My favorite 2009 moment

December 31st, 2009 by John Morris

This past year was filled with great moments. We had ones that cause us to remember where we were when we heard the news. Here’s just one: Barack Obama’s inauguration.

This is not yet another list of the events the other guys have done. I’m going to focus on one event. It’s my favorite one I shared with you even if you didn’t know we did so.

For a short period of time, the international spotlight focused on Susan Boyle of the “Britain’s got talent” talent show. From what I read about her, she was as an improbable celebrity. Her life was ordinary and some would say boring. She was a gal who did little to attract attention and would be unnoticed in most settings.

She found herself at center stage of a talent show directed by the easy-to-loathe Simon Cowell. She appeared dumpy and ill prepared for her performance. It looked to all as just another blow off moment where she would be cannon fodder for the beautiful people. How smug and vicious would they be remained the question.

The music started, and Susan stepped up. Her voice was beautiful, and it soared. Cowell and the other judges seemed stunned. The nervous smiles told me they were quickly unloading their caustic ammo and reloading with accolades. When she finished, the crowd was hers, and they were roaring. The judges complimented her as they had rarely did before for anyone.

A new star was born, and she didn’t fit the mold forced on us by shallow media types.

We learned a lot about Susan’s life in a short time. There was no man in her life. Ever. People could be mean to her but she moved on. We learned Susan wanted the life of a singer she now has. She followed her dream and finally captured it.

I like the Susan Boyle story because she represents all of those people who don’t have the right package. They are so easily dismissed by others. They don’t get a chance to strut their stuff like the beautiful people. They spend their lives stuffing down their pain while searching for acceptance in others’ eyes and not seeing it.

Then someone like Susan knocks the world on it axis – read ass.

The world needs a lot more Susan Boyles. I think there are quite a few of them out there.

Why I blog

December 29th, 2009 by John Morris

Why do bloggers blog? I suggest each of us have the same reasons even if they are not all in the same order.

  1. Reason: Good writing exercise – the more I write, the more my skills feel honed. .
  2. Reason: Good thinking exercise – planning to write blogs means thinking throughout the day.
  3. Reason: Good ego-stroking exercise – I want feedback. I want to know if what I wrote triggered any thought. 

Staying with reason #3: My first comment came from a guy I didn’t know, and it caused a major rush. I’m getting comments from folks I know but have no other contact with. It always good to hear from them. I encourage you to leave comments.

Back in the good ol’ Army, the company clerk always ended mail calls with, “Ya gotta write ’em to get ’em.” He was preempting our protests over not getting mail. Okay, I admit I don’t read other bloggers’ blogs. My bad.

Maybe Twitter and Facebook killed the blogosphere. Or maybe – horrors – blogs are only effective for political writings.

What do you think?

Clean like me

December 22nd, 2009 by John Morris

In the past 16 months, I’ve learned a lot about which cleaning products really work. My short list of cleaners will do about 75% of all cleaning chores. They are non-toxic, inexpensive and mostly old-school.

#1 white distilled vinegar – this kitchen staple really cleans well. Here’s “The Simple Dollar’s” list of handy uses for it: My favorite use of vinegar is washing windows. The clincher for me was our bathroom mirror. My wife, Lyn and I tried many of the standard glass cleaners, but couldn’t get rid of the smudges even with four attempts. Two straight cleaning with vinegar and water gave us a smudge free and shiny mirror.

#2 – white toothpaste – I buy the biggest tube I can find at the Dollar store. Toothpaste – not jel – can remove all kinds of grounded in grime from flat metal surfaces, sinks or shower stalls. Its gentle, low abrasive compound mixes easily with water and has a pleasant smell. It’ll clean jewelry in a pinch.

#3 –  Bon Ami cleaner – You can find this product on the bottom shelf in your supermarket’s cleaner aisle. Look for the yellow can with the baby chick. It is feldspar and soap in a very fine powder. Bon Ami’s slogan is, “Hasn’t scratched yet”, and I believe it. My Army buddies would brush their teeth with it each month to get a bright smile. Don’t try this. I’ve used it to clean soapy crud from the bathtub. Use it on other porcelain stations to save the original shine which is dulled by the harsher powdered cleaners. Go after hard to clean glass like the inside of your windshield especially if the driver smokes.

