Friday, March 29, 2013

Trees at Grouch estates

I love trees.  I love them so much I've planted numerous trees at Grouch estates.  We're surrounded by them in fact.  However the tree in the front yard had to go.  It is a liquid amber tree from Mexico and its main attractiveness is that it is drought resistant and has leaves.  However it has these spikey seed pods that drop everywhere and are like walking on ball bearings if you happen to step on them.  Ball bearings with spikes that is.  The roots go everywhere and had already plugged up the drain pipe that flows water from the backyard when we get our every other year one inch an hour rain.  A gardener warned me that our sewer line was going to be the next casualty so the tree had to go.  We replaced it with a flowering pear tree which will probably be a skinny little tree for a long time but at least whoever buys the house from us will have a nice shade tree without spikey balls underfoot.
The liquid amber tree.  Sorry you couldn't stay.
Our new tree.  That is Kerby checking out the action.

Going bananas

I was walking to work the other day early in the morning through an L.A. neighborhood when I spied something that made me stop and take another look.  I've seen many strange sights in Los Angeles, but this has to be the first time I have seen bananas growing in some one's front yard!   Because the sun was just coming up and I was using my cell phone as a camera the pictures aren't very sharp but here is the evidence:  bananas in L.A.!

I wonder if there are tarantula spiders in there?  I had heard as a kid that they would hitch a ride on bananas shipped from central America and bite unsuspecting moms shopping at the grocery store. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

"The Bridge aka Most" The choice

So, for my latest class in my master's program the instructor assigned us to watch this short film and then write a paper on the ethical choice that the father faces.  I still don't know what I will write but I found the film to be well done and moving. 

Watch it and ask yourself:  what would you do?  It is 30 minutes well spent.


B-29 Superfortress overhead!

So, I am a warbirds fan, I love the old military planes (or any old airplane for that matter) and I have traveled far and wide to see them.  When we lived in Michigan my father and I traveled to Kalamazoo for their big airshow several times in the early 80s.  The sight of the big four engine bombers in the air brought tears to my father's eyes.  

We live in a designated training airspace and many times I hear the sound of a vintage aircraft approaching and I'll go outside to see what it is.  T-6 Texans are frequently in the air, doing formation flying.  The slow sound of a radial engine usually means a DC-3.  I used to see a couple different B-25s on the weekend but they haven't shown for awhile.  The powerful snarl of a liquid cooled Merlin engine means a P-51 is scooting by. 

This morning I was outside watering our redwood tree, creating an artificial mist for it so it will feel at home.  It really doesn't belong here in the heat and dry climate of this area but it is still growing and may yet make it.  It's been here for 17 years now and is still mostly alive.  Anyway I heard the sound of a multi-engine prop plane approaching.  The sound was like nothing I've heard before; very powerful sounding, purposeful, fast - not the slow, laboring sound of a B-17 or B-24.   I waited and watched up in the sky and then there it was, a B-29 and not just a B-29 but the only flying B-29 left in the world!   I've seen it before at airshows but having it fly over my neighborhood was amazing.  Yes, I did get goosebumps!  

I was rooted to the spot and watched it go by followed by two chase planes.  Then, after it was gone I ran inside to get the camera in case it circled back.  It didn't.  What a sight to see! 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

School update

Second class finished, ten more to go!   I hope I can keep up the pace.  The 5 week sessions, 4 hour class one night a week without a break between sessions is grueling but I can do it!

Citizen Grouch recommends: Gone Girl

I had heard about the book "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn and thought I would give it a try.  I put it on reserve some months ago at the library and recently it became available for me so I checked it out and brought it home.  I started reading it and almost couldn't put it down to go to bed, it was that good.  I stayed up late, I read it on the train, I read it as often as I could.  It isn't just good, it is really good!

It is the story of Nick and Amy, two hip New Yorkers who lose their jobs and move back to Nick's home town in Missouri.  They were much in love but by the time of their 5th wedding anniversary Nick is thinking that he's made a really big mistake.  On the day of their anniversary Nick comes home to find signs of a struggle and his wife gone.  As time goes on Nick becomes the suspect in his wife's disappearance.  Nick seems guilty...or is he?   It is written from both Nick's viewpoint and from Amy's diary.  Nothing is as it seems. 

