Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas Truce 1914

A TV commercial that captures the essence of the Christmas Truce 1914

Merry Christmas

Sunday, December 7, 2014

A Day of Infamy - Pearl Harbor 1941

A moment of silence and the flag at half staff at Grouch estates for the memory of the day of infamy, December 7th, 1941.

I worked with a Pearl Harbor survivor some years ago.  Art was a young Marine and a bugler aboard a ship on that day.  The memory of the day was vivid for him and he shared those memories with me several times.

A salute to all of those who gave their lives that day.

A six minute film worth a watch.  I saw the Japanese two man sub captured at Pearl Harbor when it was on display at the Naval station in Key West sometime in the late 60s when I visited as a kid.

A rare product endorsement - Skp DR for DVD and CD

So the Missus and I were at Best Buy last night buying some Christmas CDs for her.  I went over to look at stereo amps as mine is apparently just about kaput.  They only had two models for sale (both base models) and only the high end amps have input for turntables which is what isn't working very well on my stone age amp. They didn't have any of those since no one listens to stereos any more anyway.   Looks like it is a high end amp for me!

While there I spied a gizmo for sale that claimed to buff off scratches on DVDs and CDs so that they will play properly.  I was skeptical but for $30 I figured why not and I hadn't bought anything that day so I took the plunge.

The device is a battery operated polishing wheel that takes off the top layer of a disk that contains the nicks and scratches that interfere with reading the data and subsequently playing properly.  As the instructions say, if the scratch is so deep that it compromises the data then nothing can help.

The Missus provided a Neil Diamond CD that refused to play a couple of tracks.  The surface was covered with tiny scratches and nicks. Perfect candidate!  Into the machine it went and out it came with a swirl pattern on its face and no scratches.  I then used the special polishing cloth on it, popped it in the CD player.  Presto!  it played perfectly.  Young Son retrieved his much loved and played Lord of the Rings DVD that refused to play a crucial scene of the movie due to some scratches.  Presto!  it was fixed and playing.

So far it has a 100% success rate.  The polishing wheel is good for 25 cleanings and then must be replaced.  Be sparing with the polishing fluid that is sprayed on the disk before it is polished.  I used too much and the disk came out of the machine sopping.

Who new this thing would actually work!


Movie review "Hercules" with Dwayne Johnson

We rented "Hercules" with Dwayne Johnson last night.  Dwayne seems to be a nice guy version of Arnold, someone that you'd want as a friend and not just because he can always open those really tight lids on the spaghetti sauce jars.  He's appealing in every movie that I've seen with him in it.

This movie show cases him as Hercules of legend but with more back story and with not everything being what it seems.  It was a lot of fun with Dwayne's muscles on display, a beautiful woman and her son in peril, yet another bow wielding beauty by his side (what is it with girls and bows in movies over the last decade?), and slaughter by the score.  While watching the scene of a massed army on the move I couldn't help but wonder where the logistics 'tail' was for all those guys but then it was only a movie.

John Hurt chewed the scenery as he always does and turned in yet another good performance.  It was an unexpectedly fun movie, right up there with "John Carter of Mars" for movies with a high fun quotient that exceeded expectations.

Three stars out of four.


Sunday, November 30, 2014


It isn't very often that the Huffington Post and I agree on something but we agree on this.  "Wanderers" is a stunning short film that shows us, humanity, what wonders may be waiting for us in our neighborhood, the solar system.  

Watch this and be a wanderer if only for four minutes.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Cause for Paws starring Fancy, Muffin, and Pie!

Young Daughter was contacted recently to have her well trained and so very cute dogs play a part in the Fox TV show "Cause for Paws" that aired Thanksgiving evening.  Three of her lovable canines made the cut and were featured in the opening scene of the show... which was cut on the east coast due to football running long.  Shades of Heidi!

The clip opens with the dogs on the DC3 with Fancy the white Tibetan Terrier first and Muffin the little mutt just before the shot of the throttle controls in the cockpit.  Pie the Belgian Malinois is seen half way through.

Anyway, for those who didn't see it and those who want to see it again, here it is!  YD recorded it from the Grouch family TV.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Lockwood Valley 4WD trip

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!    We received a call from Older Son today who is working outside the country for another three weeks or so.  It was great to hear from him.  I hope everyone has a happy and plentiful Thanksgiving day and enjoys the company of family and friends.

All the best to the Grouch family and all the relations across the nation and the world.

