Fit to a tee

October 31st, 2008 by John Morris

The Phillies win the World Series and commemorative tee-shirts are available immediately. Sure, you will need to drive to a chain store and be separated from a $20.00 bill to score one. Whoa! Twenty bucks for a square yard of polycotton with a multi-colored printed image. Of course, it must be an authorized shirt to be a real keepsake.

To once again betray my age, I’ll write about tee-shirts and landmark moments in my life.

Back in grade school, tees bearing a company logo were given away free just to advertise the brand. If you wore one on the outside, it was a signal your family needed to have their wardrobes supplemented with freebies.

It was okay to wear them to the creek for swimming because they’d double nicely as a towel. And wear them we did until they were threadbare. Not just the freebies but the ones we got every Christmas from the parents when we wanted Lone Ranger action figures. They were the almost perfect garment: lightweight, neutral in color and maintenance free. Jimmy Dean and Marlin Brando even made them cool.

In the Army, I was handed white tee-shirts to be rolled to resemble a beer can and stored in a military manner in our foot lockers. There was no choice about wearing them since they were part of the uniform of the day. Front collars with a little fray were always good for punishments.

With Vietnam, came new jungle fatigues including tees. They were butt-ugly green and could be worn without the outer shirt in most settings. It made things more comfortable in those days when quick downpours were followed by steamy afternoons.

The running craze hit America in the 70s. To make running into a celebration, there were many 10K runs and ones of greater distances. Each one came with an official race tee-shirt. Since I was running about two races per month, my solitary clothing drawer - allocated by the wife - overflowed with them. I’d put them in grocery bags for another day’s wearing. Sometimes I’d sort through them and allow the memories overtake me. They were more like trophies.

My travels now provide me with a new generation of tee-shirts. You can rarely exit a tour bus without descending into a gaggle of tee vendors. And each of them good for two wearings. I wait until someone asks about the one I’m wearing and then I pounce with a long winded travel story. I feel special at those times.

Tee-shirts have travelled me for decades and the resulting lifestyle changes. I’ve seen them grow in stature from lowly to cult-like. They’re a way to tell the world what you’re all about or just to add a sprinkle of color to your shirt’s collar.

Fill the tank with switchgrass

October 26th, 2008 by John Morris

America desired a renewable source to help break its dependency on fossil fuel. The plan was to convert corn crops to ethanol. It hit some snags. Corn farmers sold their crops for fuel conversion and created a shortage for corn as food. Corn’s price went up at the supermarket.

I wondered aloud why we use corn and not some annoying weed like kudzu.

An article in the recent Science America magazine said the creation of corn based ethanol netted a measly 25% more energy than it costs to create.

The same article listed other candidates for conversion to bio-fuel. One good option was called switchgrass. Here’s why, and I quote.

Harvestable Biomass – 4 tons per acre of corn to 6 tons per acre of switchgrass

Ethanol – 500 gallons per ton of corn to 600 gallons per ton of switchgrass

For 35 billion gallons of ethanol – 70 million acres of corn to 60 million of switchgrass

Let’s see, switchgrass can create more ethanol per acre than corn. Switchgrass grows wild and fast. We don’t use it for anything else. Here’s the kicker: the same article said switchgrass can provide over 500% more energy than needed to create it. Corn should stay on the picnic table.

I wonder what disadvantages comes with the switchgrass option. Does the proper climate exists in large segments of our country? Do the oil companies hold the rights to switchgrass fuel? What are the costs for switchgrass conversion stations? Let’s find out. I think there’s hope for this unusual fuel source.

There’s even a better option cited in the article: Miscanthus. Whatever that is?

McCain’s not tall enough to win?

October 26th, 2008 by John Morris

Americans tend to elect taller Presidents from the available candidates. Should it matter? Of course not, but pay heed to these stats.

Beginning with Herbert Hoover in 1928, only three shorter candidates have won elections: Carter, Nixon and GW Bush. That’s a 80% success rate for taller candidates.

GHW Bush beat a shorter candidate (Dukakis) and then lost to a taller one (Clinton). Only Nixon won against a taller (McGovern) and a shorter rival (Humphrey). A shorter Carter beat the taller Ford and lost to Reagan who was taller.

McCain rises to 5’6″; Obama’s height is pegged at 6’1″ to 6’2″. So Obama has recent history going for him while McCain is at an age where he’s getting shorter. Now that’s a hard lead to overcome.

