iPad v Net book

January 31st, 2010 by John Morris

The owner of an upscale formal wear store wanted to donate his older items for a tax exemption. He settled on donating the clothes to an intercity thrift shop.

After he delivered them to the other side of the city, he and the store manager loaded them into the back of the thrift store. The store’s manager looked at the donated clothes and said to the other man, “People around here don’t go to too many formal affairs.” The formal wear merchant replied, “Now they can”.

I see an analogy here to Apple’s latest, “amazing thingee”, the iPad. Die hard Applephiles, including my son, Adam are touting this groundbreaking toy as the answer to what’s wrong with the net books made by others. He talks about it in terms that make me ask two questions: “What did he say?” and “How will any of this affect my life?” Answer for number one is he and a selected few others exists – and talk – on a higher technical level than mere mortals do. How will it affect my life? Probably not much. I really am not worthy to own such an advanced e-weapon. I would not use it as the creators’ intended. Adam would laugh at my under-utilization of an iPad.

I think the masses who don’t use their net books now will also not use their iPads later. 

Much like the denizens of the poorer side of town will not use ballgowns and tuxedoes from the thrift store. All dressed up and no place to go.

“You can’t fix stupid.” *

January 30th, 2010 by John Morris

* Ron White, redneck humorist.

Walking is a fairly boring way to exercise, but I tolerate it. Being able to walk to everywhere frees me to not own a car which saves a whopping amount of money every year.

As I walked to work on Friday, I waited for the light to change at Lancaster Avenue. To my right, was a Police cruiser also waiting. Since he was there, I would not cross until I had the light. I know he wouldn’t pull me over but why flaunt it.

I saw a Honda sedan driving from the west with a strange configuration: a large carpet was sticking out by four feet on both sides.

The Honda had the light and cleared the intersection. I turned toward the Police car and saw a look in his face best described as “Can you believe that?” I’m sure I had the same flummoxed looked in my face too.

In a half a beat, the cruiser’s popcorn lights flamed on, and he sirened his way behind the Honda.

I crossed the street and caught up with the Honda/cop interaction. As I approached, I saw there was no way for the Honda driver to see in any of the three rear view mirrors. I also saw there would be little chance this car could have made much distance without clipping something on the roadside. This would have done more damage to the Honda than the object hit unless it was a human.

I resisted taking a picture of the car; a decision I regret. As I passed them, I also decided not to look at the driver. I reasoned I could no more hide my look of disapproval at him as I could earlier hide my bewildered look with the cop.

The Honda driver probably figured he’d – it was a man – would save the delivery fee in the reckless way he chose to get his carpet home. Probably, he was compelled by the Policeman to wait for a friend with a truck. He also would get nailed for a driving violation which would approach $200.

I sure the Honda driver did not think himself to be a stupid, but I’m also sure he regretted getting caught driving while stupid.

Getting to know all about you

January 26th, 2010 by John Morris

The author of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, Arthur Conan Doyle misled us. So have the writers of House, MD; Lie to  me, Psyche and the Mentalist. What do they have in common? Okay, first point is a gimme; I enjoy these shows.

The other point is a bit more subtle. As an audience, we bought the idea some one’s slightest actions can be spun off to tell volumes about them. I forgot these shows have writers working full time to spin a story line around these connections. I also forgot how really bad human communications are even when they’re really good. Misunderstanding is the rule not the exception.

We can be forgiven if we think  someone can be accurately understood after barely meeting them. A familiar drama story line has been pumping this nonsense into our brains since 1887.

Human understanding would be better if we knew someone for a time before judging them. Like the old Native American saying, “Do not judge someone until you’ve walked a mile in their moccasins.”

My wife, Lyn and I will be married 40 years this August, and I’m always learning something new about her. She is my standard for knowing another person. If I don’t know her after all this time, I don’t know anyone. 

The real learning will takes decades more.

Arafat, Frankel & Dean

January 19th, 2010 by John Morris

One moment frozen in my mind goes back to when Yasser Arafat and his followers were surrounded by Israeli forces. They found themselves without any means to escape. The Israelis could have finished them easily off but gave them the chance to pack it in and go to exile in Tunis. What they did with this deal was memorable.

