I am no longer blogging here at Little Nuances, but I would love for you to join me on my author website www.leewarren.info.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Air Heads and Bug Juice

Photo: Terry Johnston
I’ve known for some time that I’m slowly losing touch with youth.

I’m becoming one of those people who just doesn’t understand the music, the attire or even the candy that the generation behind me is in to. It never became more apparent than when my 15-year-old niece asked me to do her a favor recently.

“Can you stop at a gas station and pick up some air heads and bug juice for me?” she asked.


“Air heads and bug juice?”

“Air heads are people who have no brains and bug juice, well, that just sounds gross,” I said.

“Uncle Lee!” she said, clearly exasperated with her uncle who grew up loving 1980s heavy metal music and didn’t find it odd to listen to bands called Twisted Sister, Metal Church, Killer Dwarfs and a few other crazily named groups.

“I have no idea what you are asking me to buy,” I said.

“Air heads are candy. Bug juice is a drink.”

I pulled into the local gas station and after much searching, I found the air heads. But the bug juice was much more evasive. Not willing to ask a clerk where to find bug juice, I searched up and down the aisles to no avail. I finally saw a woman walk in who I’m an acquaintance with and I asked her about it. She knew what I was talking about (she must have kids), but she couldn’t find it either, so she asked the clerk – who, like the rest of us, had no idea where to find it.

Thankfully, a teenager walked in and the woman and I both asked her where we might find the bug juice. She pointed to a small cooler across the store that contained bug juice and a bunch of other drinks I’ve never heard of. I picked up a bottle of orange bug juice like my niece requested and brought it, along with the airheads, to the counter to pay for them.

The teenager looked at me when I laid the stuff on the counter and said, “You picked up diet bug juice. Oh well, that’s not a bad thing.”

When did I get so old?

Thursday, September 29, 2005

College Days

I'm still cleaning out my basement (see original post) and probably will be for quite some time. So, you're going to see a number of posts about the stuff I find down there.

A couple of days ago, I found my high school and college yearbooks. I've looked through my high school yearbooks many times, but I can't remember the last time I looked at my college year book. I only have one—from 1985, my freshman year, and what a difficult year that was.

For starters, I was way too immature for college. I know, most freshman males are, but in addition to my immaturity, I was also painfully shy—not a great combination for someone who is stepping out into the world for the first time. I didn't fit in since most of the other students lived on campus. I wish I had done that too, but for whatever reason, I decided to live at home while attending school and consequently, I never made any friends in college. I made a few acquaintances, but none that lasted.

While going to school that year, I also worked fulltime as a manager of a fast food restaurant and most of my friends were also my co-workers. So I lived in two separate worlds—one of which was friendly, the other of which was cold, and difficult, and unappealing.

I didn't make it out of my sophomore year. My grades were slipping, I still didn't fit in, and one day I just stopped going. I didn't tell anybody—including administrators at the school. I wish I had a mulligan on that decision, but real life doesn't offer such things.

As I flipped through the yearbook, I was struck by the photos of all the people who appeared to be having fun in the various clubs, dorms, sporting events, and campus life in general. I'm not in any of those photos. In a sense, I'm the invisible man—the guy who really is there, but never shows up in any of the photos. I'm not even mentioned in the yearbook, which is understandable since I wasn't involved in campus life.

I've taken that same track most of my life. I've sat in the shadows, quite comfortable there, but often wishing I wasn't. With the gentle nudging of a couple of friends over the past seven or eight years, I began to take a few risks and I haven't been sorry—even when I have failed to make connections with people. I know now that life is way too short to brood over failed attempts at anything.

The thing about my college yearbook that is most striking is the fact that I don't even recognize anybody in it. It's almost like I've grabbed somebody else's yearbook from a college I never attended. Although I must admit that I recognize the short-shorts and feathered hairstyles since I donned both at one time—but you can't prove it since there aren't any photos!

