and if it is, it is a good finale for his career. For a 78 year old he can still handle an M1 rifle like a 20 year old. Go Clint! Here's two other end of career movies:

"The Shootist" with John Wayne. He was dying of cancer in the movie and in real life. A very poignant movie made even more so since his life would be ending soon.
"Father Goose" with Cary Grant. Cary decided he was getting too old for the romantic leading man type movie so he made this one as his good by to the movie world. Lots of fun and highly recommended.

Speaking of movies, here are my movie guilty pleasures. Don't tell anyone that I have seen them over and over again:

Conan the Barbarian: Written by John Milius and Oliver Stone - what else needs to be said? Armold was perfect as the somewhat dim bulb barbarian who 'became a king by his own hand'. Magnificent scenery, music, and dialog. Conan decking the camel with a single punch to the nose is a treat. Any movie with James Earl Jones has to have some redeeming qualities.

The Gods Must Be Crazy: My wife and I saw this not long after coming back from a visit to South Africa. The African setting was instantly familiar. There was about 4 other people in the theater and I laughed so hard during the movie I couldn't breath. A classic of modern slapstick. It is almost as funny the 10th time as the first.

Big Trouble in Little China: This droll send up of monster/kung fu/Tong war movies with another dim bulb hero in Kurt Russell is just way too funny. The mistake is to think it is serious. The only thing serious about it is how fractured it is.

Robinson Crusoe on Mars: Sure the science is wrong and the lucky breaks that the stranded astronaut gets just at the nick of time (at least three times) are way too convenient, but for me this movie has a sense of wonder, excitement and can-do spirit that I have always found to be uplifting. Astronaut Kit Draper is stranded on a Mars with an (almost) breathable atmosphere, crashing meteors, sub martian flowing water with edible plants and best of all, another castaway to do the heavy lifting. Still and all a fun movie. I saw it at the East Hills cinema in 1964 and I was hooked!

The Lost World (1960s version). Another hokey movie with iguanas standing in for dinosaurs. Claude Rains, Jill St. John, Fernando Lamas, and David Heddison vs the dinosaurs of the lost world. Add in some irate natives, flowing lava and diamonds as big as your fist and you have all the ingredients for a cracker-jack midnight TV chiller theater presentation. Another first run at the East Hills cinema for me and my friends. When the roaring of the dinosaurs got too loud for us we ran into the lobby and bought more candy until things quieted down.

Raising Arizona: Ok, the critics actually like this one but I really like this one. It is one of the few movies that I actually like Nicholas Cage in (Peggy Sue Got Married is the other). He is the loopiest non juvenile delinquent ever seen in a move. It is a hoot.

Dont Mess With the Zohan: This has to be the most non appropriate movie I have seen in quite a while and one of the funniest. This is a true guilty pleasure. I don't think I will watch it over and over but the one time I did watch it I laughed out loud more than once.