Saturday, January 28, 2012

Crosswalk boulevardiers

So, for those who don't reside in California and aren't familiar with our traffic laws, and those who live in California who aren't familiar with our traffic laws, pedestrians in a cross walk have the right of way to everything else.  Interestingly bicyclists who are walking their bike in the cross walk are pedestrians and are protected game.  If the cyclist is on the bike in a crosswalk and gets hit by a car; it is no longer fault of the driver but the cyclist.  I know two cyclists this has happened to, so you can take my word on this.  of course the Missus and I have had to run for our lives multiple times when in a cross walk and the oncoming driver who is texting and flossing his teeth simultaneously doesn't see us and barrels through the cross walk.  The Missus was even bumped once in a crosswalk by a car. 

The point of this essay is to pose a question:  is there an obligation on the part of a pedestrian, when in the crosswalk, to step out smartly (if they are completely ambulatory of course), head up, shoulders back, legs moving briskly to propel the pedestrian to the far side, thus preserving his/her own body intact and to minimize the delay for the always impatient motorists or once in the crosswalk, do you own that piece of roadway and treat it as such, to be enjoyed at your leisure?    I see many wannbe boulevardiers in our crosswalks.  The sophisticated boulevardier of Paris strolled the sidewalks, taking in the scenery, seeing and being seen.   An accomplished boulevardier was well dressed and had a certain casual stroll that didn't cover much ground but caused him to look elegant and to draw attention.  Our boulevardiers have mostly skipped the well dressed part.  In  some cases they are hardly dressed as their trousers seem to have trouble staying around their waist and are slipping down their buttocks.  Sometimes the nouveau boulevardier is listing to music, texting, checking an iPad, or yakking on a phone.  The one thing they have in common is the casual, sometimes defiant stroll through the cross walk as traffic piles up and the crosswalk signal counts down to 1.

I think I'll post a poll to get the measure of the readers of the blog.  In the meantime, if you feel that you are a nouveau boulevardier and have the duty to stroll through the crosswalk like Maurice  Chevalier walking down the sidewalk of Paris signing 'Thank Heaven for Little Girls" (which has always seemed pedophilic to me- the song that is) can you at least wear a top hat and a nice walking out suit?  Singing in a French accent while doing so will help to keep us waiting motorists entertained.

May I join the 1%?

There has been a lot of talk recently about the lowly 99% and the Scrooge McDuck top 1% most evil of all of our society. Apparently if you have buckets of money you are a parasite on the body of society and you should be, if not eliminated, at least have your assets and property confiscated. At least that is what I'm getting out of the protesters. I wonder why if you are at the 99th percentile a person may be 'well off' or 'comfortable' but if someone steps across the line to the magic 1% of the population (which let's be real honest here - anyone of the Occupy crowd - given the chance to join the fabled 1% wouldn't give the rest of their smelly brethren a second glance as they walked towards the light of plutocracy) they are now a cancer on the body of society?

All of this is leading up to an article I read recently that ranks the college majors of those McDucks who are in the secret 1% club. To read the article in its entirety go here:

I am a proud holder of a B.A. in Political Science with an emphasis in international relations and a minor in History. There, I've let the secret out. I've worked in fields that utilize these disciplines....never. But, I see that 6.2% of the plutocrat crowd were PoliSci grads! There are more successful folks with my degree than those with financial and hard science degree's. Whoot! In fact, here is the chart with all of the rankings:

Undergraduate Degree / Total / % Who Are 1 Percenters / Share of All 1 Percenters
Health and Medical Preparatory Programs142,34511.8%0.9%
Biochemical Sciences193,7697.2%0.7%
International Relations146,7816.7%0.5%
Political Science and Government1,427,2246.2%4.7%
Art History and Criticism137,3575.9%0.4%
Molecular Biology64,9515.6%0.2%
Area, Ethnic and Civilization Studies184,9065.2%0.5%
Business Economics108,1464.6%0.3%
Miscellaneous Psychology61,2574.3%0.1%
Philosophy and Religious Studies448,0954.3%1.0%
Chemical Engineering347,9594.1%0.8%
Pharmacy, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration334,0163.9%0.7%
English Language and Literature1,938,9883.8%3.8%
Miscellaneous Biology52,8953.7%0.1%