Seriously though, my college yearbook is a good reminder to never allow myself to retreat from people again.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Midweek Quotes

"It is easier to fight for one's principles than to live up to them." –Alfred Adler

"In times like these, it helps to recall that there have always been times like these." –Paul Harvey

"A desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world." –John le Carre

"When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other." –Eric Hoffer

"The effort to remake the Jesus of the Bible so that he fits the spirit of one generation makes him feeble in another. Better to let him be what he is, because it is often the offensive side of Jesus that we need most. Especially offensive to the modern, western sentiment is the tough, blunt, fierce form of Jesus' love. People with think skin would often have felt hurt by Jesus' piercing tongue. People who identify love only with soft and tender words and ways would have been repeatedly outraged by the stinging, almost violent, language of the Lord." –John Piper, Seeing and Savioring Jesus Christ

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


I'm not super picky about language. I probably should be since the proper use of words is vital for clear communication and since I am a writer, but I realize that most people have no desire to be wordsmiths. They just want to say or write whatever is on their heart and allow the emotion behind the words to do the talking. I do it myself, so I can't be too hard on anybody else. But the misuse of one particular word has been driving me crazy lately.

I'm talking about the word "just"—not when it is used as an adjective (meaning "upright") but instead when it is used as an adverb (meaning "and nothing more"). Generally speaking, adverbs are an indication of weak writing. Verbs rarely need to be modified when the correct verb is used. But don't worry, this isn't a grammar lesson and any semblance of one stops here.

Here's what is bugging me. People use the word "just" to soften the blow and every time I hear the word in such a fashion I'm suspicious. For example, you ask a co-worker if he or she said something negative about you and you hear, "I was just having a little fun," or "It was just a joke," or "I just meant…." Technically, your co-worker is using the word properly, but why not say "I didn't mean any harm"? It's clearer and sounds less conniving.

Here's another example that drives me nuts. When people pray corporately and say things like, "And God, I just pray that…" Are they purposely asking God to limit his answer or are they trying to convey conviction? If it's the latter, why not just cut out the word "just" and say what they really mean?

Okay, maybe I am picky.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Single Guys and Decor

I'm a single guy, which means I never give my home "décor" one nanosecond of thought. So, when I saw this article, "A Bachelor's Degree in Décor," in USA Today Weekend, I couldn't help but laugh. Why do I need a degree in something I care nothing about?

The guy who wrote the article, Lou Manfredini, is a contractor and author of several home improvement books according to his bio at the end of the article. Maybe that explains why he cares about educating single guys about such things, but I'm guessing that he's wasting his time.

Among his attempts to enlighten us are:

--The home library, in which he says: "Lay out a few coffee-table books that your guests can flip through while making themselves comfortable."

For starters, guys don't do coffee-table books. None that I've ever heard of anyway. Second, single guys don't "get comfortable." They play video games. They yell and scream at the television while watching sports. On a slow night, they pop in a movie. But sitting around and reading coffee-table books just doesn't happen. Ever.

--Mood lighting, and no I'm not kidding. He really addresses the topic. His advice includes this: "Don't forget window treatments: Sheer drapes allow light to shine through subtly. Or, if you're on a tight budget, prefabricated wooden shutters will do."

Window treatments? I have no idea what that is. Sheer drapes? I don't even have drapes. I hate drapes. Too much work to move them out of the way when I actually want to look out the window. Prefabricated wooden shutters? What in the world? I don't have any shutters and I have no clue what a prefabricated wooden shutter would look like.

--Plant life (including freshly cut flowers): Ah, don't be ridiculous.

--Accessories, which to Lou means clean, matching linens and towels without strings hanging off the edges. I pride myself on using towels for as long as possible, dangling strings and all. And what in the world are "matching linens and towels?" What do they match? Each other? The room color? And why does it matter? Single guys don't care about such things.  

--A rolling kitchen island: He explains what it is in his article, and I still don't know what he's talking about. It involves keeping hors d'oeuvres and wine coolers and juices available for guests.

Single guys don't eat hors d'oeuvres—unless we are visiting a married friend's house and they are made by his wife. Heck, I can't even spell hors d'oeuvres. Single guys eat chips when guests are over. We certainly don't drink wine coolers. How much more metromale can one get? Pop and/or beer are our drinks of choice.

--This last one is really going to crack you up: "Consider getting a king-size bed with Egyptian cotton sheets and extra throw pillows." I have no clue what Egyptian cotton sheets are and I HATE throw pillows. I end up "throwing" them across the room because they serve no purpose whatsoever.

I can't help but wonder if this article isn't a joke of some sort. If it is meant to be serious, then USA Today Weekend needs to give me a shot to counter Manfredini's article so I can explain something that ought to be obvious—single guys don't even want a degree in décor.  

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Too Much Stuff

If you ever want proof that things are temporal, clean out your basement. I've held on to too much junk over the years and I'm at the point where I can't take it anymore. So, I've started to go through the mounds of memories piled in my basement and I'm tossing out anything I can bear to part with. But I've been surprised by something. Not at how much stuff I've chosen to keep, but at the boxes I've stored it all in.

