Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Apt Aps

I talked to my brother a couple of nights ago, both of us were talking on our I-Phones. Clay, who works in and teaches courses in television (and other things) at the Houston Baptist University is quite a bit more familair with technology than I am. Naturally, he has made use of the features of the I-Phone which I did not even know existed, so a lot of the conversation was me saying, "It can do that ?".

As you would expect, the discussion soon got around to APs. I think that AP (or Ap) may be an an abbreviation for "application", but I only think that because these hightech types (I think that it is politically incorrect to call them ""nerds")use the word application a lot. Of course, for all I know ,it can be an abbreviation for Apple Pie or short for Appendicularia.

Anyway, the APs (or Aps)are things that you can buy. Many or them are really just short cuts to get you to a particular site very quickly which, when your fingers are as clumsy as mine, is an advantage. Some, however are amazing things, the more amazing, the more expensive. I am lead to believe that there are APs for everything that you need in life.I think that you can now do just about anything you want in life, which requires some kind of communication or research, with one AP or another. I know that there are APs which will play your favorite music and Aps with which you can download books.I know this because those are the only two APs I have, primarily because they were both free. The music one (Pandora) is actually very cool if you just want to make sure that you will hear music that you like. I use it occasionally.

The reading Ap has been a non-starter. This is mainly because when you won't pay for books you only can look at thing that are in the public domain. Scroll down the lists on these free book sites and you will always find the American Declaration of Independence, the works of John Locke, the autobiography of Ben Franklin, poems by ancient Romans and numerous other things that are often not on your current reading list. Now the list contains classics as well, but who could read Don Quixote on an I-Phone screen ?

At any rate, the Ap is still in the rudimentary stage of development and at some point will actually begin doing things that are quite helpful. I have thought of several good ideas which I hope are being worked on.

1.Ap which will help you find your glasses, keys and wallet every morning. Now this does not solve the problem of how to find your I-Phone in the morning which would be the key to finding everything else. So some work will have to be done on that issue.

2. Ap which will tell you when your wife is about to get furious over your leaving your shoes downstairs in front of the T.V.. Notice that I did not say an ap which will remind you to pick up your shoes in the first place. There is no sense in an Ap making you work harder than you really have to.

3.Ap which will change the oil in your car on schedule and not have to remind you to do it.

4.Ap which will tell you the truth about how long you are going to wait for a table at a restaraunt so that you don't have to listen to the Hostess'lies.

5. Ap which will tell you the truth about when a delayed flight is really going to get to the airport so that you do not have to listen to the lies of a gate agent.

6. Ap which will alert you that you have left your zipper down.

7. Ap which will punch up your blog for you when you are having an off day in the humor department.

8.Ap which will automatically dial your mother when it decides that "it has been too long".

9. Ap which will break up any meeting on any subject which goes over thirty minutes (and can be reset for as few as ten minutes)

10. Ap which automatically stops any IM or e-mail(or Tweet) that you send out which you would regret later.

Now some of you may think, these Aps seem to be particularly geared to Wade Porter's problems and not mine, and you would be correct.But that's the great thing about Aps, you just take the ones you need.You are free to have your own Ap wish list if you want one.All I ask is that you not get in the way of the Ap folks perfecting my list.You may be shocked at the fact that you will need most items on my list at some point in life.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Rules of Life

Returning from a wonderful day at the Christmas Market in New Braunfels yesterday, Rayda and I passed a couple of Pawn Shops.I have always liked Pawn Shops but seldom have gone into them. Anyway, passing the shops reminded me of some lifetime advice laughingly related to me by my father which he said came to him from his eldest brother, Worth.That made me think of all the other advice for life lessons I have heard and I thought that I'd relate some to you and remind you of a few others.

"Wherever you go in life, whatever you do, always keep something you can pawn" Worth Porter to Allen Porter- I laughed at this at the time, probably because I was living at home and eating for free. I see some wisdom in it now and if I'd lived through the depression would probably see even more.The problem is what to keep. Everytime I have ever been in a Pawn Shop there was a trombone hanging from the wall.Where would you keep the trombone ?

"Never open a gate without relocking it, never see a rattlesnake without killing it, never walk past a spigot without getting a drink of water." Justice Charles Barrow-
Barrow had grown up in the country down in South Texas where there is not much water, too many rattlesnakes, and cattle which can get out if the gate is not relocked.All three are keys to living down there. You perish withhout water, a rattlesnake can kill you, and even the best neighbor might shoot you if you let his cattle out.