I found the story engrossing, scary, and a major creep-out.   It was like a really good 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' episode.   It is a bit of a love story, a bit of a disintegrating marriage story, and a whole lot of suspense.  Absolutely loved it.   Full disclosure:  the Missus hated it and didn't read past the first chapter.  She didn't like the characters and as we both feel, if you don't enjoy the book, don't waste your time.  But me on the other hand, I loved it.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

We're all Irish today!

In fact the Missus and I are part Irish:  McNamara and McCrory to be exact on the mother's side.  On a wonderful Sunday afternoon, sunny and mild, here's my wish to everyone for a happy St. Patrick's day

I leave you with this bit from the best movie ever made with an Irish theme:  the fight from "The Quiet Man" with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara.


The Grouch and the Missus see Cavalia/Odysseo

So, every couple of years a show comes to town and sets up near the Burbank train station.  I see the huge white tents going up over a week or so and the crowds thronging the event.  Then it comes down and it is gone.  The Missus researched it on line and learned that is called Cavalia and has something to do with horses.  Ho-hum is what I thought.  I promised the Missus an anniversary present for our 35th this month and she chose the Cavalia show which fortuitously was in town and ready to be seen so Cavalia it was.

 This year's show is called Odysseo and we went to see it last night.  Let me just say it wasn't ho-hum at all.  It was great, and for this Grouch to say that you know it was great.  It is a combination of Circ-du-soleil with incredibly strong and graceful aerialists, tumblers and dancers, trick riders and precision riding, new age music, riderless trained horses, and a beautiful stage setting that is flooded for the final act.  What isn't there to like?   It was great, it was wonderful, and it was something that should be seen at least once in your life.  Highly recommended!

The Grouch goes to see the Wizard

Once again I received an invitation to travel to the Disney studios in Burbank to preview their latest effort.  This time it was "The Great and Powerful Oz".  The Missus, Young Daughter, and Young Son made the journey with me.  It is a real treat to go to the studios.  We walk from the parking structure to the preview theater past the sound stages with their commemorative plaques that tell the history of the building and movies filmed on them over the decades.  The theater is large and the screen is huge!  We get snacks and a short subject before the main event and a movie in 3-D!

The movie itself was tons of fun and very visually stunning.  The colors are incredible and the scenery breathtaking.  I have always loved the original 'Wizard of Oz' movie (the Missus hates it, go figure) and its annual showing on TV when I was a kid was eagerly awaited by me.  It was one of the few times a year that we kids were allowed to have a soft drink and popcorn and we could have it in the living room while watching TV!  It really didn't get much better than that for this kid.  The new movie was a great way to tell the back story of the wizard and how he came to be in Oz.

I highly recommend the movie; just make sure you see it at a big screen movie theater.  A movie this bright and beautiful deserves it!

In praise of public libraries

So, I'm a small government guy; the government that governs the least, governs best...or something like that.  But I have to say one of the services provided by government that is greatly under appreciated by many is the public library system.  I'm a voracious reader, consuming books by the gross and the Missus is probably even more so.  She is the only person I know who can watch TV, have her laptop open and a game of mahjong going on it and have a book open in her hand while she reads it!

I frequently see a book reviewed in the newspaper (did I mention that we subscribe to two newspapers also?) that appeals to me and instead of buying it I request it from our local library systems.  Yes, I said systems.  We have a city library system and a county library system!  Double the chances to get the book!  This doesn't help the author of the book sell copies but it helps me read it because I couldn't afford to buy them all.  We even get electronic 'books' for our Nook readers.  I must say I enjoy a book printed on paper but the Nook is convenient for reading while eating except when I spill food or drink on the Nook.

I like to browse the new book section at the library and check some books out that look interesting.  I've found some great authors that way and wait eagerly for each new book that the author publishes.  The library helps me when I stumble on an author that has been publishing for decades; I can request the books going back to the beginning.  Recently I went on a Neville Shute kick and read every book he had published from first to last.  What a great author and storyteller!