If Obama wins, it won’t really be because he’s taller. But if he does, you heard it here first.

Since McCain and I are the same height, I have been targeted for short guy jokes all my life. My best comeback has been “God knew how much material was needed to build a good man. Who am I to argue with her?”

 RE: Wikipedia search “Heights of United States Presidents and presidential candidates”

JFK stories live on

October 20th, 2008 by John Morris

The Barak Obama political juggernaut raised $150 million during September to prepare an unprecedenteded election day sprint. Amazing piece of promotion.

I remembered a story about the Kennedys.

JFK called  Joe Kennedy, Sr. and asked for money for his Senate election campaign. Dad Kennedy asked Jack if he needed the money to win. “Yes”, said the younger Kennedy.

Joe, Sr. responded he would give Jack the money he needed to win but, “I’ll be damned if I’m paying for a landslide.”

It’s whine time

October 18th, 2008 by John Morris

Mimic Rich Little made his career doing famous people’s voices. As a Presidential election drew near, he was asked who he’d like to see win. He said the candidate with the best voice.

When Jimmy Carter was elected, Johnny Carson said the next four years will supply him with an abundance of material.

Their remarks were self serving; the election outcomes could affect their jobs.

Two trends in currnet television have caught my attention and not in good ways. The first one is how the two candidates are lampooned on shows like Saturday Night Live. During the recent mid-week show, the jokes were all about poking fun at John McCain. This is okay, but it shows a paucity of talent that they couldn’t find anything to make fun of Barack Obama. Oh, they had a comedian doing a stellar impression of him but it was more as a set up man for the McCain digs.

For the past month, they’ve been cashing their paychecks on funny skits about Sarah Palin. I guess they also found no comedy gold in Joe Biden.

Item #2 centers solely on MSNBC’s shows Countdown with Keith Olbermann and The Rachel Maddow Show. If you wanted to do so, you can catch their back-to-back to back shows from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. every week day .

Keith Oberman is one of the most witty and talented TV news performer on TV. His writing sparkles, and his entertaining delivery seems natural. He could work for any network he chooses. I suspect he’s happy at MSNBC where he seems to have complete reign on the show‘s content.

Having said all this, his show’s format has degenerated into short and insightful segments wedged in between blistering attacks on George W. Bush, John McCain, Sarah Palin or anyone supporting them. As always, they’re well written and performed with faultless delivery. He makes his indignation seem entertaining.

Rachel Maddow is an Olbermann clone, and I suspect this trait was a way for MSNBC to extend Countdown and give Olbermann a breather. She hasn’t quite nailed anger as humorous; she just comes off as bitter and sadly not as funny.

After watching these two shows, I like to add the tagline, “I’m Barack Obama, and I approved this message.” My small attempt at humor.

And finally to my point: what will these TV workers do if Obama wins? They haven’t been able to mine golden laugh nuggets on Obama yet. If he’s elected, will they be able to do so? Are we doomed to face four years of lukewarm comedy parodies about the new President or none at all? It‘s possible.

It may be a telling point that these top rate comedy writers can’t – won’t – poke fun at Obama. What’s holding them back? My guess is the “Messiah” image that Rush Limbaugh rants about. Obama’s syncophants have somehow lifted him to this status and to make fun of him would be, in some way, sacrilege.

My advice to the comedy industry. Remove the binders! Give us laughs about Obama now and later, if elected. If you are unable to do so, we’ll have four years of drought.



Four verbal land mines

October 12th, 2008 by John Morris

First two words: always and never

In my English classes, the Nuns used this phrase to convince us to avoid using these words, “Never say never and always avoid always.” Their point was the writer or speaker will be hard pressed to prove that no one anywhere disagrees with them. Point well taken.

Third word: should

This word is a subtle way to transmit both your disapproval and enlightened status. Try using “should” in a sentence about someone, and you’ll catch the point. It’ll sound judgmental. Maybe if we penalize ourselves for using “should”, we’d do it less often.

Fourth word: liar

Even when this word is dead-on correct, resist using it. Maybe in a stressful situation with limited time to make our point, we can let it fly. However, be ready to defend your hard-to-defend position. Often, the offenders have been misled by others they trust or just don’t remember things in the same way. There are better and less toxic words that won’t inflame.