"Never give a sword to a man who cannot dance" Confucious- this one has become easier to follow as the years have gone by. I always thought that it must have lost something in the translation.If the traslation is accurate I always thought that it just had to do with dexterity.Others seem think that it is about leadership and still others believe that Confucious is telling us that you must learn to love before you can fight.I guess the last two could be right, but I know for sure that your odds of living longer go up if you don't hand a sword to a clumsy guy.

"Trust everyone, but cut the cards." Mark Twain-This is one that I have preached all my life and never personally followed. There are a lot of people I do not trust and a lot of times that I wish I had I had been more careful with a decision.

"Never give a sucker an even break" W.C. Fields-This was Field's rebuttal to the "Great Commandment" of Jesus. Before relying on it, remember that when Fields was asked on his death bed why he was reading the Bible, he responded "Looking for loopholes."

"Always remember that even the most complicated legal problem can be traced back to one moron every time." Wade Porter-I discovered this early in my law career and have always referred to it as the "One Moron Theory".It actually very seldom helps the lawyer, but it is best used as a part of hiring practices by any company who wants to avoid problems.

"The Golden Rule"-Jesus, Confucious, Hillel- Every great religion has an example of the "do unto others" rule.I don't know how Confucious squared it with not giving a sword to a man who can not dance. It is the best known rule of life and also the one most consistently broken.

"Don't put all of your eggs in one basket"-Aesop. Or "Put all your eggs in one basket and then watch that basket !" said by both Twain and Andrew Carnegie (Twain printed this one first but it is alleged to have been "borrowed" from Carnegie who often used it). So which of the two maxims do you follow ? Well we don't know much about Aesop, but we do know that at one time Andrew Carnegie was probably the richest man in the world.You decide. But always remember that most chicken farmers back in the old days had only one basket anyway, so the point of the first one was often moot.

"When you come to a fork in the road, take it."-Yogi Berra-I agree that this one does not help you much, but you at least have the assurance that it is one rule of life that you will virtually always follow.

"Don't burn the candle at both ends." 18th century English saying- This one seems useless, who ever saw a candle with two wicks and, if you did, wouldn't the candlestick put the bottom one out ?

"The best laid schemes o' mice and men gang aft agley" Robert Burns-This one starts out allright, but requires that you be carrying around a Scotish dictionary to really get any use out of it.

"Eighty percent of success is just showing up" Woody Allen- I am not sure how he quantified it, but the sentiment is correct. Always show up and "Always tell the truth, that will gratify some people and astonish the others."- Mark Twain

There you have it, we could have gone on all day of course,but there is only so much advice you can hear, and even less that you can take.I think the best way to sum up the ultimate rule of life is "Be careful of the advice you take, it is often quite expensive and even more often, worth exactly what you paid for it. Nothing."

Friday, November 06, 2009

The Yellow Submarine

Come on little Nowhere Man, we’ll take you somewhere.  Starr, Ringo (animated), “Yellow Submarine”

 

I made a few factual errors in the blog yesterday. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I don’t care a whit about being accurate. It is the truth we are seeking. The fact that Major Hassan is still alive, or perhaps had never been deployed before, is as irrelevant for us  as the answer to the question of  what really happened the day Jesus fed the 5,000. Not that I’m comparing this blog to the Bible. I would never be that violent.

 

But in a sense I am sorry this morning. I wrote a sentence yesterday that was unduly pessimistic when I said “We (and I meant as a species) ain’t  goin’ nowhere." Sometimes it seems like that, but as Ringo Starr understood, sometimes even a Nowhere man can be taken somewhere. It is  still probably too early to write off the future of all humanity, and I’m probably not the one in the best position to make that decision.