I found one box yesterday that was full of books I'll never read and various other keepsakes that should have never been kept. The box used to be the home of a computer I bought many, many years ago—it had a 386 processor and ran Windows 3.1. If you aren't familiar with the Windows 3.1 operating system, it was before Windows 95, which was before Windows 98, which was before Windows ME, which was before Windows 2000, which was before Windows XP.

And I won't even list all of the processor chips that have come and gone since 386s, but by my count, six generations of computers came and went since I bought my 386 machine. But long after that computer gave up the ghost, the box still remains. It far outlasted the product it housed and now the box serves as simply a mechanism to hold other stuff. How ironic and depressing is that?

Who knows what else I'll find rummaging through all my junk? But I think a picture is becoming quite clear…I have too much stuff and most of it never lived up to its promises.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Getting Ready to Live

"Too many people die with their music still in them. Why is it so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time has run out." – Oliver Wendell Holmes

Do you ever think about reaching the end of your life with your music still in you—unwritten, unsung, and therefore useless and unable to move even a single soul? I sure do, but for me it's not music. I write for various newspapers, magazines, and websites. That's how I pay my bills. But my music is writing a novel, or multiple novels.

I'm an avid reader of literature. I love to root for characters to achieve their goals. I hurt with them when they fall short. I rejoice with them when they succeed. But more than anything, I identify with them because they represent the same desires and struggles that I face.

One thing that always strikes me though about these characters—they seldom die with their music still in them. They take risks. They mess up. They take more risks. They deal with their character flaws. And ultimately, they either succeed or fail, but they don't die with their music still in them. The ones who fail are often changed by the journey—changed enough to still find fulfillment in the effort they gave and in their new direction.

Another thing that strikes me about characters in literature—they don't watch life happen from the sidelines (parked in front of a television, or a Play Station 2, or a computer). They live life. They aren't waiting to live it and they aren't content to watch others live it.

Of course, there's a twist of irony in even these statements because reading literature is in a sense reading about characters who are living life. For me, the characters serve as motivation to chase my own dreams, but I have to be careful to not spend so much time reading literature that I fail to actually write a little myself.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Celebrities and Fundraisers

Sometimes I wonder about the combination of celebrities and fundraisers. One such instance is the fundraiser held on ebay recently by The First Amendment Project. I've never heard of this particular group, but according to an article in USA Today, they are "a non-profit that provides free legal services related to free speech and free press issues."

The fundraiser consisted of 19 novelists who gave their fans a chance to see their own names appear in a future novel. All their fans had to do was be the highest bidder. One woman bid $25,100 to see her name appear in a Stephen King novel. If a woman is willing to write a check for that amount for such a thing, more power to her. But couldn't Stephen King just as easily have written a check for that amount if he really believed in the cause?

Why appeal to a fan base, the vast majority of whom makes considerably less money than the novelist, to support causes that the novelist is passionate about? Why not just support it yourself?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Midweek Quotes

"Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you can get the right ones, in the right order, you can nudge the world a little." –Tom Stoppard

"Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." –T.S. Elliot

"The love of liberty is the love of others; the love of power is the love of ourselves." –William Hazlitt

"The actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts." –John Locke

"Television enables you to be entertained in your home by people you wouldn't have in your home." –David Frost

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Loneliness is a curious emotion. You'd think that with e-mail, cell phones, text messaging, internet chat, and the various other forms of advanced technology we currently enjoy that loneliness would be all but done away with. But more avenues for communication don't mean a thing if a person has nobody to genuinely communicate with.

We all have friends, but we often feel like we have to be "doing" something together like watching a movie, or playing a video game, or watching a football game, or shopping, or a dozen other things. We really don't sit and converse anymore. Coffee shops are certainly helping to bring this lost art back into vogue, but how often do you walk into a coffee shop and see the majority of people sitting alone at a table—nobody wanting to invade each other's space? I suspect that there are just as many lonely people in coffee shops as there are anywhere else.

We've all experienced loneliness. From the vacuum left after the loss of a loved one, to the crumbling of a marriage or potential marriage, to the pain of unwanted singleness status, to self-chosen isolation for fear that nobody will accept us with all of our faults—loneliness is excruciatingly real, but seldom discussed. It's one of the reasons I devoted a chapter to it in my book, Single Servings.