Given these statistics, PoliSci rules!  And to think my parents said I'd never get anywhere with my degree.   There is still hope for me to join the 1%.   I just have to climb over the other 98% in my way.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The moment

I believe that each of us are on this earth to face our moment - when we have the choice to act or not, to do or not do, and in doing what is required, to do the right thing.  We don't  know when the moment will arrive or what it will be, but when it happens it seems as if the universe is holding its breath for a moment to see what we will do.   The Marine who threw himself on a live grenade in Iraq to save his fellow Marines instead of throwing himself backwards to safety faced the his moment.  Rosa Parks faced her moment when she could have sat at the back of the bus again but instead felt the moment on her and made her choice.  Charles Lightoller, second officer of the Titanic in a life of high adventure before and after the Titanic's sinking had his moment when he did what was required to get women and children into lifeboats and away from the sinking ship.  Our moment can be as small as not letting the class outcast be bullied by a thug at school when it would be easier to turn away or standing up for someone at work who is helpless before an abusive superior.  Frequently we may have our moment and do what is required and not even realize that we have met our moment and succeeded.  But those who are positively effected by our meeting the moment and succeeding know that we did what was required.

I thought of this this week when I read of the captain of the cruise ship Concordia and his cowardliness on the night of his ship's distress.  I am sure he is a competent ship's master, adroit at making the guests on the ship feel welcome, and insured a smooth running enterprise on each cruise.  He started his last day as the captain of his ship not knowing what lay ahead and that his moment would come for him that day.  But when his moment came and the universe held its breath for the captain to decide to stay or flee; he fled.  His moment came and passed without doing what was required.  He failed the moment that he was on earth to meet.

If I have yet to face my moment I pray that I will have the wisdom and courage to do what is required.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Gopher update

Many days have passed since my intense assault on the marauding gophers and so far no further sign of them.  I did notice today when walking through the neighborhood that a house several blocks over has suddenly sprouted a number of gopher mounds.

 Coincidence, or did I make it so hot for the gang that they decamped for easier pickings?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Man v. Gopher

Behind Grouch Estates is an open area, sandwiched between our older development and the newer more tony newcomer neighborhood.  Various types of wildlife lives back there including ground squirrels, snakes, lizards, raccoons, the coyote gang and probably other creatures that I'm not aware of.  We pretty much have an uneasy coexistence, like us and the Soviets during the cold war.  As long as they stay on their side of the wall I leave them alone.  The squirrels unsuccessfully try to break into the bird feeders and the raccoons dare us to mess with them as they are passing through the yard but otherwise it is fairly peaceful.  Recently I realized that the animal planet version of the Hell's Angels had moved in, and of course, there went the neighborhood!   I had seen some suspicious mounds on the other side of our block wall that faces the open area but my policy being what goes on back there is like what happens in Vegas so I ignored the signs.  One day I saw the dreaded mounds of dirt in the planter area next to the pool and I knew we were in trouble.  Gophers!   I could just imagine them, the little gangsters  with their miner's lamps and black leather jackets tunneling away under the yard and snickering as they worked to undermine the spa and pool.   The tiny tattoos on their arms:  born to dig! marking them as the little vandals that they are.   These were accomplished sappers, probably having received their training in North Vietnam, and after they dug their tunnels to the surface they swiftly and competently plugged them back up so that tracing the back to their base was impossible.  I didn't realize just who I was dealing with and thought that a gopher trap in one of the holes would clear up the problem.  I set the trap, stuck it in a tunnel that I fortuitously uncovered and figured I would come back tomorrow to clean out the carcass of the little rodent.  When I checked the next day not only was there not a dead Hell's gopher, the trap was gone!  The little so and so and dragged it off!

No one steals my gopher trap!  I had visions of them in their underground club house, leather jackets on, swigging bear out of tiny little cans and toasting the trophy trap that they mounted on the wall.  This meant war!

I went to the hardware store and got three more traps.  I also broke out the can of gopher poison that I bought almost twenty years ago when they first tried to move in on me.  You can't find this stuff for sale anymore.  Probably threatens the wild condors or something.  I wasn't going to threaten anything.  I was going to eradicate some gophers.  

