Saturday, December 24, 2011

I'm famous!

Some pictures of  desert trip taken by young daughter and myself about 20 years ago are now on a blog for your viewing pleasure.  Take a peek and see....

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas lights

The Missus is nuts for Christmas lights on houses.   When we are taking our evening walks she gives awards to the deserving houses in the neighborhood as we pass them.  "Best use of traditional lighting"; "Most Christmas themed yard ornaments"; Best Hanukkah display", "Newest technology in a Christmas light display" and so on.  Of course I am the only one aware of the awards as she tells me as we walk along.  The lucky homeowners who win the awards are unaware because we do not carry certificates on the walk to hand out.

Our community newspaper also give out awards but they actually present the homeowner with a prize and write them up in the paper.  The Missus read about a display nearby that was worth driving to, so she rounded us up and had us set off to find the house.

It is difficult to imagine that there are rural areas close to the megalopolis of Los Angeles but our happy little city (which was a ranching and farming community up to the early 70s) is on the edge of development for the L.A. octopus and there are some open areas not yet swallowed up by development.  It turned out we were headed for one of these places. 

The missus had the directions and we set off up the freeway a few minutes, off at a traffic roundabout which the locals can absolutely not handle.  They stop when coming to it, circle at about 1.3 MPH and hesitantly feel for their road.  I think one lady in a Lexus SUV is still going in circles.  The Grouch expedition having driven in these things in Germany 3 decades ago are old hands at this and handled it with aplomb.   We proceeded along the well lit 4 lane road that then turned into a two lane road that then looked like tobacco road.  I didn't realize that we were supposed to be headed into the wilds and turned back thinking we missed our turn off.  The Missus set me straight, got us turned around again, and we went deeper into the country.  Fortunately the Jeep has enough lighting on it to duplicate the rising sun so we were able to see in the very dark night.  After many twists and turns we came to semi civilization, and ended up in an area of mini ranches and the home we were seeking.  The display was amazing!  It is one of those that you may see on You tube in which the lights are coordinated to music.  It was well worth the drive. 

Part of the very large display

Little Ladybug was not used to the late hour (8 p.m. our time but 11 p.m. for her).  She was also cold so I did my best to warm her up.  She isn't as small and light as he used to be!

Young son in full holiday mode (notice the scarf?)  Don't ask me about the Brony T-shirt.  It is a teenage thing.

Part of the display before it kicks into action.

Starting up!

Of course the flash takes the impact of the lights away but we do what we can with what we have!

Catch up time

Here are some random pictures from events going back a couple of months.  Since they are all associated with the Grouch family the pictures are most certainly worth viewing!

Young Son's marching band competition.  He's play the trombone.  Can you pick him out?

Young daughter and son after the competition.  He's wearing one of my old field jackets from 35 years ago.  It fits him perfectly.  Does that mean I used to be his size?

Random picture of two cute dogs, Molly and Roscoe.  They are starting to feel their age and are no longer enthusiastic 10 mile walkers; 3 is more their cup of tea.

Older son's 28th birthday in his new home.

Little Ladybug visiting all the way from North Carolina!  I am sure we'll see more of her in this blog before the year is out!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Your private sidekick

I think most of us wishes that they had a loyal sidekick to go through life with them, someone to be their wing man, to laugh at their jokes, to confide in, to guard their back when the action gets hot.  Batman had Robin, Roy Rogers had Andy Devine, The Lone Ranger had Tonto and the Cisco Kid had Pancho.

I ride a commuter train to work just about every day.  There is a fellow who is on the car with me who has his own private sidekick.   I noticed that he seemed to be talking to himself when he is reading the paper but I realized that it is actually his sidekick speaking.  The fellow on the train has his internal sidekick.   I realized this when I heard the comments uttered while he reads the paper.  "Is that so?"  "Who knew?"  "Good job!" and so on.  I realized that his sidekick is talking, the fellow isn't  talking to himself.  I was relieved to realize this because talking to ones self is usually seen as a bit odd.   I never have had a sidekick in my life so I am a bit envious.  Maybe if I get my nerve up someday I'll ask him how he got introduced to his private sidekick.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Happy Birthday Son!

