Friday, December 23, 2016

Office Christmas Party afloat!

Many people get to attend a Christmas office party.  Not so many people have their holiday party on board a cruise ship!

The Missus and I were invited to board the Ruby Princess, moored at San Pedro last Saturday to join her co-workers for a really great treat. 

After boarding the ship we were treated to carolers and a tasty snack in one of the ship's buffet rooms, then we had time to tour part of the ship.

Next came a prime beef lunch (which was more like dinner and way more than we could finish), then a speech by the company president, some gifts were raffled (the Missus didn't win anything sadly) and then we got another treat: a floor show with singing, dancing, and magic, done very well I must say.

Time for a bit more ship touring and back on the dock and on our way home.

My office parties were never like this!

The carolers who sang for us at the pre-lunch snack and again at lunch.

With the Missus' co-worker and husband

I bet that pool feels good in the summer!
"Pictures or it didn't happen"

The U.S.S. Iowa moored nearby

Entertainment in the atrium - these guys were enthusiastic and good.


This should be called "death by chocolate"  It was good.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Two For One Grouch Movie Review!

This past Thursday the Missus, Young Son, and I rendezvoused at a theater in the valley to see the new Star Wars movie "Rogue One".  As Snoopy often wrote "It was a dark and stormy night" - literally.  Los Angeles was in the grip of a very infrequent heavy storm of cold wind, driving rain, and gridlocked traffic but we all made it in one piece to the theater.

If you haven't seen the original Star Wars movie, this one will only give you 75% effort as it ties into that movie.  If you have seen it, you are in for a grand ride.


The main character in this movie was a spear carrier in the original.  What's a spear carrier?  That's the person in the ranks, the anonymous soldier who doesn't get the medal and who doesn't make it to the history books like the general or the princess but has a story all of their own.

This movie cleverly extracts bits and pieces of the original movie, fits them into this spear carrier's story and shows just how the faceless troops in the backround actually help win the war.

This movie was 10 time better than last season's Star Wars movie and 10 times less sappy.  Gritty is the word that comes to mind for this one.   

If you are at all a Star Wars fan, treat yourself and see this one.  Then we can discuss it.

I'll give this one 4 stars out of 4.

Next up:  La-La land.  A modern musical about a man and a woman living in Los Angeles who want to be true to their dreams, who meet not so cute but keep running into each other until they realize that they are falling in love.  But those pesky dreams keep getting in the way...

I loved this movie, just loved it.  I loved the scenes of Los Angeles, the cast, the songs, the dancing.  I loved the story.  I so wanted this couple to get it all: fame, fortune, love.  But real life isn't like that, is it?  

Did I say that I liked this movie yet?   4 stars.

the Little Tree that Could

For decades the Grouch family had been getting the family Christmas tree from the U-cut it lot in town.  It was a family tradition to find, measure, assess, cut, transport, and set up the freshly cut tree.  We would always put down a full sheet of plywood and with much gritting of teeth and tapping of nails, set up the electric trains.  It was quite the production.

Two years ago the Grinch company that owned the land which the U-cut it tree lot leased took back the land  and the tree biz was kicked out.  No more cutting down fresh trees for us.

Last year a friend of the Missus got us a monster 8 ft tree through a school fund raiser.  The trees were cut in Oregon and raced down the coast into our hands.  The trees were so fresh and so heavy that Young Son and I struggled to get the tree set up.  In fact we had to get a plus size tree stand to handle the weight and trunk diameter of the monster tree.  It was a great tree and it supplied some good firewood for our future fireplace fires.  Alas, that was the last year for the school fund raiser.

So this year Young Son and I had to go to the tree lot at the local home improvement store to buy a tree.  A tall tree was 5 ft, and most were even shorter than that.  There were a lot of Charlie Brown type trees for sale.   We picked out the tallest and best proportioned tree we could find.  All five feet of it.

The tree was so short we skipped the usual giant piece of plywood and the electric trains and went to a small piece of plywood and some Lego train track and cars.

Only about a third of the ornaments were used and new mini lights needed to be bought and placed on the tree but when it was done it didn't look half bad.  Not bad at all!

So here it is, the little tree that could did bring Christmas cheer and happiness to the Grouch household!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

New mountain off road trip on Bundu Trek

A new post on Bundu Trek about our mountain trip back in October!

The Revolt of the Machines - continued....

So the other day Young Son came into the house with his face grim and announced that his car needed to go to the repair shop.  He said it with such seriousness that I was suddenly concerned that the engine had fallen out the bottom of the little red Fiat and was laying spread across the street.

