Monday, January 18, 2016

"Generation War"

I watched episode one of "Generation War" today on Netflicks.  It has been described as the German "Band of Brothers" but it is more than that, a combination of the home front and the fighting on the Russian front from the German perspective.  Five friends (two brothers in the Army, two girls, one an Army nurse, the other a singer and girlfriend to a Jewish man, and the Jewish boyfriend of the singer vow to meet again in the spring of 1941 in Berlin for Christmas.  As the Missus said, that probably won't happen.

A very realistic and powerful drama, poignant and sad.  Good thing there are only three episodes, I wouldn't be able to handle more.  I highly recommend it.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The chimney is saved!

So, our fireplace and chimney has been on life support for at least 10 years if not longer.  It is of a curious construction, no longer done, of prefab concrete, molded to look like bricks, shipped from a factory in the Midwest, stood up like the raising of the flag on Mt. Suribachi, and toppled like ninepins in the Northridge earthquake - except at our humble house. It survived the earthquake but probably is when it picked up many of its cracks.  We have been told by successive chimney sweeps that the concrete is cracked and in danger of falling down, catching the house on fire, or both.
I had a chimney expert look at it about 3 years ago who told us that the design was fatally flawed and it needed to be torn down and a custom chimney/fireplace installed for about 20k.  I passed.

This fall the chimney sweep cleaned everything and told us to never use the fireplace again due to the cracks.  Nice to hear this after cleaning it and charging us a cool hundred for the job.

I refused to give up on the fireplace if for no other reason that the Air Quality board hates fireplaces almost as much as the Attorney General hates firearms owners and dearly would like all fireplaces blocked off.  These days new homes aren't even allowed to be built with wood burning fireplaces.  Well phooey on you both!  I started calling around and found a local guy who said that he could indeed save our fireplace and chimney for only $4,000.

The chimney is receiving a stainless steel heat pipe surrounded by heat proof concrete to stiffen the chimney and seal the cracks.  The flapper thingy is being relocated to the top of the chimney and the 'firebox' is being coated with the same fireproof concrete.  The crew was busily working on it all day today and I got to peer up the chimney while laying on my back next to the crew chief Michael who explained how it was all working.  I wondered how Santa ever fit down such a small opening.  Micheal looked like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, all soot and grinning teeth.

Tomorrow it is to be finished and then a 10 day wait for the concrete to cure after which will be our first wood fire in  the newly done fireplace!  Once again I've stuck my thumb in the eye of officialdom here in the People's Republic of California.  Take that Mr. Air Quality Management District official!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

"Little Boy" the movie

Our church offered a showing of the movie "Little Boy" this past Friday.  To entice attendees they offered free popcorn and candy to the audience.  Say no more, we were there!

The Missus and I were skeptical about the film.  After all, it was being shown at the church.  What if it was religious and we had to discuss it afterwards?   We vowed to sneak out if it was too sappy.

It wasn't sappy, there wasn't a test afterwards, and I defy anyone, even the most cynical, to see this movie and not have tears in your eyes when it is over.  We were moved by it.  And, they got all of the WW2 American and Japanese uniforms, kit and weapons correct down to the Japanese hand grenades used in the combat scenes!

It was a great evening.  if you have the chance, see the movie, ignore the professional reviewers who hated the sentiment and message of the movie and prepare to be moved.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Joy - the movie

So, for New Year's eve two years ago we went to the Disney concert hall and saw Pink Martini with the Trapp Family singers, an excellent show.  So excellent  that when PM is in town in February we will see them again.  The Missus bought us tickets for a Christmas present.

This past New Year's eve Pink Martini wasn't in town so we took in a movie after dinner with another couple.  The ladies picked "Joy" with Jennifer Lawrence as the movie.  I'll see Jennifer Lawrence reading the phone book so it was ok with me.

I'll start by saying that we enjoyed the movie and would give it four stars. Despite that the movie has taken some liberties with events and people, it was still a very entertaining story of a young woman determined to succeed while remaining a caring and loving daughter, sister, and mother.  We also enjoyed seeing a family ten times more dysfunctional than ours which made us feel even better.

We recommend the movie,   it is much better than some of the professional reviewers may lead you to believe.

After we saw the movie the Missus did some on line research on the title character and her life which was as interesting as the movie itself.

Imagine our surprise when the Missus received a catalog the other day which had products advertised by Joy Mangano including the world famous Miracle Mop!

Friday, January 1, 2016

The dam tour

Read about the latest trip to the St. Francis dam site on Bundu Trek

Christmas catch-up

I've been remiss in keeping the 'ole blog up to date.  Since I checked in last the Grouch clan arrived en mass to celebrate Christmas.  It was a fun and noisy time and the house seems almost empty now that everyone has gone back home.

For many, many years we obtained our Christmas tree from the U-cut it lot.  When we first arrived in our happy valley 27 years ago there were a number of cut it yourself lots in and around town. Sadly, one by one they closed until the last one shut down last year after Christmas, another victim of the transformation of a small ranching and farming town into a large modern city.

So this year we bought a pre-cut tree through a local Catholic high school.  I was skeptical to say the least because the pre-cut trees I see for sale around town are one spark away from being a flaming torch - they are so dry and shedding needles.  

The Missus and her friend went to pick up the tree at the school when they arrived from Oregon.  it was a noble fir, nominally 8' tall.   I didn't get the see their antics trying to load it into the Missus' Escape but she told me later that it could have been an episode of "I Love Lucy".  I don't know would be Ethel in this re-creation of the show but the weight of the tree was so great that they couldn't move it more than a foot themselves.  Fortunately the brawny baseball coach showed up to save the day and load the tree.

The Missus and Young Son got it out of her car and dumped it on the front lawn.  The tree was bound in cord to keep it tightly compressed.  The trunk was so big around that we had to buy a brand new $60 tree stand to fit it.  This tree was heavy!

Young Son and I got it into the house and in the stand.  We had to cut about a foot from it to get to clear the ceiling but in the end once the cord was removed and the tree sprang back into shape, it was all worth it.  It is beautiful, fragrant, and drank water like a fish until today.  Tomorrow it goes back outside to be cut into firewood and seasoned for a year before warming us next winter.

Sadly it is time to take the tree down and store the ornaments and train set for another year.