I have also read a book on a subject that then leads me to find books that feature a person or events discussed in the first.  Three examples:  I pulled a book off of the shelf at the library about East Prussia.  East Prussia?  How could that be interesting?  It was fascinating and told the tale of a region and a society that no longer exists and was brutally destroyed by the invading Soviet army in 1945.  In the narrative it mentioned a woman, a member of the landed gentry, who fled the Soviets on her horse and made an epic 400 mile ride in winter, through fighting, air attacks, brigands, chaos and anarchy to end up in western Germany and to survive while losing everything she owned.  She wrote her own book of growing up in East Prussia and her war experiences which I read and found equally fascinating.   Another book about a Dutch Jew and his family who fled the German invasion of Holland in 1940 and escaped to the Dutch East Indies only to be captured by the Japanese and put to work on the death railway and the bridge over the river Kwai led me to another book written by the woman he later married and her parallel story of a Dutch Jew evading the Germans and surviving until the end of the war while her family was taken to concentration camps and killed.  Last example:  The recent biography of T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) "Hero" which I requested from the library mentioned a fiction book of the same period called "Greenmantle" and referred to it as the arch typical book of derring-do and secret spy adventures.  I was curious and requested it from the library.  I'm reading it now, and it is a cracking good adventure tale, written in the '20s and is a great find.

Support your public library and read!  The world is open to you through its books.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Don't be concerned!

I'm still around, just not much time to blog recently with work, school, and life in general.  Stay tuned for this weekend (but don't get too hopeful).

The Grouch

Friday, March 8, 2013

Whatever happend to the wedding convoy?

I was at work today when I heard a a car horn honking as it drove by on the road and this made me realize something that I haven't heard nor seen in ages:   a wedding convoy of decorated cars escorting the newly married happy couple from the church to the reception, honking madly and the drivers and passengers waving happily to everyone as they sped by.  These days the wedding guests make their own way to the reception while the couple stays behind at the church (or venue - depending I guess on how secular the couple is) to have endless photos taken and then arrive maybe an hour later.  I think I like the excitement of the decorated cars and the honking and even some tin cans tied to the bumper of the wedding ride - wait a minute, cars don't have bumpers that stuff can be tied to anymore.  Bummer.

More spontaneity, less planning, more celebration, less posing for pictures is the better way for a successful marriage to start!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The right to own a bazooka?

For the gun control crowd that seems to always default straight to "So the 2nd amendment mut give you gun nuts the right to own a bazooka?  How about a nuke?"
I offer the following in easy to read and follow cartoon form:
Read the whole thing at the link, it is entertaining and enlightening.


Happy 35th Anniversary Mrs. Grouch!

Happy anniversary Mrs. Grouch!  35 years ago tomorrow we started our adventure together.  I haven't been the easiest person to live with over the years but I have always been your biggest fan.   We've lived in seven different homes in five states and two countries, raised four children and countless pets, had adventures and excitement, triumphs and sadness but we've always come out on top.  Without your support and love I would not be the man that I am today.


I will never forget when you arrived at Rhine Main airport to join me in Germany.  You wore a bright flowery dress and a white hat and looked as fresh as if you had just stepped onto the airplane for a minute even though the journey was hours with a stop at Gander to tape the tail back together!
You have indulged me in my hobbies and opinions, gone hiking and shooting, off roading and even camping once!  
 Do you remember the flood in the Jeep on that back road in Michigan when the water came up over the hood, up the windshield and on our heads to drench us?  I didn't mean  for it to happen but I have to admit it was pretty funny!  Well, maybe not right then but later...
You are self reliant and smart, funny and clever, and you stand up for yourself and I love you for it.
You are as beautiful today as you were 35 years ago.  I am the luckiest man on earth.
            Happy anniversary my love! 

I want one!

Mercedes seems to have made the ultimate version of the military 'Eager  Beaver' M35A2 ( in 30 years of association with the Army I never heard anyone call the truck an Eager Beaver.  It was always a 'duece and a half' or just a 'duece').  I have no idea what the practical application for me would be but I would be the coolest guy in my neighborhood with one of these!

The Mercedes version also has 3 axles but looks a bit better, goes faster, and costs a heck of a lot more!

Can I have one for my birthday please?