Fortunately instead of the engine falling out, the driver's window had fallen down inside the door.  He had managed to get it up part way and there it sat.  I pulled it up the rest of the way and lodged a piece of cardboard in the track to hold the window in place for his drive to the repair shop the next day.

That evening the Missus came to me to say something was wrong with the clothes dryer.  It was running but not making any heat.  I did my best: I unplugged it and plugged it back in but no bueno, Considering how old the dryer was, it looked like it was time for a new one.

While we were waiting for the new dryer to be delivered I detected a strange sound coming from the dish washer - kind of a muffled keening,  like a warning of impending doom - or a bearing failure those being the same thing.  I told it firmly that we were not having any of that nonsense in this house and to keep cleaning those dishes.

Don't they say these things come in threes?

Christmas LIghts 2016

The Missus, friend G, and I visited one of the neighborhoods near our church last night to view the utterly fantastic and amazing annual Christmas light extravaganza that they do each holiday season.

The display on Wakefield court has made national lists of the best neighborood light displays and it is well deserved honor.

The Missus and Friend G take in the lights and fun

This house was hosting a dinner party in the midst of the revelry outside
The Missus and friend

A Christmas Flipper?
The Missus liked this sign

Everyone loves penguins!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Culture, L.A. Style

We enjoyed the Pacific Opera Project adaptation of a Mozart opera to a Star Trek theme so much (so much that we saw it twice!) that we decided to try another one: "The Barber of Seville"

The only thing we knew about the opera is what we had seen as kids when Bugs Bunny performed part of it in the classic "Rabbit of Seville".  Ah, culture!

What we knew of this POP effort is that the show is updated to modern Los Angeles with young stars in love, a hairdresser to the celebrities (Figaro),  the controlling agent, the coked out aging rock star, the LAPD, and more!  

The show was done in a hundred year old ladies club building so the setting would be called 'intimate'.  The cast came and went through the audience giving us a chance to briefly interact with Figaro at one point!

Young Son was more than skeptical about the event but indulged us and came along.  After the first of two intermissions he was smiling broadly and agreeing that the show wasn't too bad after all!

The songs were in Italian but very loose translations were projected above the stage, and I seriously doubt that many of the Italian lyrics matched what was frequently projected in English!

The cast was great: great singers, great actors with great comic timing!  The sole musical accompaniment was from a four handed piano and those two guys were fantastic and tireless.

As always the depth of talent in people amazes me.  Not just the ability to sing opera but to be funny while doing it and looking good too!

Another unique L.A. event that we will miss when we move on eventually.  Thanks Pacific Opera Project!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Easy Rider 2016

Young Daughter dropped by Grouch Estate for an afternoon visit today.  She arrived on her latest motorcycle, a 2014 HD Low Rider that she saw and fell in love with when she was at an AF school in Texas recently.   The small creature on her back is her miniature poodle Kipling or 'Kip'.

Lookin' good!

Cool goggles

Off they go to home!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Happy Veteran's day!

Happy Veteran's day to family and friends who served the nation.  The Grouch family on both sides have served from the Civil war (we were on the winning side) to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Noble Eagle.

I carry a backpack to work that has a velcro patch to attach a name tape so I have one of my GI name tapes on it so I know the bag belongs to me.  As I was waiting at the train door to exit as we approached the station a young man standing behind me asked if I was a veteran.  I confirmed that I was indeed and he proceeded to thank me and give me a hearty handshake.  It was a nice gesture sincerely given and I appreciated it much.  It was a long way from my days in Army ROTC in the 70s and getting abuse from fellow students when I wore my uniform on campus.  Some things have changed for the worse in this country over  the decades but the treatment of its service members and veterans has improved considerably and for that I thank one and all.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Breaking up is so very hard to do...

In about three years or so, Mr and Mrs Grouch will be leaving Los Angeles, aka L.A. aka La-La land for North Carolina.

We came to L.A. some 28 years ago for the same reasons that so many others traveled here: a new opportunity, the excitement of Hollywood, the wonderful weather.  We found all of that and more.

We found new friends and stunning scenery.  We found fun and excitement in the many performance venues and movie studios.  We found the desert and Big Bear mountain, Che-Che's ranch and the Ventura beach.  We found hiking in the nearby hills and Hart mansion.  Magic Mountain, Disneyland, and Knott's Berry Farm.  The Saugus marching band, jazz nights at Vincenzo's and the pumpkin patch at Lombardi's farm.  AYSO soccer on Saturday and Roscoe's agility trials.  Molly winning Nuts for Mutts by jumping for a fly swatter!  The quilting guild and quilt shows, weekend off roading and 'the trip from hell' that terrified the Missus.