I dug and I probed and I uncovered some more entrance holes.  I laid the traps, baited them with a touch of birdseed and mixed the poison in with the seed.  All of this was pushed way down into the tunnels.  Then I waited.

The next day another trap was gone.  A second trap was sprung but no dead gangster.  The third trap was immobilized in dirt packed around it by the wily tunnelers.  I dug it out, reset the other trap and placed some more poison in.  I noticed that I hadn't uncovered any poison when I dug out the trap.  Maybe the knuckleheads fell for the poison!  

Another day passed.  The traps remained untripped.  No more holes.  Yet another day and still no evidence of activity.  Are they dead?  Two more days.  Still no activity.   I may have won!   Or, are they laying low with my traps, just waiting to place them, fully armed and ready in my path as I stumble through the yard in my slippers and 5 a.m. to let the dogs out before going to work.  

Did I win the war or only the first battle of the war?  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Petersen Auto Museum

Young Son and I took in the Petersen Auto Museum today for some father-son togetherness.

The Grouch and kids visited the museum way, way back in the 90s when the Senior Grouch was in town for a visit.  Young Son wasn't around then so he didn't have the chance to see it so off we went.  We traveled through busy Hollyweird - I mean Hollywood - to get to the place which is always an interesting adventure.  Leaving the museum we headed home via Beverley Hills which was an experience for car crazed Young Son.  The number of very high end performance cars that we saw motoring along Wilshire blvd in our mundane Dodge Stratus was eye opening for him.  He even got to see one of his new favorites, the Ford GT.   At the museum there was a temporary exhibit of motor scooters which I found very interesting, antique vehicles, movie vehicles, hand built cars, one-offs....just about anything you could ask for.  Young Son took the photos but since this is my blog I'm posting what I found interesting!

The museum first floor features a Los Angeles street from the 30s complete with a Cadillac dealership.  It is nicely done.  There is even the sound of a stolen car being stripped in ramshackle warehouse down a side alley!

This car was owned by legendary auto racer Phil Hill.  The car appealed to me because it resembles the cars used by the globe trotting explorers of the 30s.  It would look at home racing across the Gobi desert with a cloud of dust raised behind it.

Young Son signals his approval of the Bugatti W16 powered by two V8 engines.  He really likes the modern ultra high performance cars.

This contraption is from the movie "The Great Race'" staring Toy Curtis, Natalie Wood, and Jack Lemmon as Prof. Fate.  A really great move and it was fun for me to see this since I am a fan of the movie from way back.

The first land speed competition car to be powered by a jet engine!  It is the Green Monster (but no longer green) and held the land speed record several times.  It was sitting in the parking garage.  No room inside for it?

Certainly no room inside for this contraption!  It was used by Forest Lawn for VIP trips up to the early 90s.  By that time it was about 50 years old.  Pretty darn impressive!

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's range trip

Young Son and I took advantage of the beautiful weather to make a trip to the range today.  We figured it was a good precedent to set for 2012!

Young Son demonstrating his wild west shootin' iron skills

The Grouch still has the touch with the 1911 .45
Grouch and Young Son shooting at and sometimes even hitting clay birds


Happy New Year and a roller coaster ride

Happy New Year to family and friends who may be reading this blog.  Young son recently took a ride on Riddler's Revenge at the local amusement park and recorded it with his Christmas camera.   You'd never catch me on this ride!  It is a stand up roller coaster that several times has you upside down.  Good thing he kept a tight grip on the new camera!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The internet black hole

Another journey down the Internet black hole led me to this website:

This site chronicles abandoned...everything!  Buildings, planes, ships, tanks, you name it.  For some reason I have always had a fascination for abandoned buildings, bunkers, and the like.  I wonder what it looked like when the place was in use and alive.  Who was there, what was their life like, what happened to cause it to be abandoned?  And even better, is there any treasure left behind?

I hope you don't spend too much time on this website.  It is addictive for me!

