Friday, October 30, 2009

Tricked again!

Nope, not talking about Halloween (not yet anyway) but illicit credit card use and not even by me! For about the 4th time in two years my credit card has been compromised by some muppet or mope or whatever else this type should be called. We received a message from USAA reporting potential fraudulent use of our Mastercard. Someone tried to charge 20 cents on line as a test to see if the card worked. Fortunately they didn't have the expiration date correct nor the secret code from the back of the card so the charge didn't go through. If it had, Katy bar the door! USAA shut the card down. Meanwhile I was at the train station attempting to get my train pass for November. The ticket machine kept telling me that the transaction couldn't be completed so silly me, I wiped the card off, straightened the card, tried again and again. No dice. I found out what the issue was when I came home. A year or so ago Mary noticed that our Mobil gas card had hundreds of dollars of charges on it all in about two weeks. We rarely use the card. A call to Mobil led us to find that there were hundreds more yet to be posted to the card bill. The super creepy thing is that whoever was using the card lived in Santa Clarita probably not far from where we live because it was being used at the gas station near our house and at a gas station not far from where Mary works! Someone was making the same commute as her! A couple other times we've had to get the MC shut off because of it being compromised. Grrr!

Weather report: It has been cold and blustery here this week. Tuesday and Wednesday we had sustained winds at 60 mph and gusts to 75 mph (hurricane strength) and it was Cold! Tuesday Mary met me at the train station to give me a ride home because it was blowing so hard I may not have been able to stay seated on my bicycle. I don't know what motorcyclists were doing - maybe walking. By tomorrow it is going to be in the high 80s. Crazy!

Craig is having a Halloween party tomorrow and girls will be coming! However these girls play shoot-em-up video games with the guys so I don't think there is any worry of hanky panky - especially with Mary chaperoning! My job will be to fetch the pizzas and then hang out at a friend's house for a couple hours until the party is over. Stay tuned for more on this event.

Hope you all have a not too scary Halloween!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Craig turns 16!

Hello Citizen Grouch fans!

It has been awhile since I last wrote but life has kept me busy yet not with anything that is worth commenting on except for Craig's 16th birthday! Craig turned 16 on the 20th of this month. This is a milestone in his life and as the dad it is fascinating to reflect on Craig and how he has matured into the amazing teenager on the cusp of being a young man. Craig is a musician and loves to listen to his music on his iPod, happily singing off-key to the song and not caring who hears him! He is kind to animals, generous to his family, (usually) works hard at school and is still plugging away in Boy Scouts and is in sight of earning his eagle rank. Who knew where the happy little toddler would go with his life? So much is still ahead for Craig and I hope that he keeps his sunny outlook on life.

Craig at a Boy Scout camp at Lake Isabella in 2005

Craig's birthday cake - rainbow sherbet, yum!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Laura's zoo visit

As you know Claire and family are visiting from North Carolina since last Friday and all of this week. On Monday I took the opportunity to be the Granddad and took Laura and Marla to the L.A. zoo. The weather was threatening rain but it pretty much held off the whole time we were there. The zoo is in the midst of upgrading the facilities and some of the exhibits were closed but Laura did not care.

(click on the pictures for a larger view)

It is impossible to take a bad picture of this cute little girl! We were waiting for aunt Marla to catch up with us. This is at the zoo entrance and Laura has her gorilla that she received for visiting the zoo.

Laura was captivated by some tiny gazelles in this pen that were standing on their back legs to reach branches in the tree in the enclosure. Believe it or not but one of the gazelles is crouched down behind the bush by Laura. Every time I tried to get it in the picture with Laura the gazelle would duck back down behind the bush. I guess it was shy!

If I remember correctly Laura and aunt Marla are looking at an alligator.

Marla took this picture and it proves that I was indeed at the zoo with both of them.

The zoo was a bit short on some of the traditional animals such as lions, elephants and the like. Laura wanted to see a camel but when we got to the camel's enclosure an alpaca seemed to have displaced it! No camel to be found. The zoo does seem to have a surplus of wallabies because they were to be found in several different places in the zoo. Good thing they are so cute!

By 3 p.m. I was done even if Laura and Marla weren't and we went home. Laura watched a movie (Hercules) and I took a nap.