Young son was born here and our granddaughter was born here too.  Family members and  friends passed away while we lived here.  Car crashes were survived here and the much loved black Aztek was totaled on the freeway but saved my life here.

Two Grouch children left for the military from here and one of them went off to war and returned to here.

So much Grouch history revolves around L.A.

But our time here is like a passionate relationship that ultimately cools.  The excitement and the thrill of being here has been overwhelmed by the dark side of Los Angeles:  the horrible traffic that steals weeks from our lives; the absurd financial expense of living here; the nanny state government that insinuates into every facet of our lives; the crowds of 'special people' who don't have to follow the rules because they are after all 'special people'... I could go on but I won't.

But even with all of that, I still love L.A. and always will.   I saw the trailer for the  upcoming movie "La-La Land" and it brought tears to my eyes, not because it was bad but because it showed so many of the places that we have been and loved and that I know I will miss.  The movie looks to be great fun and the male star looks a lot like Older Son!

(Click the link below for the movie trailer - sorry about the mandatory commercial but the Adobe one is amusing)

I imagine leaving L.A. will be like leaving a relationship with someone you once loved; you remember the fun and good times and leave the bad times behind.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Zombie Huntin'!

A friend of mine emailed me in September and wrote 'let's go zombie hunting!'.  At first I thought she was talking about the people stumbling around with their I-phones hunting electronic Pokemon thingies but then I read on and realized she was talking about a train ride where you get to really shoot zombies!   I mean, what could be better than a train ride with moving targets and all perfectly legal?

I said sign me up! 

The Fillmore railroad is a creaky collection of old railcars and locomotives that runs on a short section of track between Fillmore and Santa Paula.  It's a must for anyone who likes old trains and for families with small kids who have never ridden a train.  

Two couples, Young Daughter, and I all met in Fillmore at the appointed day and time last weekend to have dinner and then board the train for our zombie outing.  The train cleverly included a bar car so that by the time we were ready to actually shoot the zombies some of the marksmen were so inebriated they couldn't hit the ground outside the train let alone the zombies.

We rode in enclosed cars until we found the field where the zombies were wandering.  We were called out to the open flatcars where our paintball guns sat, ready to bring mayhem and paint to the shambling zombies.

Even the most reluctant participants quickly became death-dealing gunners, lighting up the zombies with paint balls and carrying on like they were singlehandedly stopping the zombie horde from overrunning the train.  Silly people, couldn't they see that I was the person stopping the zombies all by myself?

It was great fun and something that I can now say that I have done once in my life.

Young Daughter is attacked by a floating ghoul while I look on.  I know the ghoul is going to lose.

She wasn't a zombie but she did seem to have some sort of problem - maybe too much zombie hunting?

Gunners to the left, guns to the right.

Young Daughter waits in anticipation of the upcoming horde

Ready on the left?  Ready on the right?  The firing line is ready...
Young Daughter shows her war face

There they are, get 'em!

Watch out, it's trying to climb on the train!

Nice of the zombie to wear bright yellow!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Citizen Grouch book review: "Alone Orphaned on the Ocean"

The other day I saw a reference on the internet to a drama at sea that occurred in 1961 in which an 11 year old girl was found floating in a float in the ocean and was rescued by a Greek freighter.  The picture of the girl in the tiny cork float intrigued me and I needed to find out about the whole story.

The story of Terry Joe Duperrault and the murder of her family while on a sailing vacation around the Bahamas is told in "Alone: orphaned on the ocean" by Richard Logan and Tere (Terry Joe) Duperrault Fassbender.

The book is a slim publication and can be read in a couple of hours.  I was able to find it at the city library.

The book tells the story of a sailing vacation that turned into a murderous nightmare when the captain of the hired sailing schooner killed his wife who was also on the schooner, the parents of Terry Joe, and her two siblings leaving Terry Joe to go down with the ship when the captain scuttled it to hide the evidence of his crime.  She survived (as did he) and floated alone for 4 days on a cork life float meant to act the same as a life ring and not as a raft before being rescued by a passing cargo ship.  Terry Jo was near death and even another hour may have been the end of her.  Only her survival kept the murder from getting away with his crime.

