My latest bully: Yahoo!

March 28th, 2009 by John Morris

I prefer iGoogle as my desktop. To help my brother play with his web camera, I signed on to Yahoo!. That’s when the beatings started.

When I powered up my laptop, Yahoo would take its sweet time loading up. Then I’d get a pop-up asking if I wanted to change my desktop to Yahoo!. I’d say no each time.

My start ups began taking 15 minutes with Yahoo! starting and restarting their files. Then they would want attention while I tried to work a file. The machine would run at a maddeningly slow pace until I closed the Yahoo! files. I wondered if there were punishing me for refusing their offers.

I decided I’d had enough of this cyber-bully. I did a search for all things Yahoo! and deleted their sorry butts.

I’m vain enough to believe this massive Internet company would come after me with all their guns blazing just to get my business.

Not likely, but I can dream.

The spirit of volunteering lives on.

March 18th, 2009 by John Morris

Each year, my small group of Veterans meets at the VFW to plan a Memorial Day parade. Still each year, we plow through the same details so all will be seamless on the big day. We always get it done with about 20 such meetings mixed with a lot of work.

What strikes me is we’re just one committee in one borough in one state. We have an unavailable number of like committees doing like projects all year everywhere. Maybe they’re the Independence Day or Halloween parade folks or whatever, they are doing these things because doing them matters in America. We are all volunteers with many other things on our plates, but somehow we find the time.

Maybe these groups will always do what they’ve done. But like all volunteer groups, they need young blood to allow for decades more of these events. Considering giving some time would be nice, and I’d applaud you for doing so.

But for today, I ask you to think of all these committees doing their volunteer work. Support them however you can. They’re good people doing good work.

Words to dance by

March 14th, 2009 by John Morris

In the window of a local craft store is a decorative plate with a message that stopped me cold this week. 

“Life is not about waiting out the storm. It’s about dancing in the rain.”

I get a couple of warm fuzzies from this thought.

1. Don’t wait around for things to get better. Dance, sing, write, nap or do anything to make the day a celebration.

2. Our glass is always at least half full for those who know how to look.

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” unknown bumpersticker

March 12th, 2009 by John Morris

One of the best men I know is a clearinghouse for sometimes interesting emails. He sent me one recently exposing a shared pain folks without college backgrounds feel. It’s a brand of secondclassness. We are pigeonholed as either underachievers or worse untalented. We spend our careers with our hands tied behind our backs by our own doing.

One email outlined a plausible argument that the fervor to get a college education will often provide our youth with massive debt but no carrot.

My two children graduated from college and are working in their fields. I make no excuses for being proud of their accomplishments. I also know we are lucky it worked out this way. For too many other families, there were the college loans to be repaid and no corresponding jobs.

At my daughter’s graduation, I hung out with a gaggle of proud parents. Their common refrain was they hoped their new graduates would soon find jobs in their fields. After a while, I realized I was the only Dad there whose child actually had a job on this day. I kept this information to myself to avoid being stormed.

I learned more about the status given to college degrees whenever I looked for work. There were barred doors opened only by the degreed applicant. I wondered how a degree in Zoology mattered if you worked in sales.

It’s been 45 years since the Nuns sent me and my high school diploma packing. Only one in three of my class went directly to college. The rest of us went to the work force or the service. There were good jobs for us then usually in the trades. I became a sign painter.

My worklife has had many twists and turns. I’ve reinvented myself in order to find work. But I always had to do it with the disadvantage not having a college degree carries.

Today, I noticed a change in attitudes about the education levels of job seekers. It’s not pretty. Times changes and along with it, employers’ expectations. They’ve cranked it up notch by notch until it reached the point they now expect applicants with degrees even for meager positions.

One day, I got caught in an argument with two older adults wanting to be excused from paying school taxes. The why was they had no children in the school district. I reasoned they both wanted the clerk at the gas station to be able to make change and speak correctly. For this, we need general education for the masses.

Like the bumper sticker says, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

Writing is rewriting.

March 8th, 2009 by John Morris

There’s only so much areas to do writing’s job #1: get the message out. Even without restrictions, I allow for the reader’s attention span.