Republicans behaving badly

October 11th, 2008 by John Morris

Some McCainiacs displayed no class at recent rallies when they shouted out, “Traitor”, “Kill him” and other wildly inappropriate things at the mention of Barack Obama’s name. They embarrassed me, and I wondered why they went unchecked.

McCain did finally step up and remind his out-of-control zealots that Obama is a good family man and certainly not one to fear. Sure the two disagree on issues but a small number had gone past the boundaries of civility. For this, he got booed! Imagine that.

Obama acknowledged McCain’s words which was also a classy thing to do.

On election day, a new President will be elected. Whoever this man is he should get our complete support. In these times, it’ll be needed. I also know there are many who will dismiss the election with this phrase, “He’s not my President!”

Have these people no shame.?!

Today’s universal language

October 9th, 2008 by John Morris

Speak three languages, and you’re multilingual.

Speak two languages, and you’re bilingual.

Speak one language, and you’re American.

The rest of the world, especially Asian countries, is learning English with applied determination. Parents know their children will have greater success if they speak English.

This point was driven home to me during my recent trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. Whether it was at the airport or hotel or marketplaces, they spoke English.

The announcements on the planes were in Chinese, Vietnamese and English. We had travelers from across the globe who probably got nothing from these messages.

The elephant driver who gave my wife, Lyn and me a ride on his beast had a rear pocket on his shirt with the word “TIPS”. No other language used.

We should see what’s coming. The world will speak English to us so we’ll do business with them, and they can speak in code among themselves leaving us clueless. We will assume a weaker position.

This global love of learning English has provided my son, Adam and his wife, Yuri with good careers. They have worked in China and Vietnam. They have scores of co-working friends who have taught in all parts of our globe. It is an incredible opportunity for any young person. See the world and get paid for doing it. It makes good on the promise the Navy makes but doesn’t quite fulfill.

Americans can go all their lives without knowing another language. The rest of the world will adjust to us. In return, we should show them great courtesies when they’re here. Help them when we can. Be patient as they work to explain themselves. Try hard to understand their broken English.

Remember you’ll probably know none of their language.

Thank you, Glen Beck

October 1st, 2008 by John Morris

My son and I swap emails about the current economic crisis. He advises me to ignore “the pundits”. He says I’m wasting my time. He culls his information from web pages like

To each his own.

Today on his radio show, Glen Beck nailed it. To make his point about how bad the massive bailout is, he cooked up this analogy. Gather in all the alcoholics and tell them Americans have agreed to pay their bar tabs now and in the future. Do we think they’ll stop drinking? No, they have had an important “or else” removed from the lives. Barring an epiphany, they’ll continue their destructive ways without regret or consequences.

This is also true of the moneychangers who gave us this quagmire. They’ll too will gleefully go back to their lives unchanged while we clean up their recurring messes.

And why not, we have foolishly given them a golden safety net.


The old boy writing this blog wears many hats: Vietnam Veteran, husband & father, salesman and techno-dude. After my service with the Army Security Agency, I operated a sign company for nineteen years, The sign industry changed after CAD/CAM machines made the task easy enough for the non-talented. I sold my company and never looked back.

Life has granted me a life partner better than I deserve. My wife, Lyn is a transplanted Kansas gal. Her bliss is teaching kindergarten and first grade.

I am the most proud of my children. My son, Adam lives an international life teaching English and living in Sozhou, China. He is married to one of life's truly lovely women, Yuri Kim. My daughter, Beth grew up in a small town and found her way in life means working and living in major cities like Chicago and New York. She and her life partner, Julie Sterling married in LaJolla, California in 2010.

I like getting the newest gadgets, but also I like to use things until they are useless, i.e., my last personal car was an 88 Honda Prelude Si.

I wrote a Vietnam Veteran newsletter for nine years. During this journey, I learned I like to write. It is a harmless exercise that rewards honest effort while tolerating failure gracefully. I been away from it for too long. My son gave me the blog, and it was a lifeline back to writing.

My best advice is to show the world what you can do but to accept only your opinion of who and what you are.

Update: In August 2008, my job became one of the half-million jobs that went away that month. I took the following year getting the home ready for my official retirement.

In October 2009, I took a part-time job as a saleman at the vaulted Maxwell's Hardware.

On November 29, 2011, I reached my 66th birthday, and I officially started Social Security. I intend to stay with Maxwell's as long as I can contribute.