The Missus had her 5th grade students make these Thanksgiving turkeys in her class this week.  Cute and yummy!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Peter, Paul, and the Missus

The Missus is a major-league Peter, Paul, and Mary fan.  Her very first LP record was the first record issued by PP&M, which of course she still owns.  The Missus has many PP&M LPs and we saw PP&M in concert some years ago.  We were sad when Mary passed away.

Recently the Missus spied a brief note in the paper that Peter and Paul were coming to the Skylight Bookstore in Los Feliz not far from where I work to sign copies of their book "Peter, Paul, and Mary: Fifty Years in Music and Life".

  Needless to say  the Missus was all over that opportunity.  She took her first PP&M record album along with their "Reunion" album to be signed.  Of course she also bought their book which they personalized to her.

Peter and Paul performed some songs at the signing and took questions from the attendees.  Then came the signing.  As you will see in the pictures, the Missus is a good stand-in for Mary.  She had a great time and came home full of excitement and stories from the event.

Peter and Paul (or is it Paul and Peter?)

The Missus says that they sounded great!
The Missus moving right in.  Who can resist a beautiful blonde with long hair?

I'm lucky I got here back and she didn't get invited on tour with them.  They are enjoying themselves a little too much.

Peter, Paul, and Missus

Friday, November 14, 2014

Happy Birthday to the Willys MA Jeep

Happy Birthday to the original Jeep of world war II!  This video has great scenes of pre-war testing of the prototype Bantam Jeep model prior to the final pattern as made by Willys and Ford.  In several of the scenes the driver almost tips his Jeep over from over enthusiastic driving.

My father said that he and his AAF comrades were going to get two things after the war;  an M1 carbine and a Jeep.  He had to wait until I came along to be reacquanted with both of those items.

The contract for the Jeep was issued in November of 1940 and has Paul Harvey used to say "...and that is the rest of the story!".

Short reading list for junior leaders, military and civilian

I recently completed a leadership master's degree and as part of the process we had many texts and articles that we read as part of the program.  I was thinking about leadership, junior military officers, and book knowledge on leadership and realized that pretty much all the leadership wisdom needed can be found in a total of four books.  Two are fiction, two are fact and between them, they cover a time span of several thousand years.

Read these four books and you will entertained and enlightened.

"Gates of Fire"  fiction by Steven Pressfield   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gates_of_Fire

"Bugles and a Tiger

"The Road Past Mandalay  non fiction autobiography both my John Masters  http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1739219.Bugles_and_a_Tiger#other_reviews

"Starship Troopers"  fiction by Robert A. Heinlein (not the horrendous movie adaptation!)  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starship_Troopers

Some may complain about military fiction and non fiction as leadership guides.  Let me assure you that these four works will give you the framework that any successful leader needs: empathy,  courage, honesty, selflessness, sacrifice, decisiveness, technical knowledge, team work, humor, dedication to duty, and initiative.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Guilty Pleasure: "The Paradise" on Masterpiece Theater

I stumbled on "The Paradise" on Masterpiece theater the other day.  It is a story of a department store in England sometime in the 19th century post the Indian Mutiny.  It is a soap opera hiding in a gorgeous period piece.


I was instantly hooked by the characters, the vibrant colors, and musical score.  The storyline is compelling too.  It didn't help things at all that I picked up the story in the middle of season two but I was able to deduce certain pieces of the plot to figure out the dynamics of the story.  I then went to the PBS website and watched the 30 second previews of the season I episodes as well as the first and second episodes of season II so I now have a solid idea of what the heck is going on.

I'm a sucker for this type of show having watched many of the original Upstairs/Downstairs episodes and then the follow up Upstairs/Downstairs that was on a year or so ago.

If you get the chance, watch the episodes on the website but hurry, apparently when the season ends, so does the online access to the complete shows.

Happy Veteran's Day

Happy Veteran's day to all of the veterans in my life both living and deceased.

 "All gave some, some gave all".

Between the Missus family and mine we have veterans from the Civil War, WW1, WW2, Vietnam, the Cold War, Iraq I and Iraq II

Someday we as veterans hope that as the traditional spiritual goes, the world " ain't going to study war no more"

I'm gonna lay down my sword and shield
Down by the riverside and study war no more
Down by the riverside I'm gonna lay my burden down
Down by the riverside I'm gonna lay my burden down
Down by the riverside I'm gonna lay my burden down
And I'll study war no more
I ain't gonna study war no more, study war no more
I ain't gonna study war no more
I ain't gonna study war no more, study war no more
I ain't gonna study war no more
Down by the riverside I'm gonna walk with the Prince of Peace
Down by the riverside I'm gonna walk with the Prince of Peace, Hallelujah
Down by the riverside I'm gonna walk with the Prince of Peace
And I'll study war no more
I ain't gonna study war no more, study war no more
I ain't gonna study war no more
I ain't gonna study war no more, study war no more
I ain't gonna study war no more
I'm gonna beat my sword into a cloud down by the riverside
I'm gonna beat my sword into a cloud down by the riverside, yes it is
Beat my sword into a cloud down by the riverside
And I'll study war no more
I ain't gonna study war no more, study war no more
I ain't gonna study war no more
I ain't gonna study war no more, study war no more
I ain't gonna study war no more