The book isn't especially well written but the story it tells of the captain Julian Harvey, WW2 pilot and decorated hero and the Duperarrault family is engrossing no matter the skill of the author.  The trauma that Terry Jo suffered after her rescue and the number of failed marriages that she went through as an adult are sad to read of.

An amazing connection for me when reading the book was to learn that Harvey, during his WW2 service was the pilot of a B-24 bomber that was intentionally ditched in a river to determine the bomber's ability to withstand a water landing, something very common during the war, particularly in the Pacific theater.  The image of the bomber ditching test is rather famous and I had recently viewed it in a book about the B-24 that the Missus gave me.

That the pilot of this aircraft went on to murder at 7 people in his lifetime is unfathomable.

Another interesting bit of information that came from the book is that because of the Terry Jo going unnoticed by search aircraft who cris-crossed over her as she drifted on a white float that blended with the ocean's whitecaps, all personal floatation devices have since then been rescue orange in color.  Prior to that they could be any color that the manufacturer decided.

I recommend this book as an amazing tale of a young girl's determination to survive and her struggle and ultimate success to find peace and lasting love in her life.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

"Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison"

The Missus is doing her annual Fright Night weekend job at the local amusement park which gives me a chance to watch old movies on TV.

Tonight I watched "Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison"  starring the original bad boy Robert Mitchum and radiantly beautiful Deborah Kerr in a WW2 tale of a shipwrecked Marine who washes up on a south Pacific island inhabited by one Irish nun.

It is a great two person movie and well worth watching.  I first saw it with my parents on prime time TV when movies were frequently shown - keeping in mind that there was no DVD player or HBO to access movies away from the theater.

I caught it on Netflixs and if you find some time on your hands, it is worth seeing.  Another two persons trapped on a south seas WW2 island movie worth seeing but firmly in the comedy camp is "Father Goose" with Cary Grant (his last appearance in the movies) and Leslie Caron.

Treat yourself and see them both!

Customer Service Hell

One of my regular doctors (this is how I know that I am getting old:  I have more than one doctor and they are all regular i.e. repeat visits) gave me a referral to see yet another doctor which meant I had to call for an appointment.

In the good old days one would call the doctor's office and speak to the nurse/receptionist and make an appointment but not anymore.  These days we are all so modern that we call a 'call center' that is full of people in front of computer screens who we are required to interact with.

So, I called the number, worked my way through the much hated automated phone options until I got to a real person who professed to be ready and able to help me.  Just three problems:  (1) her Spanish accent was so heavy I could barely understand her (she was probably thinking, this guy's Anglo accent is so heavy I can barely understand him - wait, that was a real problem too!), (2) she could not understand that I was not in fact Young Son who had visited their office sometime in the past, and (3) the background roar of other customer service reps talking to all of their callers so so loud and the first two problems were trivial in comparison.

Why oh why would a call center be designed to allow so much noise to exist to the extent that nether the CSR (customer service rep - don't you love it when I write jargon?) or the customer (me) could really hear each other.  The whole thing  quickly dissolved  into a modern Abbott and Costello farce of 'who, what, and when' misunderstandings and requests to repeat by both of us that the routine would have done Saturday Night Live proud.

In the end we managed to make an appointment for me...unless it is actually for Young Son.  I'll just answer in the affirmative to whatever name they expect me to answer to.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

"The Pacific"

I just finished episode 10 and the last episode of the series "The Pacific" originally seen on HBO.  I watched it via Amazon Prime.

"The Pacific"  does for the Marines in the south Pacific what "Band of Brothers" did for the Army in Europe.  Based on the true stories of individual Marines who fought in the horrendous campaigns of island hopping during WW2, it followes the lives of a group of men and women who went through the war from Guadalcanal to VJ day to adjusting to life at home after the war.

The battle scenes are about as gruesome as has been seen on TV ever but they show what these men went through.  The final episode shows the wrenching adjustment that the Marines went through, killing one day and six months later back at home in the same bedroom that they had left as teen-agers at the beginning of the war.  If someone can watch this episode without a handkerchief in hand then they have a heart of stone.

As a kid growing up, men like these were the dads of my friends, the scout master, the little league coach.  It is a miracle and a testament to them that they were able to go on with life with no outward effect on them.  I remember a man in the neighborhood who couldn't work or hold a job and who sat outside of his house most of the day smoking cigarettes.  I wonder now if he was suffering from crippling PTSD from the war as he was of that age.   I know now how lucky my family was that my father was pulled from the levy that was shipping replacements to Europe in the summer of '44 and was allowed to stay in the U.S.  Who know how he would have fared?