Even though this doesn't have anything to do with the zoo I am including this picture of Mary looking sophisticated for a fund raising dinner at St. Nicholas which is the church that the school she teaches at is affiliated with. Who could imagine a lug like me being married to a lady like her?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Strange Encounter

Before I get to the meat of the story I must mention to anyone who is not CA based; Claire and family are here in not so sunny Santa Clarita for the week. Yay!! Everyone looks great and little Laura is the epitome of cuteness! Laura is hoping to swim in our pool while they are here. Two weeks ago the weather was perfect for that. No so much right now. The high is 70F and it is overcast. The pool temp dropped to 68F almost overnight several days ago. So being the good Granddad I fired up the pool heater last night. I think the water temp is in the mid 70s now. I don't think Laura will spend much time in the pool!

On Saturday Daniel's parents had a birthday party for Laura (5 years old now) but I could only stay for an hour because Craig's high school marching band was performing in a band competition nearby. When the time for his performance approached I raced over to the school, had to park about a quarter mile away, raced-walked to the stands and made it just in time! The band was great, and Craig looked good doing all of the intricate steps and marching backwards while playing his trombone. Now that is talent! After the performance I started back to the Jeep. As I walked through the parking lot I heard a woman yelling for help! I looked over and saw a woman and a man facing each other between the parked cars. She kept yelling for help and the man was visibly agitated so I went over. She repeated that she needed help and he kept yelling at her to shut up. He was highly agitated and I thought maybe he was drunk because the woman kept saying 'give them to me' and finally demanded his car keys. He looked like he wanted to hit her so I told him to back off and that I was going to call law enforcement. She said 'yes, please call them immediately!' He moaned and pleaded not to do that and practically tore his hair. She kept saying 'give them to me' and he kept yelling at her to shut up. The other woman was saying something to me but only mouthing the words. I told him again to move away from the two women or I was going to force him away. Just then a medic showed up and said an ambulance had been called. That really set the guy off! I asked just what the heck was going on and the medic said that the man had had a stroke! He looked pretty good to me but what do I know? If the woman had said this to begin with my approach would have been 180 degrees opposite. Since the medic was there I left them and went to the Jeep. As I was driving off the fire department was arriving. I hope the guy didn't have another stroke at that sight!

Ok something different now. I took the replica light machine gun that isn't a machine gun to the range yesterday. To shoot it you must lay down behind it and place the buttstock shoulder rest over your shoulder. After about 8 times of laying down and getting up again in about half an hour I had gotten my daily exercise! A young boy about 12 or so was watching the proceedings and kept looking at the gun when it was not being used so I asked him if he wanted to have a go at it. I think it made his day. With his Dad's ok He got down, braced himself and fired off 10 rounds. He had a big smile when he was done. Another gun enthusiast in the making!

Marla's dog Blossom is here while she is at a dog event with the rest of the pack. He seems very sad that she isn't here and is wandering the house looking for her and whining. Periodically he stops by me for a head pat and then wanders off again.

Tomorrow is the zoo with Laura and I. Hope to get some good pictures to share!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Several Days in the life...

I would like to say that I have not updated the blog because my life is such a whirlwind of fascinating activities but then someone might jump up, point an accusing finger at me and shout "you lie!" as happened recently. And it would be true - the lie part - because these days life for me has been pretty much made of ordinary days. The most interesting day for me was drill day this past Saturday. I was honored with a visit from SGT Kurt Vogeley and his buddy SGT Lane Thompson. In the best tradition of the Army they managed to take the most slender of a legitimate reason to be away from their unit and turn it into a couple hour goof-off mission which involved dropping by to see yours truly. It was fun having them visit and I got to introduce them to several of the soldiers and officers in my unit. One commented on how handsome Kurt is which is true but it did concern me that the 'don't ask - don't tell' rule was about to be invoked.