Happy 28th birthday son!  Older son is now out on his own and is a homeowner and man of the house but I will always think of him as my little boy even though he is 6'2" and a war vet.   It was a snowy day in Grand Rapids MI in 1983 when I took the Missus to the hospital to have him.  It was an even  snowier day when we came home to Conlen Av S.E. and he was introduced to his sisters. 

Happy birthday son, and many more to come.  I hope some day you will be able to take your son shooting out in the country and see him grow to be a strong and kind man as you have become.

Citizen Grouch introduces older son (who was the only son at the time) to firearms at an early age.  His sister looks skeptical.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Mail from Afghanistan

Regular readers of Citizen Grouch know that Young Son recently completed his Boy Scout Eagle project and was awarded the rank of Eagle for creating and shipping 220 zip lock bag comfort kits for Marines in Afghanistan.  The idea was to make the bag a size that would fit into the cargo pocket on the field uniform worn by a Marine.  Young Son included a letter from himself in each kit plus those from local grade school children.   About a month after shipping the kits he got several nice letters from Marines who received the kits.  We all thought that was the end of it.

Today a letter arrived from a Marine gunnery sergeant who is part of a scout sniper group serving in Afghanistan.  He called Young Son 'sir' and wrote about a member of his team who loved beef jerky (which the kits contained) but who was killed in action before he could receive his package from Young Son.  His letter was blunt as would be expected from a gunnery sergeant and sincere.  He even said Young Son was 'freaken amazing' for providing the kits to his Marines.    He included a picture of most of his team with their weapons and the colors.   When Young Son read the letter aloud to me we were both blown away by the impact of it.   His Eagle project mattered to the men serving in the war zone enough that these young and tough warfighters took the time to assemble for a picture for him to include in the thank you note.  I was choked up when Young Son finished reading it to me.  We looked at each other temporarily unable to speak.   He understood that he received a great honor from the Gunny.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sarah's Key

I'm pretty much a guy's guy; I like manly things and when I'm reading a book it sure isn't going to be about a middle-aged American woman married to a French guy and living in Paris writing about her marital woes.  I surprised myself with this book:  "Sarah's Key" by Tatiana de Rosnay.  It is a novel based on a real event:  the French handled round up of Jews in Paris in 1942 and the subsequent murder of them, parents and children.  The story cuts back and forth between Sarah, a 10 year old girl caught in the round up and suffering under horrific conditions, and the before-mentioned woman who in the early part of the 00s takes an assignment to write about the round up for a Paris based magazine.    I found the story impossible to put down, extremely sad, and very compelling.  Not a feel-good book at all but well worth reading and should be required reading with a mandatory essay for any Holocaust denier.

A Citizen Grouch must-read.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Old Jeep

One of my favorite things are old Jeeps.   Much to my amazement and pleasure, when I hired on at my current job I found an old Jeep there for me to admire.  It is a Willys MB made in June 1945.  I don't know when the city obtained it but it was used for many years in the parks that are located in the foothills on the edge of town.  I am told that some teenage workers rolled it down a hill once (end over end) and demolished it but the city mechanics managed to put it back together.  These days it is used only for parades and displays and doesn't get much use.  I haven't taken it for a drive yet but I will soon!

1945 Willys MB Jeep - one of three weapons allegedly credited by General Dwight Eisenhower as the reason for winning the war (the other two are the C-47 airplane and the bazooka)

The Willys in all its glory - sitting on Chinese made tires!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Man vs. Washing Machine

So, the other night I was sitting at the reloading bench in the garage happily cranking out .30-06 rounds and listening to Loreena McKinnett when the Missus came in to check on the wash in the machine and exclaimed in dismay that the machine wasn't working.  I peered into the open tub and saw it full of wet clothes and soapy water.   The machine wasn't running obviously.  Being the man in the relationship I stepped forward to resolve the problem. "Step aside" I said to the Missus so she went back into house and left me to fix the machine.  I pushed the knob in to 'stop'.  Then back to 'on'.  Nothing.  I did it twice.  No luck.  I unplugged the machine and plugged it back in, turned the wash selector around a couple times and pushed it in and out.  Nada.   I opened and closed the lid a couple times.  Suddenly it started!  I went in and told the Missus that it was fixed.  She came out and opened the lid and closed it.  It didn't start.  I opened the lid and banged it closed.  It started.  I knew we were living on borrowed time. 