#4 - aluminum foil – sure this disposable material was invented for cooking . It does this very well, but my favorite use is cleaning stainless sinks and other metal surfaces such as pots and pans. Wet your stainless sink and sprinkle either Bon Ami or dish soap around the surfaces. Then scrub the steel with aluminum foil. It cuts grease quickly and when finished, the surface looks almost new. It is also a very fine abrasive for sanding other surfaces.

#5 – Oxi-Clean – this is the only new product I’ll recommend. Use Oxi-Clean with really hot water to clean kitchen cabinet doors. Soak hard-to-clean coffee and tea mugs in the stuff. Rinse and reuse. The manufacturer recommends adding add some to your wash to boost the cleaning power of your clothes soap. Note: I use washing soda instead and get good results.

Before you ask me to check my “man card”, I’ll remind you that cleaning was what I spent a large portion of my time doing while I was in the Army. Besides I’m for making things easier and doing them right.

I can use the time saved to do more manly things.

One Christmas memory

December 15th, 2009 by John Morris

Tonight’s NCIS had a subplot where Agent Tony Danozo was the secret Santa to a miserable co-worker who scared the stuffing out of him. He fought with his fear of doing the job and wanted to not invoke her wrath with a weak effort.

His resolution was to give her a Christmas doll she never receive, but wanted, as a small girl. It made a warm moment to temper the more serious stories.

It made me cry and not because of the smaltzy reactions it invoked.

About twenty Christmases ago, my brothers and sisters were exchanging Pollyanna gifts. Each of us selected a name from a hat, and the gift given represented the entire family. With this method, we didn’t buy everyone a separate gift. On this year, I got the name of my sister, Ellen.

At that time, Ellen had just about everything she could want. Her husband’s business was a roaring success, and they were living the good life in a more affluent neighborhood.

I wasn’t doing as well. I wondered what I could get – and afford – that she would either want or like. Not an easy chore on limited funds.

My gift to her was like Danozo’s secret Santa gift. I gave Ellen a Mr. Machine robot toy. She had wanted one when she was 12 and didn’t get it. It was hard to find but luck shone on me. I found one in a bargain bin. It made a loud grinding noise while its plastic arms and legs moved about. These actions and the blinking red light on the toy’s head made it quite annoying.

Ellen lit up when she saw the gift and during the next ten minutes about ten adults watched her play with it. She stood looking at it with a shining, happy face. I felt great about my choice and was glad I could help her find a sense of her long ago childhood.

Soon enough, Mr. Machine was turned off for the evening’s next chapter. Whether she ever played with it again isn’t important because it wasn’t the purpose of the gift. I wanted to give her something she always wanted.

This is not the reason I cried during NCIS either.

The reason is Ellen and I no longer share a love for each other.

The Chinese Army is good at being the Police.

December 14th, 2009 by John Morris

America and its allies want China to come to the dance in Afghanistan. China is interested in what happens there for good reasons. Two are the proximity to their country and their need for oil.

China is clear on how they’ll support the war effort. They’ll give money, but you can’t have their best and brightest. It’s okay if you want some technical support on finding landmines but there’ll be no Chinese boots on the ground. It seems China wants oil but doesn’t want to spill their blood doing the dirty work.

Pity. What is needed in Afghanistan when the fighting stops is something the Chinese do well:  Police work.

During my visit to China’s larger cities, I saw a strong military presence peppered throughout the streets. Stationed at intersections were cadres of severe looking young folks in uniform. Their job was to handle any citizenry problems that the also present Police force couldn’t.

I can’t remember the number of people in the Chinese military, but when I heard it, I was impressed. This many people already in uniform and trained to deal with Police work would help out in Afghanistan.

Our military is trained to achieve dominance either by capturing their opponents or by – excuse the bluntness – blowing them away. It’s a reach to expect hard charging Soldiers and Marines to curb their military actions and just segue into humane crowd control.

China’s good at doing the Police thing. Let them do it.


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.