Tutto è venti minuti.

October 31st, 2011 by John Morris

I learned a lot about Italy from world class traveling buddy, Anthony Mascherino. This cousin of mine taught me that the usual answer when you ask Italians in Italy how long something will take is “venti minuti” or 20 minutes. Anthony was right. I heard this throw-away response so often I wondered if it was just another way of saying, “Not long”.

I was ordering at a Bologna pizza shop and wanted to go to the nearly souvenir store while it was being baked. I looked at the lady and said, “Venti minuti” “Si” was her answer. I had time to shop.

Now I’m back in Downingtown and working three days a week at Maxwell’s Hardware. Co-owner, Tommy Trego likes take-out lunches. I’ll phone in the order to the local Italian eateries like Lione’s and Anthony’s. “Venti minuti” is always the waiting period. I told Tommie about these responses so often he now repeats the phrase after I hang up.

About the only activity that doesn’t take 20 minutes to do in Italy is eating a meal. Quickly prepared food is a sacrilege and meals are considered events intended to bring enjoyment. It is not rushed. Evening meals at restaurants reach two hours without effort.

All in all, not a bad way to approach life.


October 30th, 2011 by John Morris

Some TV commercials are interesting – at least to me. They’re the ones with a rapid, high volume pitch and where you always get a second item free.

From being fascinated with AS SEEN ON TV products, I went to watching the TV series Pitchmen with Anthony Sullivan and the bombastic Billy Mayes. Sully and Billy are asked by other inventors to pitch their brain children and oh yeah, make them really rich. The products on these shows are always creative and some show real promise. Others are comical and make their inventors look like reality ignoring dreamers. The show is a great comment on the American dream of hitting it big.

Yesterday while my wife, Lyn shopped in the local mall, I found my way to the AS SEEN ON TV store. I wanted a clip-on cell phone hook. I acted on impulse and bought a second item called the “Eggies”. I can now make six hard boiled eggs without shells. Woo hoo here’s my $10.59.

Today I decided to start my new life as a guy free from the tyranny of eggs shells. What extra work would it take?

  1. Cleaning the 24 plastic parts before cooking   Labor = 10 minutes        Note: this is a one time thing.
  2. Coating the egg compartment with oil               Labor =   3 minutes
  3. Release cooked eggs from plastic coffins          Labor =   2 minutes
  4. Clean the 24 plastic parts after cleaning.          Labor = 15 minutes
  5. Total Labor                                                                            = 30 minutes

All that work to save cracking and peeling six hard boiled eggs, and I gave up the price of a nice lunch.

When will I learn?

P.S.: the only labor saving I’ll get using the Eggies is to make Jello shooters with them.

My wife and her angel points.

October 29th, 2011 by John Morris

My wife and I were married 41 years ago. For me, it has been easy sledding. I wonder at times how she sails through the problems we encountered. It is mostly me making the passage bumpy. It’s Lyn who does the proper adjustments at the right times.

Let me give you an example.

For our recent Poconos trip, I needed adequate medicines: pills, eye drops and insulin. I needed a day-of- departure trip to Rite Aid for eye drops critical to maintaining my eye care discipline. Simply put, I couldn’t go three days without reverting to a pre-procedure stage.

When I got to the rental in the Poconos, I couldn’t find these drops. I searched every inch of my bags twice. I realized I had put two of another drug thinking I had packed the one in question. Urgghh. What a letdown.

I went through the arduous and expensive drill of buying an emergency refill. Since I had just reupped my drops, I would be at the mercy of the price the Poconos pharmacy would dictate.

And how did Lyn earn her angel wings this day? She said it was “unlike me” not to have my drug supply in order. Really it is very much like me, but she knows how hard I try to control my nature to screw things up.

Lyn’s Mom would be proud of how good she is as a wife.

What is a quarter of a quarter?

October 28th, 2011 by John Morris

English, like all languages, is far from perfect and can be confusing. The same word can have different meanings.  Take the word “minute”. It can mean either sixty seconds or a teenie-weenie whatever. My daughter pointed out that the correct meaning is dictated by the remaining sentence. Sharp girl that daughter of mine.

The following is food for thought.

What is a quarter of a quarter?

Monetary answer = $0.0625

Math answers = 1/16 and 0.0625

Sports answers: Football = 3.75 minutes or Basketball = 3 minutes

Got more? Jump in and make similar observations about our language even if you rarely think about its complexities.

This blog is dedicated to George Carlin, comedian who looked differently at our mother tongue to find ways to make us laugh.

Diabetes lies at all stages.

October 26th, 2011 by John Morris

Stage 1: you have diabetes and don’t know it.

You realize something is wrong with you. Your energy is non-existent; you visit the toilet every hour; and lose weight without exercising  or dieting. What’s wrong? Can’t be diabetes since it doesn’t run in your family; you eat carefully and exercise moderately. Guys like you don’t  get diabetes.