I consulted the Internet.  The problem was the lid switch.  I found instructions on how to replace the switch so I ordered the part and crossed my fingers that the washer would continue to work until I could get to it.  Surprisingly it kept working until this past Saturday when I decided to replace the switch. 

The directions described two different models which had different steps to get the washer apart to access the switch.  I had to get the control console off but couldn't accomplish it so I pried the back of it open and peered in.  I saw the release clips but didn't have the right tool to reach them.  A quick trip to the kitchen and I found a camping knife that was just the right thickness.  I bent it 90 degrees and success!   The console was off and the clips exposed that had to be removed in order to loosen the washer casing.  Off came the clips and I yanked the casing off.  Except I didn't need to do that.  The switch was in plain sight and popped right off and the new one popped on. There was no need to remove the casing of the washer.   Now I had to put the washer back together.  Note to self:  memorize how everything fit together before taking it apart.  I must have put that washer back together 5 times before suddenly realizing that this part fit behind that part and the spring clips went under the notches and over to fit into the slots.  A fair amount of muttered profanity helped.    I held it all together with 100 mile an hour tape while I fit everything together so it wouldn't all flop around while I tried this and that.

Interestingly once it was back together and slid back into place the machine actually worked.  I think it vibrates less now.  I had fun opening and closing the lid and watching the machine stop and start.  Now I feel ready to fix anything on the washer.   The Missus says that if it breaks again we're getting a new one.  Wonder why?


Friday, November 25, 2011

Fall in Grouchland and a Thanksgiving hike

So, it is often said that southern California does not have any real seasons outside of the four SoCal seasons: riots, earthquakes, fires, and mudslides.  But I am here to set the record straight.  We do have seasons and right now we are in fall like the rest of the country.  Just to prove this, I took a picture after I worked very hard raking the leaves in the front yard!  You can see the evidence below.  Yesterday the Grouch family that is in SoCal assembled for dinner at Grouch estates.  the Missus did a great job as always with the wonderful dinner and Older Son brought his lady friend who baked a pumpkin roll for desert to share.  Yum!  

Today Young Daughter and I went on a hike in the mountains to an abandoned campground.  The last time I did this hike in December of 2010 the creek was running high and after crossing the stream several time there and back my boots were full of water and sand.  This time I wore some GI boots with drain holes in them in case we encountered the same conditions.  The stream was just about a trickle which was good.  The bad part was I hadn't broken in the boots so by the time we got to the campground I had a blister on my right heel so we had to turn around and go back.  Next time we'll go further!   It was a beautiful day and a better way to spend the day than fighting shoppers at 'black Friday'.    Click on the pictures for a larger view!

The evidence of fall in Southern California.

The entrance to Fish canyon and the campground.  It looks hot and desolate but once we were in the canyon it was shady and

The Grouch sets off on the hike
Younger Daughter with Dottie the wonder dog

The trail was paved where the stream would overflow the road; the Forest Service has barricaded the road so only 'official' traffic can motor along, the hoi polloi must move by foot or horse which isn't a bad thing but why can only officialdom drive?