I just started reading a book by Elisabeth Elliot called The Path of Loneliness: Finding Your Way Through the Wilderness to God. She wrote it in 1988, so it's a little dated, but the message transcends time. In the coming days (and maybe weeks) I'll give you a little of her insight, but before that, you need to hear her describe her own loneliness.

In the first chapter, she recalls a plane trip she took after she had been widowed for a little more than a year. Here's a brief excerpt:

"The woman beside me moves, opens her purse, finds something, leans back again. The man stirs. Neither says anything. There is a tiny click, then a clear flame, as the man reaches to light his companion's cigarette [evidence of the dated material] I can see the outline of his hand, the knuckles and fingers, the hairs illuminated for a few seconds. The woman draws, puffs a thin column of smoke. Another click. Darkness.

"Only the most ordinary of gestures, meaning almost nothing, I suppose, to them. But for me, sitting there by the window looking out again at the cold stars, it speaks of a whole world that is lost to me now. A man and a woman. Together. His hand stretched toward her to help."

Even the stars looked cold to her in the midst of her loneliness. And while she was closer to the stars than she would have been on the ground, I'm guessing that they even felt more distant and unattainable than she's ever experienced.

As a single person, this makes me want to be certain to never underestimate the power of a friend who understands me well enough to meet one of my needs or desires without ever saying a word. And it makes me resolved to know people well enough to do likewise.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Blogging Motivation

Every blogger blogs for a different reason. Some seek pundit status and ultimately a crack at the big time—a paying column. Some seek debate and spend hours on their blog each day going back and forth with each person who comments. Some seek to promote their business. Some simply seek a voice—a small space in the blogosphere to record and share the things that matter most to them.

I don't think any of these motivations are wrong. They are all just different, and as such, their blogs are set up slightly differently. As for me, I fall into the latter camp—the one that just wants to record and share my thoughts and passions with those who are interested in hearing them. Well, that's not entirely true. I'd love to see a few people who read this blog discover my book, Single Servings, and pick up a copy. But I have another site set up for the promotion of that book. Instead, I just want Little Nuances to be one of those sites that people visit briefly during their day, smile a little, and then move on.

Likewise, I don't have a lot of time to devote to the site. So, I'll make my observations quickly and move on. With all of this in mind, I tweaked Little Nuances a little over the weekend and will probably continue to do so. The comments section is gone because I have no real desire for debate at this site, or the time to do so. But feel free to e-mail me. I've added a section on the right side of the page that will highlight some of the books I'm currently reading. And I'll add other content in the coming months.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Federalist Paper #2

Do you ever think about the term "United States"—specifically the term "united?" United in what? The will of self-preservation? The desire to do whatever we choose without regard for right or wrong? The desire to be good citizens?

Here's what John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, said when he wrote Federalist Paper #2:

"I have as often taken notice that Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people—a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs, and who, by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side by side throughout a long and bloody war, have nobly established general liberty and independence.

"This country and this people seem to have been made for each other, and it appears as if it was the design of Providence, that an inheritance so proper and convenient for a band of brethren, united to each other by the strongest ties, should never be split into a number of unsocial, jealous, and alien sovereignties."

Friday, September 16, 2005

Katrina Update

I heard from Lori Seaborg. She received the Bibles I sent and she said that they still need more because they are giving them away as fast as they receive them. So if you have any extra Bibles, click here to get her address and send them to her. Tim and Lori include a Bible in each care package they give out to Hurricane Katrina victims. While you are on the page copying down her address, you'll also see the opportunity to help in many other ways.

Tim and Lori Seaborg, who live in Alabama and endured several hurricanes themselves in recent years, have dedicated the next six months of their lives to helping the victims of Katrina. They have a new website up and running: Survived Katrina. It contains a blog that chronicles their journey, a page that tells the stories of the survivors they meet, and it has lots of photos.

I don't know Tim or Lori personally. I only know about them because of the blogosphere. What a neat thing huh? The internet gives us the chance to "meet" people we would never meet and to help hurting people that would otherwise just be a statistic we read about in the newspaper.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Midweek Quotes

"We read to know we're not alone." –C.S. Lewis

"Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they've got a second." –William James

"A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for." –John Shedd

Changing the World

Have you ever got to the point in your life where you stopped trying to single-handedly change the world? I reached it last year while I was writing on a regular basis for my previous blog that focused on culture and politics. I don't hold to a view that would be considered mainstream on either the right or the left given the current political climate (both parties look extremely similar to me).