Stage 2: you know you have diabetes, but were told it can be managed.

Just eat more carefully; continue moderate exercise; and take these horse pill thrice each day. Oh yeah, welcome to the world of monitoring  your blood sugar all day. You now have new apparatus to pierce fingers and monitor its issues. Something called an A1c is a number you need to know at all times.

Stage 3: what’s worked doesn’t work anymore.

Despite all efforts, oral meds, moderate exercise and careful eating no longer cut it. Doctors holds your hand and explain it happens to  all diabetics at some stage, You’re introduced to a new world of body piercing with pens with 8mm needles that inject insulin into your stomach.

Stage 4:  your pancreases is no longer making insulin, but you can live a normal life by injecting insulin.

Right! Drink a beer while shooting 6 units of insulin; and you’re aces. Long story short, try to do any sustained physical activities without bonking and then needing to scarf a frozen Snickers brownie. You got me there; that one’s pretty cool.

Real life: having diabetes is a never-ending battle against what you eat and drink and what it does to your body. Using a finer understanding of what your body tells you along with enough common sense to take your medicines will keep away those bad spells and forestall the ravages that diabetes doesn’t lie about.

Note to all my diabetes buddies out there: let me know if I’m blowing smoke here or hitting the target with this posting. I can only tell my story, but I’d like to know yours and give you a forum.

The news as we now get it

October 24th, 2011 by John Morris

My voter’s ID card lists me as a Republican. I made this choice years ago to make my then business partner nervous. He was a political gadfly in the Republican Party, and I wanted him to worry if I’d vote for him.

Today my politics are all over the map. My conservative friends think I’m a liberal and vice versa. To keep it this way, my daily routine includes lots of cable news/opinion shows. I watch some FoxNews but more MSNBC which belies my conservative veneer.

As part of our brave, new world, we have dozens of cable news channels with 24 hours in every day and a relentless need to fill American’s flat screens with product. Their program hosts are more like celebrities than news reporters, i.e., Bill O’Reilly and Keith Olbermann. Their plans worked, and we have sharply divided political camps, dedicated cable stations and their biased spokespersons as moderators.

During Bush’s administration, each camp either slammed everything he did or blindly supported him. Who does what now has reversed with Obama in the world’s hottest seat, but the game persists.

These shows are filled with how their guys do nothing wrong, and the other guys do nothing right. It is unflattering to our electoral system when they robotically line up and do their rehearsed face-off. But they still do it.

Watch the Sunday morning news shows and instead of following the messages, learn to pick up on how they’re playing the game. Keep an ear open for trendy buzz words concocted at late Saturday caucuses and passed down to the troops. You’ll hear the same words or phrases used by different team members on different shows. Instead of using individual thought, each player is expected to hit the mark and run the table with the preassigned punch list message.

Instead of providing news, cable TV news shows are now stages for rehearsed talking points.

Today this is how they present our national leaders and top issues to us.

We deserve better.

Ferrets of all things

October 17th, 2011 by John Morris

One of my on-going battles is against folks I call “pet goofy”. I describe this type of pet owners as ones who abdicate their dominance of their animals in favor of a status of equals. Simply put, if you’ve ever use the term “grand-puppy”, without cringing, you are, my friend, “pet goofy”.

Right now, I’m watching a PBS-TV special called, “Ferrets, in pursuit of excellence”. The entire show is about people who radiate love when they talk about their pet ferrets. Some have crafted songs to their little friends. Others have an entire rooms full of the furry critters living in decorated cages. They dress them up. They have ferret shows. While harmless enough, this life style seems to be a new and higher grade of “pet goofy”.

My dominant thought about pet goofy pet ownerd is that the cure for this condition is a human baby. Some folks need to have children and some need grand-children. Then the pet/pet owner relationship will become more traditional.

This ferret show reminded me of a time when ferrets meant a level of embarrassment to me.

No, it’s not what you just thought. I’ll explain.

As my detachment was training at Fort Devens, MA to go to Vietnam, our Captain designed a unit flag and found the need to give our band of confused malcontents an animal designation. He chose the ferret. At the formal ceremony to introduce our new flag and name, he explained that ferrets are relentless in their pursuits of their prey. It took all of our military training to not laugh out loud when he went on about how fitting was his choice.

Reality hit our unit when we arrived in Vietnam. After we arrived in Tay Ninh, we were giving an open field that would become our company area. We went into around-the-clock work details to build the barracks and make it a proper military company area.

Near the time the project was finished, I was transferred to Cu Chi. But first, the Captain had a ceremony to raise our unit flag resplendent with  a comic book ferret. I was there for only two more days, but those days were filled with ridicule from other units’ Soldiers. I was glad to be getting away from such an environment.

Later I learned the Captain was ordered to stow the unit flag. I guess the division General was embarrassed to have any of his warriors referred to as some form of weasel.


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.