Young daughter and Dottie on the way back.  Citizen Grouch is limping behind somewhere

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Older son's condo

Older son picked up the keys for his new condo today.  Welcome to being a home owner!  He is learning about setting up accounts for electricity and water and the like.  He owns a bed and a TV right now and just got a refrigerator.  What else does a young man need?   It will be sad for the Missus and me to have him gone but he is very happy to have his own place now.  Young son is tape measuring O.S.'s room (the largest bedroom if you don't count our closet and half bath) in anticipation of moving in as his brother moves out.  The good news for us is that older son is only going to be 3-4 miles away.  That may be bad news for him.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Jelly Bean Music Video

Anything that employs 288,000 jelly beans is worth watching!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Veteran's Day

Happy Veteran's day to all the vets in the Grouch family on both sides!  We are citizen soldiers and airmen from the Civil war to today.  A special thanks to the Missus who supported me and the Grouch kids over the decades as we did our duty.

Dad and Mom - he was eventually promoted to civilian, the rank he most wanted to achieve!
Older son and young daughter; he is now a vet, she is serving still!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Welcome to the newest Eagle Boy Scout!

Like a song says "It's been a long road, get'n from there to here, it's been a long time but my time is finally near..."

Young son started as a Tiger Cub, then a Cub Scout, A Boy Scout and finally....

Young Son, Eagle Scout!   November 8th, 2011

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Young son hears from the Marines

Young son received some letters yesterday from Marines who got the comfort kits that he shipped to Afghanistan last month for his Eagle project. One letter was to him personally and the rest to the school kids who wrote letters and drew pictures to be included in the packages.  The letters were sweet and genuinely appreciative to receive the kits and even more so, the letters from the kids.  It brought a tear to the eye for both the Missus and I when we read them.  Now we have to match up the letters to the children who wrote them and since they came from several classes at two schools this may be a job, but worth it.

Bodfish and Lake Isabella off road trip

A couple weeks ago Young son and I went with some frieds for a jaunt to Bodfish and Lake Isabella via Jawbone rec area.  Our little group had three vehicles and the off roading was not anticipated to be  heavy duty.  Several years ago we took about this same trip in the winter and could only get so high before the road was impassable due to snow.  No snow this time, just lots of dust!  It was so dusty that the air filter on the Jeep became clogged and the engine power dropped off noticeably.  When I got home and removed the filter to install a new one the dust that came off of it was incredible. We traveled up through Jawbone rec area to the Sequoia NF, then down to Bodfish, through the town of Lake Isabella, then back to highway 14 and home.  Total distance was about 200 miles. Lots of driving!  On the way back I happened to stumble on 'story telling radio' on Sirius which had a couple hours of people telling stories at the 39th annual story festival somewhere in Tennessee.  Some of the stories were very funny.  It made the ride home go quickly.

Click on the pics for a larger view!

On highway 14 out of Mojave approaching the turn off for Jawbone recreation area and the road through Kelso valley to the Sequoia national forest
On the road to Kelso valley
In the Sequoia NF, climbing in altitude and in the forest
Stopping for lunch, the next to most favorite part of any trip for the Grouch, dinner being #1
A view from the trail as we start down towards Bodfish

A machinery shed for mining containing a gas engine powered air compressor

The engine - anyone identify what it is?  The data plate was worn smooth and was unreadable

The mine that goes with the air compressor - someone plugged it up so we couldn't go inside and get hurt and trapped, what were they thinking?
Young son takes in the view outside the mine

The Forest service is harvesting burned timber from this area and the machine that they are doing it with.  By this time Young son was wondering when dinner was going to be.
Some of the burned area.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pictures from the past

The other day I entered '66th Maintenance Company' into Google search.  The 66th was my first active duty Army assignment in 1978.  I have been curious to learn what happened to the unit over the years in the great reorganization and draw down of the Army in Europe.  I haven't been able to learn the unit's fate but I did find some pictures from that era on the web.  What a surprise when I found a picture of the unit's sign located in front of the company area and then of a formation which seems to have yours truly in it!!  The pictures are from the photo album of the company commander and the change of command that took place when she (the most senior of us group of 2LTs) was tapped for command.  She did a great job as company commander in a very visible and demanding position.  Through her sister who posted her and other family photo albums on line I was able to email my former commander and exchange some information about each other.  What a great surprise to find the photos and to hear from someone from what is now over three decades past.  Where has the time gone?