For the record, I'm a conservative. Not a neoconservative hell-bent on empire building as so many in the GOP now advocate. Just a conservative from the Old Right school of thought. Some call us paleoconservatives and I think that label describes me well.

But I no longer want to spend large chunks of time following politics and culture and then trying to convince the entire political establishment that my view is correct. I have a life to live, a living to make, and family and friends to love. Politics are important. Vitally important. And I grieve over the condition of our culture. But nobody can live in grief mode for a sustained period of time. Not and stay mentally healthy anyway.

That's why I started this blog. I love movies, books, cats, coffee, baseball, fishing, tennis, collecting quotes, hanging out with friends, and a whole host of other things too much to allow politics to consume all of my spare time. So, on this blog, you'll see posts about anything and everything that I am passionate about (including politics). And if I write well enough to hold your interest, and spark a little conversation, then I'll be ecstatic.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Men Unnecessary?

I have a hard time believing that anybody except radical feminists actually believe that boys don't really need fathers, but yet Rodale Books recently published a book called Raising Boys Without Men: How Maverick Moms Are Creating the Next Generation of Exceptional Men by Peggy F. Drexler, PH.D, with Linden Gross.

According to the publisher's website, Drexler's research for the book led her to conclude that: "Female-headed households may be even better parents for boys than households with men. Sons from these families are growing up emotionally stronger, more empathetic, and more well-rounded than boys from 'traditional' mother-father families. While more in touch with their feelings, these boys remain boyish and masculine in all the ways defined by our culture."

Glenn Sacks, formerly an elementary and high school teacher, and currently a columnist and talk show host, noted this about Drexler's research in one of his recent columns: "For one, the families she studied were those who volunteered to have their lives intimately examined over a multi-year period—a self-selected sample not representative of the average fatherless family. Also, Drexler's research suffers from confirmatory bias. Drexler is a passionate advocate for single and lesbian mothers. She personally conducted interviews of several dozen single and lesbian mothers and their sons in order to examine their family lives and—no surprise—found them to her liking."

Have we really reached the point in our culture where we are willing to say that boys don't need fathers? Not that boys can't exist or maybe even overcome not having a father—but that they don't need fathers?

Monday, September 12, 2005

OH, for Another Agassi

The U.S. Open is over and Roger Federer is the champion again. But it didn't happen without a fight from Andre Agassi, who I'm guessing played in his last Open. It's not often that a 35 year-old athlete gets to compete for championships and that's too bad. Agassi seemed to appreciate this run more than any other he's been on in the past.

He took time to pause and look into the crowd. He seemed surprised by the amount of people willing to give slices of their lives to watch him play. And that realization seemed to motivate him to such a high level that he pushed Federer, probably the best player ever, to four sets, and for a brief moment, looked like he might actually beat him.

Agassi's final words to the crowd during the closing ceremonies were words of thanks to the fans for supporting him the past 20 years. The young kid who began his career as a bit of a rebel is ending it in a quite impressive manner. The middle wasn't bad either.

His Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation turned 10 years old this year. And part of that Foundation includes the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy for at-risk youth in Las Vegas where approximately 300 students receive a top notch education. And sometimes they even get a visit from Agassi himself.

To paraphrase the late Harry Carry, "OH, for another Andre Agassi."

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Gaps

I love the changing of the seasons. Not weather related seasons—although I like those too. I mean seasons of life. From baseball to football. From one job to another. From one home project to another. From immaturity to maturity (hopefully in that order). And as much as I enjoy the changing seasons of life, I enjoy the gaps in between them even more. They are a perfect time to rest, think, and make corrections.

I never used to like change. Something about it intimidated me. I felt like I wasn't going to be able to adapt or fit in. While that thought still crosses my minds as seasons come and go, I find myself eagerly anticipating the gaps—much like a person headed for a cruise enjoys the anticipation of it more than the cruise itself. Just knowing that a time of reflection is drawing near brings me a certain sense of peace.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Desire Street Ministries

Desire Street Ministries is one of many that were ravaged during Katrina. Desire Street Ministries has been reaching out to the poorest of the poor in New Orleans since 1990. The staff has lived in the neighborhoods in which they minister and they've provide things like mentoring, education, economic development, health, housing, and recreation.