After those bliss-filled moments of free writing, the writer turns editor and gets the grunt work done. Here are my few rules for editing. They are not in order.

Answer the question “who did what?” This simple exercise creates understandable statements of fact. I get  actively worded copy this way. Example: Randall hit the ball. - Or - The ball was hit by Randall.

Phrases are our friends, but they can get a reader lost in translation. I’ll reword some thoughts by switching prepositional phrases with possessives ones: Example: The office, where my wife works, has chairs with a green tint of avocado. – Or - My wife’s office has avocado green tinted chairs. You decide what’s more understandable.

That that is, is. That that is not, is not. Is that it? It is!  Too many thats in this thought. If removing “that” doesn’t confuse the message, remove it. Think of these words as lazy hitchhikers. Review all your “thats” by using the computer command, “Find”. Writers have the right to make the final call.

Economy is king. Spend your words like you spend your money by using only as much as needed. Treat yourself each time you weed out anything non-productive. Jettisoning whole sentences gives a real rush.

Get on Twitter. In this training ground, you can learn to send mini-blogs limited to only 140 keystrokes. This is a great discipline for editing thought to their essences.

My parting thought is writing the same way everytime is as harsh to read as somebody’s unedited stuff. Variety will keep your work fresh and more important, readable.

Writers, like Russell Baker, gave me these suggestions. I’ve had hints by the hundreds; tried many of them and use the ones I like.

You do the same.

Techno-Dad strikes again

March 8th, 2009 by John Morris

At Christmas, my wife and daughter gifted me with an iPod iTouch. Sweet!!! Do they know me?

Most of the fun in technical gifts is found in the learning stages. “Oh, check out these many neat applications. Wow, it can do that?” You know these moments.

However, the unit had a glitch. Simply, it didn’t shuffle tunes or follow the play list. It played the same song over and again. This made walking and listening a choppy exercise with stops every three minutes to manually advance the play list.

On a “no work” Sunday, I researched this problem on the Apple website. Typing in “shuffle” got almost 200 previous messages consisting of about 100 stating “my iPod shuffle won’t work.”

There was a paltry number of help based responses. I read most and even tried some. No luck.

The iPod’s setting section offered no help. I knew there had to be a fix and probably a simple one.

Counting on my “To do is to be” spirit, I selected a play list and hit “shuffle”. As the song played, I looked at the condensed screen hoping for inspiration. I saw an icon showing with two arrows chasing each other in a clockwise pattern. It was blue with the number 1 inside. Touching this tiny icon caused the color to change to white; then to just blue with no number. A third touch got the blue with number one back. Both the white and blue only settings shuffled the tunes and followed the play list. Problem solved.

I was brusting to pass along my newly-found nugget to all those who also suffered from iPod’ shuffle not quite right. Easy, you’d think; just leave a posting. Sure, but Apple made me sign up for the service. A blinding 20 minutes later, I was able to do so.

I did this mostly to feel better about the person I think I am. It’s not quite a disease unless writing about it would get me on the book club circuit.

P.S.: not to sell my son’s past gifts short, he’s the one who gave me this blog site. Also sweet!!!

Saving planet earth again

March 3rd, 2009 by John Morris

In the 60s & 70s, the buzzword was ecology. Industrial giants had their way for so long their abuses were truly scarring our earth. Factories used passing rivers as dumping grounds. Vehicles belched toxic gases and even the humble spray can packed a deadly punch. We had reached a time when we recognized how fragile our species is and how dependant we are on our environment.

After the awakening, citizens and politicians stroked public action. Hippies, being a self-righteous bunch, held a mirror up and preached endlessly about how everyone else was broken. All in all, we came together. Our politicians enacted serious laws making the world a place where we could live free from the poisons of the past.

But the nurturing of our planet can’t take a vacation. It’s always there and always needy. If we let down our guard, we’ll backslide.

Today, there is a new and serious movement taking the point shepherding the care of our world. They’re using new buzzwords like “green” and “NEET*”. They have much in common with past environmental efforts.

I believe in the future; I plan to spend the rest of my life there.


* NEET = New and Emerging Environmental Technologies.


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.