As the trucks wheeled them away protected by our forces, the defeated Palestinians acted as though they were the victors: smiling, cheering, and pumping their arms. While it was clear to the world they had lost their war and had been spared,  they turned it into their own victory parade. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yasser_Arafat

Year later, I learned about Victor Frankel’s famous research with Holocaust survivors. He reasoned the last freedom a man has is the right to control his state of mind under any circumstance. It proved itself to be true as illustrated by Arafat, et al.

Tonight, I watched Scott Brown do the seemingly unlikely. As a Republican, he won a US Senate seat in the hotbed of liberal Democratic Massachusetts. Brown has a right to celebrate. He has no need to control his state of mind; he can just let it all hang out.

But what about the folks who lost a lot with this race: the beltway Democrats. They’ve lost their magic sixty automatic votes in the US Senate for what ever they want.

On the cable new shows, they’re saying nice things about the victor. I know all this is window dressing. Tomorrow they’ll savage the poor schlub for the conservative he is.

I couldn’t believe the one statement Howard Dean made though. He said this is a welcomed moment in that now they can revamp the health care bill in a way to get it passed.

I think Dr. Dean studied Professor Frankel’s writings.

Pissing off the Good Humor man

January 10th, 2010 by John Morris

It takes a lot to upset me. Unfortunately, I’ll stay that way for far too long when it does  happens.

Here’s an example.

My wife, Lyn and I were invited to visit our daughter, Beth at her newly adopted home town of New York City. We wanted to see her in her new life. She wanted to show how well adjusted she had become away from the comfort of Downingtown, PA. It would be a benchmark moment in our family.

She had two absolutes: dinner at the Grand Central Station restaurant, and her treat. Okay by us.

Lyn and I were impressed by her skills at navigating the bustling city streets and eventually the massive station itself.

We were seated in a middle section of the cavernous eating stadium. Over-sized, art deco concrete carvings lined the distant walls. Everything about the restaurant promised an elegant dining experience.

Our server this night was a severe looking woman of German descent. She was efficient at the verbal exchange of our choices for food and drink. I did have trouble following her on the daily specials due to my lack of food knowledge.

We were so the urbanites sitting in this landmark eatery having successfully not done anything to draw disapproving looks.

The food arrived and our panzer-frau place the three huge platters down. As I looked at the l’object d’art in front of me, I knew it wasn’t my selection. I asked what this meal was and was told it was a chicken something. It was not the fish something I ordered, and I said so. I also said I’d eat it anyway.

The Bavariana scooted over to me and literally snatched the plate from my hands and said, “I’ll get what you ordered.” I yelled, “I’LL EAT IT”, but it didn’t cause her to return.

I suggested Beth and Lyn start their meals to avoid cooling. I ate a bit more bread than normal for me during my wait. They shared samples of their selections which were really good.

The corrected meal took over 15 minutes to return. The waitress place my meal down and spun around with no hint of remorse.

I’m sure we were the one thousand out-of-towners to dine at her station this month,and she probably held a low opinion of our type. Maybe she just hated that she had to serve others to make a living. I really didn’t care. She had interjected her woes into what was a lovely evening and damn near destroyed its good mood. It didn’t because we didn’t let it.

Beth paid the bill and made her disapproval known with the tip.

Here my point: NYC wait staff are renown for their rudeness. This I expected. I’ll be only temporarily miffed if ignored since I know how easy it is to miss signals from others. What bothers me to this day is how determined this woman was to not let me have my way. She screwed up the order and felt it necessary to punish me for it even after I offered to settle for the wrong meal. Either that or she just wanted to give the meal to somebody else, and that’s not any better.

Okay, you’ve read this and have thought, “I would have complained to the manager.” Good point and maybe I should have but this outing was to be all about quality family time. I reasoned why aggravate the situation further. Maybe I’m just not the kind of guy who complains to the manager. Ever 

Yes, it’s true, I am the Good Humor man and will usually take more abuse than guys like you.

And with all that, this sorry excuse for a waitress was able to piss me off. So you’re right, I should have complained to the manager.

Who really has your back?