Not an easy show to watch but the story that it tells of a vanishing generation is one that deserves to be seen.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Lemons for some, lemonade for someone else

So, awhile ago I was suddently courious to learn what the silver coins were worth that are stuffed in our safety deposit box.  I got them out of the box and took them to the local coin shop to learn that most weren't worth a whole lot but some were worth more than I expected.

I took the coins back to the bank, put them back in the box and went on my merry way to do errands all over town.

By the time I got home the safety deposit box keys were gone.  They fell out of my pocket at one of my stops.

I retraced my steps, no sign of the keys.  I spoke to each merchant, no one had turned over the keys to them.  I check back again a week later and checked the local sheriff's office, no keys.

Drilling out the key slots would cost us $150 but fortunately for me (if there can be a fortunately) I had recently sold some of my hobby excess stuff and had the funds.

The Missus made the appointment and on the set day showed up to have the box drilled open.   She felt that something wasn't right but the bank assured her that the box they were opening was her's.  It wasn't.

When the Missus opened the box and saw strange jewelry and a birth certificate from Cambodia she instantly knew one of two things was happening:  her husband's affair with another woman had just been revealed (the stuff of a chick-flick!) or this wasn't our box.  Fortunately it was the latter.

The bank proceeded to drill open the correct box and hand the Missus the new set of keys.

She saw the bank manager the other day and asked what the reaction was from the people whose box was accidentally drilled open.   The manage told her that they were ecstatic because they too had lost their keys awhile ago and couldn't get into their box and suddenly the bank gave them new keys for free!

Lemons for us, lemonade for them! 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Off Road Trip on Bundu Trek

Please visit Bundu Trek for the latest off road trip.

Visiting "Planes of Fame" museum

Older Son visited us starting over the Labor Day weekend, along with his GF.  He was able to set aside some father-son time so we took a day to drive out to Chino to visit the Planes of Fame museum.

We had visited this museum sometime in the early 90s along with my father.  I didn't remember much of the museum from that trip except that I remember that I was impressed with it then.

The museum is especially interesting, not only because of the rare aircraft in the collection but also because many of them are flown, something almost unheard of these days.

The museum was well worth the 1.5 hour drive from Grouch estates and Older Son professed to find it very interesting.

The museum has one of only two remaining inter-war P-26 'Peashooter' Boeing fighters left in the world.  A revolutionary aircraft when it was developed, it was outmoded in only 5 years or so.  It went on to see combat (briefly) in the opening days of WW2 where it only served to run up the kill scores of some Japanese fighter pilots.

And here is the other, at the Air and Space museum.  We saw it when we visited in 2014

A Vietnam war era O-1 'Bird Dog ' forward air controller (left) and a P-35 fighter from the late 30's that also was meat on the table for the Japanese.  The P-35 is probably the only one left in existence.  The drip pans on the floor are a sign that the planes are flown as engines all leak oil.

One of my favorite WW2 fighters, the Bell P-39 Airacobra.  A cannon armed bomber interceptor that never lived up to its hype but did hold the line against the Japanese in 42-43 and helped stop them at Guadalcanal and New Guinea.
Love the name on this P-51!

A Lockheed Constellation and used by Douglas MacArthur.  It is sitting in a no-go area but they made the mistake of leaving the gate open and when I expressed disappointment that we couldn't go see it, Older Son lead the way.  He gets his rule-breaking from his mother.

The aircraft name, alluding to MacArthur's early wartime service in WW2.

Another very rare WW2 aircraft, a P-51A Mustang as used by the UK in Europe and by the U.S. in the CBI theater by the 'Air Commandos'.  This must be one of very few still in existence.  It is being restored for flight.

A technology demonstrator for the YB-35 Flying wing, to prove that the concept would actually work.  This one was restored by the museum and is flown.

A Korean war era F-86 being restored to flight.

Nose art on a B-25 used for movie filming after WW2

Now this is what speaks to me!  An M4 WW2 tank

A Cold War era M114 recon track and a WW2 M3 halftrack

The aircraft sitting outside are unfortunately deteriorating in the blistering desert sun.  A Grumman F7F Tigercat.

A WW2 German BF109 that was shot down over Russia during WW2 and recently recovered.  It will be eventually restored.

Older Son contemplates the strength of the F100 that could take this damage and return to base.  This type of plane was heavily used during VN as a ground attack aircraft and recon plane.

One of my BiLs flew F100s in VN so hopefully he'll enjoy this picture.