 

So forgive me for that moment of doubt. While we plod along, measuring out our life in coffee spoons, there are still some of our kind who have made progress. The rest of us  can learn from them and, in the end, the logic of their humanity (boy there’s an ironic term)may well control our destiny. All may yet be well. We may be goin’ somewhere.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

And Cain slew Abel

Buy me a flute

And a gun that shoots

Tailgates and substitutes

Strap yourself

To the tree with roots

You ain’t going nowhere   Dylan, Bob,  “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”

 

 

Major Malik  Nadal Hassan, the now deceased slayer of a dozen and shooter of thirty or more   (the numbers keep changing ) was, in the words of a right wing blog  headline I just saw ,“Probably not Amish”. He was apparently a mental health professional who, in the words of one unnamed source, had been despondent about being redeployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. He decided to express that concern by shooting of a couple of hand guns in a movie theatre area in Ft. Hood, Texas a couple of hours ago. Ft. Hood, one of the largest military based in the world is right down the road from here. It is named after a rather inept Confederate General who, none the less was a hero in these parts during the war between the states. “The Gallant Hood of Texas, played hell in Tennessee” was an alternate verse during that war to the Texas anthem “The Yellow Rose of Texas” That song was  written about a beautiful mulatto woman who happened to be “entertaining” General Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana at the time the Texians started their charge at the battle of San Jacinto, the final battle of the Texas revolution.

 

The human species is simply violent. If not all of us, at least a subset of us. Whether we are Moslem or Amish, Yankee or Rebel, Mexican or Texan does not matter. Buy one of us a “gun that shots” and you always have the chance of a massacre. The Ft Hood area seems particularly prone to that kind of event, back in 1991 they were subjected to the great Luby’s shootout at a local cafeteria.

 

Now anyone who reads this blog knows that I am no particular fan of the Second Amendment, but even I never advocated the removal of guns from Army bases. There is a time and a place for guns, and Ft Hood, Texas during a period of time when we are fighting two wars seems particularly suited for the placement of weapons. So we gun haters can’t really make much of the fact that hand guns were used in these murders. You and I paid for those handguns and it was our patriotic duty to do so.

 

Likewise, the fact that the fellow was apparently at least a son or grandson of the middle east means very little, if anything, here. Nuts come in all shapes and sizes, colors and ages. This one happened to be of Arabic origin. He also happened to be in the United States Army. Whether Allah told him to do it, or he just felt like murdering a few folks, he was clearly a mental case. That’s the issue.

 

For years now people have been talking about our soldiers being overtaxed. This kind of thing is the inevitable result of that. Maybe it did not cause this, but this type of thing is the inevitable result, even if it did not cause these particular murders. It would have happened to some soldier, someplace and may well happen again.

 

We so seldom see the silent victims or war. We cry over the dead and the horribly wounded, but we don’t so often think about  what the experience of war does to an average individual. Even when you are not on the front lines, I can’t imagine that you live a normal life, mental health wise, when you are sent off to a war zone. You probably don’t sleep well, you might have a tendency to get a bit depressed. Maybe that’s what happened to Malik. We will never know, although  a lot of people (mostly fools) will make guesses.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I am not arguing that we should sympathize with Malik. He was a murderer, whatever caused it to happen. Ali I’m saying is that since the days of Cain, we human beings have been a very violent species. We have to always remember that about ourselves and be on our guard. We ain’t going nowhere.

Running Low

The World Series ended last night with the Yankees prevailing. I thought on the way in this morning that I should write about the World Series , then it hit me. Every thought I have had about the proposed blog may have been written about  before. I checked when I got to work and, sure enough, I had written a blog last October making the same points I had intended to make today. This means two things, I am running out of stories and I am running out of memory to recall that I have already told stories. What could be worse ?

 

The idea which really scares me is that this blog will soon become the electronic version of your 78 year old Uncle who tells you the same stories every time you see him. There is nothing you can do to prevent your mind making this dreadful turn. By the time you are doing it you have lost the mental capacity to know that you are doing it. You can be stopped only by the knowing nods of young people and the whisper, “yes, you have told me that”. Or, if you are lucky, you get a sympathetic youngster who will hear you out (when you can catch him) because he is too polite to tell you he has heard the story before.

 

I already have that problem at work. I will be in the middle of an old war story and realize that I must have told it before. I once asked my partner Matt Ryan why he had not stopped me from a repeat tale. He said, “Well, I would have, but you do an accent toward the end that I wanted to hear again.”

 

This shows you the limiting factor of this blog. I like to do different voices and even make noises made by non animated characters (furniture, the wind, etc.) when I tell my stories. My partner Basham said once that I tended to go overboard and sound like one of those NPR stories on Morning Edition where the radio reporter is speaking and suddenly you hear the background noise of a street scene or a village of Middle Easterners or cars honking at an intersection. Well, at least I keep it lively.