January 7th, 2010 by John Morris

There is a sub-story in the Christmas attack on America by one  – count them, one – terrorist. In the moment of truth when a terrorist with flaming pants was trying to ignite a bomb, it was not someone from our government who rescued the day. It was a fellow traveler. Someone who had no idea he would be called on to save his life and the lives of all the other passengers. With no security assigned to the flight,  it was left up to whomever could provide it. The passengers and crew were left to their own devices. Thank God, someone stepped up, and a true tragedy was avoided.

I now believe our government and its far reaching systems can not guarantee our complete safety*. Oh, they’ll do all they can do and most of it is done correctly. But in the end, they can’t keep every crazed zealot who wants to kill us out of the arena to do so*. There are too many of them. They have the luxury of learning from their failures.

I’d agree to a full body scan prior to boarding a plane as part of everyone else getting one. Sure for now, we’ll all submit sheepishly to this scrutiny. After a period of no more attacks, we’ll want things to lighten up. That’s when the terrorist will attack again.

In The Art of War, there is this passage, “When your enemy attacks, retreat. When he stops, stop. When he rests, attack.”

Sound familiar? This is what the Viet Cong did to keep the greatest military force in the world chasing their tails. Oh yeah, it’s also what our early Minutemen did against King George’s finest troops. And why not, this works when we are few, and they are many.

During my Army training, our platoon Sergeant told us when we’re in combat, the only people we can count on are the ones we can see. While not everyone we see can be counted on, there is nobody else to ride to our rescue.

He was right then, and he’s right now. Let the government do what it can but at crunch time, we are all in this together. We need to act this way.

* President Obama agrees

Mel Blanc: a giant in his field

January 5th, 2010 by John Morris

Mel Blanc was a voice artist known as the man of a thousand voices. If this is not exactly accurate, he came close. Some of the legendary voices he created were cartoon characters we all grew up with: Bugs Bunny, Tweetie Pie, Sylvester the cat and hundreds more.

Mel Blanc was involved in a nearly fatal car accident that left him in a coma for three months. The prevailing opinions were Blanc would never recover. The entertainment world would probably lose a giant talent.

The attending Doctor took a creative approach to dealing with Blanc’s condition. He would not talk to Mel Blanc but to his famous alter-ego, Bugs Bunny. In time, Blanc started talking to the Doctor in this cartoon voice.

Surprisingly enough, Blanc started to improve and eventually recover completely.

Mel Blanc often said Bugs Bunny saved his life. I think Bugs Bunny returned the gift of life to the man who gave him his.


2010: a year to forgive

January 3rd, 2010 by John Morris

You may have someone in your life you can’t forgive. I do. I hope it’s in your past. I wish mine was.

I was at the Doctor’s office reading the usual bland magazine when I came across an article about a woman able to forgive a man who murdered her only son in cold blood. I wondered how she could find her way to forgive such a man for what he did.

In one of those sections where they blow up a key phrase, I saw these words, and spent time to take them in:  “Forgiving is not the same as saying what was done is okay.”

I got it; they’re too separate things. If I’m able to keep them that way, I may find the path to forgive too.

My travels as a wine kind of guy

January 2nd, 2010 by John Morris

Wine has been with me since my Army days. However, my first alcohol contact was the beer my friends either bought from winoes outside of working class bars or snitched from family fridges. Like most folks, I didn’t like the taste at first but did liked the buzz. Next came the hard stuff. Somehow it was more available to under-aged, stupid, white guys. We drank it straight because it got us there faster.

My ventures into the world of wine started at the Fort Riley Army Base, Kansas. It was the late 60s, and wine was a traveling companion with the younger crowd. Seemed that beer was for the redneck mouth breathers. Wine was the beverage of the more enlightened and if that wasn’t enough, hippy chicks dug wine and guys who drank it.

The first wave of wines were by necessity cheapos. We often got the Gallo and other low priced brands and then settled on the worst rotgut ever: Ripple. This swill tasted like a fruit juice gone bad. It made a nasty hangover, but I’m with Mitch Hedberg here: Just because something leads to a bad result is no reason to forsake the earlier amazing stages.

Crazier times followed with the discovery of spodeode – an unholy mix of beer and wine. This devil’s brew always led to wicked hangovers. If you were lucky, you skipped the vomiting stages.