All that morning the motor pool across the street from my building had all of the vehicles parked there undergoing motor stables (a term left over from the horse cavalry) and the multitude of diesel engines were clattering away for hours until the sound faded into background noise. Around lunchtime I started hearing a weird turbine type whine that rose and fell in intensity. It was kind of science fictiony sounding and reminded me of the space ships in 'Earth v. Flying Saucers' (you must see this movie - what a grand '50s version of the struggle of the free world i.e. the West vs. the evil empire i.e. the U.S.S. R.). This sound went on for about 15 minutes and I finally had to look out the window to see what the heck was making this noise. What I saw towering over the top of the buildings between me and the airfield was the top of the fuselage and tail of a C5 Galaxy cargo plane, the 2nd largest aircraft in the world, sitting on our dinky Army airfield, running up its engines! As I was taking in this amazing sight, it throttled up its engines and literally in a humongous cloud of blowing dust went down the runway and up into the air. The dust cloud would have put the dust bowl to shame. It was an amazing sight seeing the huge plane slowly flying off to wherever it was off to. I got a hop in a C5 from Dover DE to Germany once. The plane has two levels, cargo below and up a ladder to the rear facing passenger seats above. There are no windows upstairs and with the size of the plane it was kind of hard to tell the transition from taxiing to flying to landing.

Sunday was our first mass in the new church. We have been paying for this place since about 1990 and it is finally open. It is a very beautiful church, the 2nd largest in the Los Angeles diocese. My concern is that the 2/3rds of the parish that didn't contribute to build the church certainly won't contribute towards the upkeep of the place. Time will tell.

Claire, Daniel, and Laura arrive Friday for a week's visit in Santa Clarita! Yay!! I will be the lucky Grandad to take Laura to the L.A. zoo on the following Monday. I hope I can keep up with her!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Men Into Space

I'm currently reading "Rocket Men' by Craig Nelson, billed as the "epic story of the first men on the moon' i.e. Apollo 11. It is a great book, very readable and it covers the beginning of the space program for both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. with the capture of German rocketeers at the end of WW2 up through the launch and landing of Apollo 11. The book is worth reading.

I have always been space crazy ever since I was old enough to watch our black and white TV as a kid. I was convinced that the British were going to be the first in space only because of the 1950s SF movies that showed on T.V. were frequently made in England; the Hollywood movies cost too much for the local T.V. stations to show them! I was brought up on 'Science Fiction Theater' 'Men into Space' 'Rocky Jones Space Ranger' and loads of 50s vintage SF movies. Later on there was Twilight Zone (not usually SF) and the superb 'The Outer Limits' I went ga-ga over 'Lost in Space' and then dropped it for 'Star Trek'. During all of that I followed the space program intently. I remember Alan Shepard's flight and my father's disdain for the history making event. "They just shot him a couple hundred miles downrange" he said with derision while reading the evening paper. Later on I stood on the front porch and waited to see Echo go by in the night sky, a giant balloon orbiting the earth. I was delivering papers when I saw the headlines about the three astronauts who died in the fire while testing Apollo 1. I recorded the launch of Apollo 11 and the landing on the moon on my little tape recorder at my grandparents house in sweltering Ft. Lauderdale in July. I still have the newspaper from that day. I was at my office in Chicago when someone told me that the Challenger blew up on launch - I didn't believe what I heard and I was on the way to the shooting range when I heard the news about Columbia. A while ago I read that the space station and the shuttle were coming over Santa Clarita at a certain time at night so we went to the backyard to see them. What a sight! A very bright light, not the usual moving dot that satellites display, appeared and moved swiftly overhead and then faded away. Just to think that people are up there, orbiting the earth! It is the stuff of movies and the TV shows of my youth. I just hope I live to see man (and woman) on Mars!

Now for something completely different...I recently acquired a replica WW2 Browning 1919 that will fire but once for each pull of the trigger and yes it is legal so don't be calling the Feds to snitch on me! This thing weighs about 35 lbs and is a amazing machine with levers, cams, springs, accelerators, springs, pins, pawls, and 35 lbs of massive machined steel. I am amazed at how heavy it is (the M60 that I used in the Army weighs about 23 lbs) and that GIs in WW2 and Korea carried this thing for days and weeks at a time especially considering that the average WW2 soldier was 5'7" and weighed a bit under 150 lbs. The greatest generation was also the toughest generation! Why did I get it? Why does someone get a Corvette or a speedboat or a high speed sewing machine? (ok the last one is not a good comparison). For the experience, the thrill and in my case to have a physical connection with my dad's generation of soldiers. Plus it is wicked cool looking.