The unit sign on the lawn in front of the company area at picturesque Harvey Barracks.  Harvey Barracks was once a WW2 German airfield and was taken over by the U.S. after the war.  The first morning that I was in Germany and was to report for duty there was a command-wide readiness alert test conducted.  My sponsor never showed up to get me at my billet that morning and I ended up walking to the unit to find it like a disturbed bee hive with soldiers running in all directions.  I wondered if WW3 had been declared and someone forgot to tell me.  This was my 'office' for three years.
The change of command ceremony for my new company commander.  You see that guy in front of the platoon that is closest to the camera?  Yep, that is a very young Citizen Grouch back when my waist was narrow, my back was straight, and my hair was dark brown.   How the time has flown!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

There goes the President!

So for the second time in four months I got to see President Obama airborne overhead.  The first time was when we were both in Pittsburgh in June.  The Missus and I saw Air Force 1 take off and pass fairly low overhead as we were walking on a path near the airport.  Today at work I heard the sound of a group of helicopters passing overhead.  I looked  up and saw Marine 1 and 2 and three CH47 helicopters flying in trail formation heading to I assume LAX from visiting Jay Leno at the Burbank studios.  The cost of this jaunt had to be enormous but it was pretty amazing seeing this air armada after having just been at the Reagan library the day before where I saw a former Marine 1 helicopter on display.  I waved to Mr. Obama and hopefully he saw me.  I like to be respectful to the CiC.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Wiley E. Coyote School of Gunsmithing (WECSOG)

Wiley E. Coyote is famous for the ad hoc seat of the pants engineering of his plots to destroy his opponent the road runner with various types of violence and mayhem.  WECSOG calls for using force, improvised tools and approximate measurements to fix and modify firearms.  Since I'm not a gunsmith I don't have the tools or equipment to do precision work on firearms so I have desisted from working on my guns.   HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.    Of course I work on them!   Recently the Missus went shooting with me for the first time in years.  She was shooting the Ruger MkII target and having a great time when the front sight blade flew off and was lost.  Bummer!   I ordered a replacement front sight blade and figured I would simply fit it into the slot on the front sight mount, put the pin in and be done.  Not!  The blade wasn't drilled for the pin so I had to drill it so that the hole in the blade insert would match up with the teeny-tiny hole in either side of the mount.  Fortunately a couple years ago young daughter bought me a drill press for Christmas.  Allow me a side discussion for a minute:  for years I have executed repairs and modifications to the dwelling, vehicles, guns, tools, and other things with about a total of seven tools, these being 1. hammer; 2. pair of screw drivers; 3. crescent wrench; 4. hacksaw; 5. power drill; 6. pliers; 7. clamp.   It is amazing what can be done with minimal tools but it usually involves compromises and excessive force.  Recently I have decided I should grow up and start buying proper tools to work with.  It is amazing what can be done with proper tools!   After years of trying to drill holes in thing while holding a power drill and making a mess of the job I asked for and received a drill press.  It came in handy for this job.
The drill press from young daughter with the barrel clamped in place and the bit hopefully lined up to drill through the existing hole in the mount, through the blade and into the existing hole on the other side of the mount.  Of course I don't have the proper clamp for the job, but I decided to press on in the best tradition of WECSOG!

The barrel ready to be drilled.  Will I make a horrible botch of it?

The blade drilled and everything lined up and done properly.  Yay!

Next I tried to tap the pin into the hole.  I tapped gently - then I tapped a bit harder.  The pin was not going to go into the hole.  What to do?  I put on my thinking cap, crossed my fingers and decided I would press the pin into the hole using my bench vise.  Fortunately the sight mount is flat on either side.  I put the assembly into the vise and slooowly tightened it, keeping everything straight and the pin went in.  Woo!
The completed job.  Actually looks professional!

Along with the drill press, this year I got an actual tool chest to replace the two tool boxes and other hiding spots for the various tools I have accumulated.  Now I do feel grown up!