Fast forward a decade or so and a bunch of us were making our own wine. The results were fairly good – at least mine were to me. When we had social events, we put out such pedestrian standards as Matuse, Blue Nun and Lambrusco. Looking back, I need to forgive myself for these bad choices. The gals seemed to like the fruitier, sweet wines like Boone’s Farms and Annie Green Springs. These were somewhat better choices and still cheap.

Then there was a long, wine-free dry spell where, thank God, there existed beer.

As I drifted into my 50s, I renewed my affair with wine and found I liked the better tasting stuff. Or maybe good wine is a barometer that you have some extra money. Good wine became a reward I gave myself for any good reason or none at all. Or a way to spend time with a good friend.

Then I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I sat at the nutrition class and heard about how I needed to tightly budget any alcohol consumption. If I could keep my “numbers” in the right range, I could have two per week. It seemed a better idea to just not drink at all rather than tease my palate with a single glass every three days. That’s how it was for a few years.

Then researchers discovered two glasses of wine per day is actually good for controlling blood sugar levels. All right! I could have wine every day. And more importantly, it could be something I can share with my children, Beth and Adam now that they’re wine savvy.

Now when we dine, we can share a lovely bottle of wine – usually red.  Our usual high point is when we give my wife, Lyn a taste. She’ll sit there and hear us describe how good the wine is and will agree to try some. She’ll take a small sip and then sport what we’ve come to call “the wine face.” She looks like she was just forced feed some vinegar. She’s a good sport for always doing this for us.

Good wine helps mark special moments in our life now. At this Christmas, Beth gave me two bottles of Hillinger zweiglet. This is a wine we discovered during our New York City visit with her and my son, Adam, and his wife, Yuri. We also shared a bottle of our favorite variety, barolo during a family turkey dinner.

As I write this, I am sipping my medicinal dose of wine – a zinfandel ordinaire. I don’t drink wine every day. Then it would be a chore, and I don’t want to spoil my enjoyment of wine.

God was having a good day when he made wine for his children to drink.

My second date with my wife

January 1st, 2010 by John Morris

Two years ago, I blogged about how I met and got a date for that night with my wife on New Year’s Eve 1969. Today’s yarn is how the next date went.

During our first date, Lyn and I agreed to meet at her Mom’s house the next day to watch football.

Some detail first: Lyn became an avid Eagles fan after we married. During the time of these blogs, she was not so much a sports fan. I was the typical sports nut dude. Since then, I’ve toned down my game. I’ll root like hell for the Phillies, if they’re in the playoff, and the Eagles always. I no longer find basketball, hockey and college football interesting.

As you see, it was an act of kindness for her to agree to watch endless college football games with a guy she didn’t know before the prior day. I was on my own because my other host, Army buddy Doug McCandless had fiance duty at his future in-laws. He would be my ride back to Fort Riley later that day. Spending the day at Mac’s house was a poor option.

The football lineup was the usual New Year’s Day bowl games culminating with the Orange Bowl pitting University of Kansas against Penn State. I was rooting for Penn State* and so was Lyn. Seems she had the regional hard feelings toward the KU Wildcats, and besides that, she was going to rival Emporia State.

She was an attentive hostess throughout the day. I took time away from each game – including the Orange Bowl – to appreciate how much I enjoyed being with her. My main worry was saying or doing something that would block my chances with her.

Sometime during the afternoon, we got the idea that some coffee would be nice. Lyn convinced me she didn’t know how to make coffee. Here where I thought I could make points. I offered to show her how. Thus was my cluelessness.

She dug out an old fashioned percolator coffee pot and a tin of Folger’s – then a regional brand. I bluffed my way through the instructional phase about how much coffee to use for a full pot.

The pot began to percolate, and we watched for a time until I declared it ready for consumption. After we waited for the coffee action to settle, Lyn got out two mugs and tipped the pot towards them. Imagine our surprise when water the color of weak tea came out. I was certain the coffee had perked long enough. We tried a second time and got the same results.

Lyn later learned the drain holes in the basket were clogged from calcium deposits. Her Mom was planning to clean it out one day soon. There would be no way this pot would produce coffee by anyone’s standards.

Looking back on this day of football and our shared failure to make coffee, I realized how much fun I have doing anything with the woman who is my wife.

* they won


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.