New Year's Eve hike

Another great Grouch family tradition: The New Year's eve hike! Well, actually this is a somewhat intermittent tradition as the ability to do the hike depends on whether the Grouch and Young Daughter are both off of work for the day and can go. But this time all of the planets aligned, we were free from work, so off we went!  The weather was gorgeous, sunny and breezy and a fantastic 71F, perfect for a stroll.  We went up San Fransquito canyon road, up a fire road to a ridge and drove 'till we found a likely place to park and start our walk.  What we didn't expect were the number of pesky off road bicyclists.  They were swarming like bees after spilled Pepsi.  We must've encountered 8 or more on the hike.  Since we had 5 dogs with us we frequently had to call the dogs to heel to let the bikers pass.  Most were pretty gracious about the whole dog thing and were good with sharing the trail.  We also encountered a woman leading a horse with two dogs following along behind.  Her dogs weren't under any control at all and Young Daughter had to grab one by the collar and lead it back to the horse woman.

We started up by the power line and headed downhill.  Here is a view back up the hill at our starting point.  I believe our trusty Jeep is a dot at the foot of the tower.
The Grouch likes to survey the ground ahead to check for Comanche ambushes.

Starting down into the shaded canyon and more encounters with bicyclists

More shady, narrower, and green.  A nice change from the dried brush and chaparral we usually have around for a hike.

The dogs like it too!

We stopped to chat with one of the really nice bicyclists.  I thought his bike bell was a great idea and should be adopted by all considerate bikers.  We could hear him coming and called the dogs to heel.  While we were talking with him a woman came up the hill on her bike and took the opportunity to take a break and compliment us on our nice pooches.

An artifact!  A perfect excuse for a picture.  Young daughter and friends.

Out of the green and into the brown, on the way back to the Jeep.  The dogs still have endless energy!

Still looking for the Comanches...

Almost back to the Jeep.  I think the dogs were starting to tire out a bit but still going strong.

Can you believe there are 5 dogs and a large toolbox back there?  Who says a Jeep doesn't have room!

Christmas 2011 at the Grouch's

Like all families, the Grouch family has our own holiday traditions and rituals that we have made our own over the years.  This year we were sad that Oldest Daughter wasn't able to travel to Grouch Estates to celebrate Christmas with us; however she did the next best thing and sent our granddaughter to us!  We had little ladybug with us for several days to help keep our Christmas young. 

Without further preamble, let the Christmas tradition photos begin!

Young son and the Grouch went to the local 'you cut it' Christmas tree lot and selected a tree almost 10 feet tall!  Unfortunately the available space was a little over 8 feet so some of the tree was sacrificed to fit.  This is Young Son demonstrating his approval of the tree we bagged.  This reminds me of the deer hunters that I saw back in Pa. as a youth with their buck tied to the roof of the family station wagon after a successful hunt.

The Grouch family always goes to midnight mass on Christmas eve - except this year.  This time we went to the chapel at a local Catholic high school for afternoon mass on Christmas eve.  It was a nice change of pace plus the whole mass was finished in just over an hour!  Perfect for a little girl with too much energy who finds it difficult to sit still for over an hour.  The Grouch and she kill some time before the start of mass.

Older Son and his lady friend at the chapel.

The ladies: little Ladybug, the Missus, Young Daughter, and the Lady friend

The whole Grouch gang minus Older Daughter :(

Next, the traditional Christmas eve dinner at Pizza Hut!  How this got started I have no idea but it is a lot of fun.  We've been going to the same place for years and though it has changed the pizza and bread sticks are still just what we need to get our strength up for the next morning.  The blue box contains Christmas cookies baked by hand by the Lady fried for the Grouch family.  Yumm!

Some of the Christmas gifts, the grill is for Older Son who now has his own place.  In the past a homesteader needed a mule, a rifle, and a plow.  Today's young man needs a grill when he starts on his own.  The large box is the vanity to be installed in the upstairs bathroom which is under renovation and has been for two months.  It made a dandy Crhistmas gift spot.

The tree is not really leaning to the right like the picture implies.  The Missus and Young Son did a great decorating job.  When the holiday is over and the tree is taken outside it will be rendered into firewood and dried for a year to be burned next Christmas in the fireplace.
Another Grouch family tradition:  the Grouch makes scrambled eggs, toast, and bacon for the hungry family. Oh, did I mention that the Grouch also makes a mess?  Everyone gets their strength up for further present opening.

Little Ladybug opening some of the gifts from the family.

One last family tradition:  the silly gift, usually one shared by all of the Grouch offspring.  In this case it was Perry the Platypus caps for three.  If you don't know Perry you are really missing out on something!