Friday, November 7, 2014

Interstellar - the Movie

Young Son and I saw "Interstellar" today at the Imax.  It is a great movie, reminiscent of "2001-A Space Odyssey" but with an ending that is unambiguous and neatly wrapped everything up.  This film was visually beautiful and had great themes such as the importance of family and a father's love for his children, exploration, and sacrifice.  My only problems with the movie were two:  1. It was LOUD; and 2. the music was so loud that it sometimes drowned out dialog although Young Son with his young ears did not have that complaint.


I like movies with admirable themes; "Oblivion" from 2013 was full of them: courage, sacrifice, loyalty, devotion to a loved one.  A classic line from the movie: 'Everyone dies...the thing is to die well".  While we waited in line for "Interstellar" I reminisced about seeing '2001' in the theater when it was a first run movie and the overwhelming experience of the movie for me.  I looked it up on the internet tonight (everything is on the internet) and learned that the showing that I saw was one of a select group shown in advance at Cinerama equipped theaters to create buzz for the movie.  For some the buzz was induced by smoking MJ during the extended ending but that is another subject for another time.  For me it was the incredibly realistic effects and the overall story of exploration.


I saw it at the Warner theater in Pittsburgh which is sadly history now.


I remember being offered the program of the movie but rebuffed it when I learned I had to pay $5 for it!  Wish now I had kept it.  The Warner was the scene of the infamous "Carrie" movie incident on Halloween that involved the Missus ( we were dating), an umbrella, and the hand coming from the grave in the movie, simultaneously. It is a miracle that she married me after that.

Young Son asked me what other movies that I saw first run gave me the same "wow" feeling as '2001' did when I was young so I told him five movies:

"Star Wars"
the original "Planet of the Apes"
"Wind and the Lion"
"Robinson Crusoe on Mars"   Ok this one is cheesy but as a 10 year old it blew me away. I still enjoy watching it on DVD and pine for the Mars that hasn't existed for millions of years.  But still...

Back to "Interstellar".  See it, and see it on the big screen.  Your TV is way too small to capture the grandeur of this flick.  I give it 4 out of 4.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Goodbye Roscoe

Roscoe took his last walk today with the Missus and Young Son before passing away peacefully while laying in the backyard with Young Son by his side.  Roscoe was a loyal friend, steadfast hiking partner, and champion agility competitor.  We called him the fun police because of his insistence that all dogs and humans be safe when running around in the yard.  He would show his concern by barking and trying to get everyone to slow down and be careful.

Roscoe loved to go on walks and hikes in the mountains.  He walked with me in the hills the day my father passed away as I sought comfort with Roscoe and Molly by hiking and thinking about my times with my Dad.   Today I walked with Roscoe on the day of his passing as I carried his limp body wrapped in a wool Army blanket to his final rest.

We will all remember Roscoe with great love and sadness at his passing.  

He will be forever young in dog heaven.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Spending the evening with "The Adventures of Robin Hood"

As a kid I watched episodes of "The Adventures of Robin Hood" and enjoyed it immensely.  A while ago I found the entire 4 seasons of the show on DVD at our local used book store and snapped it up for a pauper's price of $10.

The quality of the video image transfer is somewhat poor but the fun is still there and many buckles are swashed during just about every 30 minute episode.  It is all that I remembered and more!

Maid Marion is a toothsome damsel and Robin Hood a man of good humor and a steady aim with his bow.  A great way to spend a Saturday evening with the Missus still gone at her Fright Fest job.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Gone Girl - the movie

The Missus is still working Friday nights and weekends so I took myself to the movies and saw "Gone Girl".  I read the book and thought it was down-right chilling and the movie was equally so.  It was true to the book so no surprises for me but it was done well and done right.  At the end of the movie the audience filed out quietly, pretty much stunned by the ending.  It was a bit too heavy for some I think.

It was sad and scary and though provoking.

Not a movie to take your date to see for sure!


Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Grouch Goes East - Part VII: A visit to the U.S.S. North Carolina

The last part of the Grouch's trip to the eastern seaboard ends with a visit to my brother and his wife in Wilmington N.C.   They live downtown in a genuine historic house that is big, beautiful, and full of southern charm.  We were there to visit with them and then to go to another family reunion, this time at the beach north of Wilmington.

I couldn't visit Wilmington without touring the battleship U.S.S. North Carolina, so I made some time to do just that!

Most of the ship is open to tour, from the bridge to the engine room.  It was hot inside in the July heat, but that was to be expected.  Be sure to allow at least 3 hours to see everything.

The Missus with my brother and sister in law on the waterfront at Wilmington

The Missus looking beautiful and charming as always!

The North Carolina, known as Showboat, nicknamed that by Walter Winchell.  

The ship is just too large to fit it all into my camera frame
Those are some big guns!  16" to be exact

Down below one of the 16" gun turrets

Looking down into the powder hoist
Looking up at the base of the turret

A sign that all of the sailors were sure to be interested in!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Musical interlude - The Lady of Shalott

Alright Grouch fans, time for some classical education and a beautiful song.  This song was my introduction to Loreena McKennett, a Canadian songstress with a Celtic flavor.  I first heard her being interviewed on NPR radio when I was driving to work at least 20 years ago.  After she was interviewed they played this song and I was hooked.

I hope you like it as well.  "The Lady of Shalott" written by Alfred Lord Tennyson and put to music and sung by Loreena McKennett

Lone Survivor - the movie

The Missus and Young Son are at their annual Fright Fest employment every weekend this month and I am on my own.  After dinner I rented "Lone Survivor" on pay-per-view.

 When it was in the theaters the Missus did not want to see it.  She said it was like "Titanic" and other movies made about a real life situation with a sad ending: you can't change what happened and it is too sad to watch.

The movie details a mission by Navy SEALS to capture or kill a senior Taliban officer.  The mission goes awry when the SEALS are discovered by Afghan goat herders.  The subsequent battle cost the lives of numerous Navy and Army personnel. The movie is factual in its overall content but of course it is a movie so some things may have been dramatized for effect.

The movie shows each wound and each traumatic injury suffered by the SEALS in the ridiculously steep and rugged Afghan terrain in vivid and excruciating detail.  The suspense, despite knowing how it ends, was agonizing and seeing each Sailor give his all for his teammates was heartbreaking.  Each American's death was not just his but like ripples in a pond, would wash outwards to strike sweethearts, wives, children, parents, siblings.

I am glad that I didn't see it in the theater or with the Missus at home because I had tears running down my face at the end of the movie.  I would have embarrassed myself.   Where we find such brave men and women who do so much for a mostly unappreciative country is beyond my understanding.

Everyone in this country should see this movie to see to what extremes we put our servicemen and women to.  Many won't, but they should.

If you are brave enough and want to see what they do for us, then see this movie.

"People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men (and women) stand ready to do violence on their behalf"  George Orwell

Sunday, September 28, 2014

I want one of these!

I made it through my middle age crisis years without buying a convertible nor having an affair but now that I am safely through that danger zone I've decided that I can't live without owning one of these:

A Russian Ural two wheel drive motorcycle!  Based on the WW2 German BMW military motorcycle but updated with fuel injection for the engine and disk brakes to stop.  It can carry over 1,000 pounds, has a reverse gear and with a tug on a lever, you can connect the side car axle to get drive to both rear wheels!  How cool is that?

I can't think of anything more fun than a motorcycle with side car.  It is so dorky it is cool.  

It ain't cheap but I feel that it is the real me.  Someone in my town has one and it looks like Indiana Jones has stepped into the 21st century when it chugs by.   If I get one maybe we can form a side car gang!

Please talk to the Missus and convince her to get me one!

The Grouch Heads East - Part VI: Headed to Carolina

It was time to head to North Carolina and the next gathering of Grouch relatives.  This leg of the journey had only the Missus and Little Ladybug or LLB for short.  We drove through West Virginia and Virginia on the way to North Carolina.  West Virginia was stunning.  Very beautiful and the interstate in perfect condition.  We had rain on and off for a lot of the trip through the state.

As we drove along we saw signs for the New River gorge and bridge and being suckers for great views and unique visiting spots we decided that we had to stop and see what there was to see.

When I was in college I knew several people who did white water rafting on the New river, so I was aware of it but had never been there myself.  Apparently my overly brave brother in law has parachuted from the bridge.  This is yet another extreme sport that I am happy not to participate in!