 

At any rate, the great P.G. Wodehouse once wrote a story about an English windbag, a formal military officer from the Victorian Era, who had a tendency to repeat himself. He made the mistake one night while he was eating dinner with a couple who had heard his stories many times, of beginning one by saying, “Stop me if you have heard this one…”. This was followed by the immediate shout “Stop !”  I wish that you and I could handle the problem that way, but by the time you can say stop ! I will have finished the blog. Just keep your finger on the ‘delete” button from now on.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Saving Daylight, Borrowing Trouble

God saw that light was good and he separated light from darkness. God called the light day and he called the darkness night.    Genesis 1: 4,5

 

Does anybody know what  time it is ?

Does anybody really care ?

If so I can’t imagine why

We’ve all got time enough to cry.    Chicago, “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is ? “  (1969)

 

I would like to know what kind of a goddam govment  this is which discriminates between two economic carriers and makes a goddam railroad charge everybody equal and lets a godam man charge any goddam price he wants  for his goddam opera box ?  
Mark Twain, unsent letter to the Editor of the New York Times.

 

 

 

 

 

It is said that time waits for no man, and I suppose that if you live in Indiana or Arizona that may be true. For those of us in the other forty eight states, however, time waited an hour for us between Saturday night and Sunday morning, the government giving us back the hour it had stolen from us in the spring when Daylight Savings Time went into effect.

 

Now some may think that that it is rather arrogant of the United States government  to tell God what time it is, after all, it was God who invented time, right ? Well, not really, God separated the day from the night, but he left all of  the subdividing after that  pretty much up to us. We are the ones who came up with the sixty minute minutes and the twenty four hour days. There were any number of ways we could have divided time up, some perhaps better than what we chose. I have never understood why the Europeans did not institute a “metric “ system of time with everything divided up into tens. It is still something that the E.U. might take up, once they have weaned Great Britain from the Pound and got them on the Euro.

 

This Day Light Savings Time was really economic in origin, was really pushed upon us by the warlords and capitalists running the country who wanted to squeeze an extra hour of production out of the masses during  World War II. This did not affect the actual soldiers fighting the battles very much, since they tended to work around the clock and shoot when shot at or told to shoot. Also, in the army they use all that “24 hundred hour” stuff which they use a lot in Europe. I don’t know what Day Light Savings time does to that, maybe it gets them back to 2395, I simply don’t know. Just like I don’t know what Newfoundland does since they are always an additional  half hour ahead of every one else

 

Then, for reasons I  never figured out, Daylight Savings Time came roaring back in the 60s as part and parcel with Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society”. The worst use of Daylight Savings time came in the winter of 1973-74 when Richard Nixon used it to combat the first oil crisis, brought on by the October War in the Middle East. This idiocy was lampooned in a famous cartoon at the time, showing several small children waiting in dark freezing weather for a school bus. The caption read, “I’d impeach him for Daylight Savings time alone.”

 

After Nixon resigned, we went back to normal Daylight Savings time until George W. Bush directed that it be extended to about eight months a year because this would save the taxpayers billions of dollars. I never understood how this worked either, and I also don’t understand why, if it does work, we don’t just whittle down the national debt by extending Daylight Savings Time to twelve months a year and maybe spring forward two hours, instead of one each April. That sounds to me like it would end the recession. That was the problem with Bush, he had some decent ideas, he was just not bold enough in carrying them out. If Cheney had been running the country, he’d have sprung forward to whatever it took to balance the budget. The current President is not going to do that, but I understand that he is working on a plan which will allow us to “borrow” time. This will be great for us, but will certainly be no treat for our grandchildren who will have to figure out a way to pay the time back. By the year 2075, I understand, that there would be only about eight minutes of sunlight left per day under the Obama plan ,as presently configured.

 

Politics aside, that first Sunday of Daylight Savings Time is glorious every year. It would be even better if the nation’s retailers would all get together and open an hour earlier with Daylight Savings “sales”. The retailers have already made sales days out of almost all major holidays and taken those holidays away from their employees, why not stick them with just one more extra  hour of work a year. What are they going to do during this downturn ? Quit ?

 

So, time marches on. We will  continue to screw around with its increments forever, or at least until 2012 when the Aztec calendar and the world may come to an end. So enjoy it while you can. You may only get three more years of that extra hour of sun !