Yay!  We cross the line from PA to WVA

We decided to have our lunch at the visitor center for the New river gorge.  When I was a lad and my family drove to Florida from Pittsburgh each summer we had our lunch each day at roadside picnic benches.  Some of them were so close to the road that we were in danger of our sandwiches getting blown out of our hands by the passing trucks!  Another time the idyllic looking spot was swarming with flies and we had to beat a retreat to the station wagon and drive on.  Those were the good old days!

These folks were from Canada.  Those are impressive trailers to haul behind a motorcycle

A view of the gorge

Outside the visitor center

A wooden path leads all the way to the bottom of the gorge.  Unfortunately we didn't have time to go very far on it.  Maybe next time!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Musical Interlude - The Highwayman

A great poem and a beautiful musical adaptation of it by Loreena McKennitt

Adios Rake

Who knew a leaf rake would last 32 years?  Our poor, worn our rake that was purchased sometime shortly after returning to the U.S. from our stint in Germany has finally reached the retirement point.  It is the only leaf rake we have owned in our 36 years as a family but it has too many detached metal fingers and is letting too many leaves and pine needles escape when I have to rake.

I went to Lowe's today for nyjer seed for the greedy finches that we support and decided to buy a replacement rake.  An identical rake would've set me back $20, a 'good-enough' replacement was $8 and that is what I bought.  Sure, the $20 version may have lasted another 32 years but I probably won't be raking leaves when I'm 92.  If I am, I'll buy another rake.

I brought the new one home and set it beside the old rake.  I couldn't brink myself to toss it out, at least not yet.  Maybe the old one will give the youngster some tips and some family history before it leaves us.

The Grouch Heads East! - Part 5 - We head slightly west

It was time to leave Older Son and his lady friend and head west to the 'Burgh for my FIL's 80th birthday and a family reunion.  The Missus is deep into quilting and wanted to stop at two quilt shops along the turnpike at lovely Bedford, Pa.  We stopped and visited for awhile. Unfortunately one quilt shop was closed but the Missus spent time in the other so it was not a loss.  Downtown Bedford is charming and quiet and gave me thoughts of perhaps retiring there someday soon.  Of course the middle of summer is a lot easier on the body than the middle of winter and I hear that it snows a lot in Bedford.

Seen on the main drag in Bedford Pa.  George sure got around!

The Federal government has never had much of a sense of humor about taxes, home made alcohol, and firearms

We stopped for about 10 minutes here and went inside but time and cheapness prevented us from paying our entrance fee and visiting the museum.  Maybe next  time!

My nieces wanted to go shooting, so with a borrowed .22 rifle we traveled to the State Game Land range in Wexford that my father took me to as a 16 year old when he bought me my first .22 rifle.  It is improved from 40 years ago!

The Missus and I needed our retired ID cards updated so we traveled to the local ANG base to get this done.  On display are examples of most of the single engine fighters that they flew over the years.  Missing is an example of  the A7s that they had for a period of time.  This is the F-84

The F-47 and F-51 made of fiberglass.  For many years actual planes were on display but some years ago they were removed and taken to a museum

The F-102; I used to see these fly over my house as a kid in pairs.  They looked like space fighters to me!

One of my favorite things to do at the In-Law's place:  walk the Montour rails to trail path.  That's the Missus, Young Son, and Young Daughter.


Who us, tired and hot?

Seen across the street from the In-Law's estate.  Sweet view!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Grouch Heads East! - Part IV - a visit to Mt. Vernon

We couldn't visit the D.C. area without stopping to see George Washington's estate at Mt. Vernon.  Luckily for us it was only about 15-20 minutes from Older Son's house and our trusty GPS directed us to it without a hitch.

If you are visiting the Washington D.C. area this is a 'must-see'.   Between the Missus and I, we've visited the Kennedy, Reagan, Ford, and Nixon library-museums and Harrison's house in Louisville KY.  When we retire we hope to keep adding to our presidential visits.

I think George was accurate in this statement

It was a beautiful day to visit Mt. Vernon, not too humid or hot

The gardens

Eagerly waiting our turn to enter the main building

Almost there!  No pictures allowed inside - you have to go in person to see for yourself

An invention of George's - the horses go round and round inside the structure and their hooves sift out the grain which fell below from the rest which stayed above.  That's the Missus headed up to see the demonstration
The grain fell here and would be stored until it could be further processed.  Pretty clever!

George's riding chair - just what a gentleman needed in that time

And his carriage

The memorials to the slaves who lived and died at Mt. Vernon

The resting place of George and Martha Washington

Other Washington relatives are buried outside of the mausoleum

George's resting place

Young Son contemplates the 'necessary'  Must have been a challenge in the winter!

Three spots, no waiting needed!