The Desire Street Ministries buildings are gone. The homes of the staff members are gone. Mo Leverett is the Executive Director at DSM. Here's a description (from the DSM website) of what his family has experienced:

"Many of you have expressed concern for my family. We are doing well, though we are having difficulty finding the time to process what has just occurred in our lives, our family and our ministry. My family has lost everything. My kids only have the clothes on their backs. And my wife lost precious irreplaceable items like pictures, journals, letters to our children and the earrings I’ve given her on anniversaries. We don’t currently have a family vehicle. We’re struggling as we’re trying to help others in their struggles, but the Lord is graciously sustaining us."

Danny Wuerffel, who walked away from his professional football career to become the Development Director at DSM, had this to say about his family's experience:

"The major break in the now infamous 17th Street Canal was near my home in the Lakeview area, and my wife and I saw a photo of our entire block flooded up to the roofs. As we evacuated New Orleans with only a handful of things (photos, insurance papers and a few clothes), we never imagined everything we owned could disappear so quickly. But we've been reminded of the differences between 'needs' and 'wants,' and unlike many others in New Orleans, my wife, son and I are thankful to still have each other. God has and is supplying all of our needs. We are indeed blessed! But now our focus is on helping those less fortunate."

I know that you've been inundated with requests for help, but I wanted to let you know about this particular ministry if you weren't already familiar with them. You can help them in several different ways.

--Mo Leverett has many musical CDs available and his music is absolutely beautiful. If you pick up one or two of his CDs, the proceeds will help the ministry. Here's a link to the webpage where you can listen to clips of his music and order CDs. One of the pastors at my church played a song called "For Love and New Orleans" from Leverett's 1998 CD called If You Know What I Mean. I don't think you can listen to that song without a tear forming in your eye.

--Here's a link that will provide an address if you want to sent money to help them rebuild and to continue meeting the needs of people in New Orleans.

--Here's a link that will provide you with an address to send gift cards from Walmart, Target, Footlocker, Academy Sports, and J.C. Penneys that will go to help supply their families with the necessities.

Mozilla Thunderbird

For the past several years, I've tried various e-mail programs, looking for one to replace Outlook Express. Outlook Express is so limited. It has no spam controls. It doesn't have the capability to color code e-mails. And it's always targeted for attack. After my version of Outlook Express became unstable a few weeks ago, I decided it was time to look for another e-mail program again.

I downloaded Mozilla Thunderbird and so far I'm impressed. It has built in spam controls. I can color code the e-mail I receive (I've chosen red for the e-mail that needs quick responses). It seems stable so far. And during the install, the program imported my e-mail and my address book from Outlook Express. I was up and running in a couple of minutes. It took me a while to tweak all of the preferences (signatures, fonts, message filters, etc.), but now I have everything the way I like it and I'm thinking that I have finally found a program to replace Outlook Express.

If you're looking for a new e-mail program, give Thunderbird a shot.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

E-books: Yea or Nay

I never have liked the idea of e-books. Something about not being able to sit in my recliner with my feet up while reading one loses its appeal. And e-books don't have that smell—you know the one. And how exactly does one keep his or her place when reading an e-book?

With all of those factors in mind, I ran across this article from Gary North. He says that people like me have Picard's Syndrome. I had no idea what that was until I read the article since I'm not a Star Trek fan.

According to North, only two people in the second generation of Star Trek read books. One is Commander Data, who reads books online at "lightening speed." The other is Captain Picard who sits in his lounge chair and reads old fashioned books.

North is trying to get people to accept e-books and his arguments are sound:

"Think of an e-book’s advantages. It can be printed out for a penny a page. You can underline the printout, make notes in the margins, or file chapters in filing cabinets. You can use a three-hole punch to create a permanent book on your shelf—tall, but functional. You can search the e-text for key words electronically. You can use your cursor and CTRL-C to extract sentences or paragraphs that can then be inserted into reports or term papers, word for word, without the necessity of proofreading the citation. You can use a free-form database to store pages or extracts. You can add keywords to this database for easy future searching. You can’t do any of this with a printed book."

North has certainly made me think. Not long ago, I printed off a book that a friend of mine wrote (and hasn't yet had published) and three-hole punched it so I could put it into a binder. It wasn't ideal, but it worked. I was even able to read it in my recliner. And North is right; I certainly had room to write. Maybe I need to make a run to Office Depot and pick up a few three ring binders, huh?

Agassi vs. Blake

If the U.S. Open quarterfinal tennis match last night had been a fictionalized account in a movie or a book, the writer would have insisted that one of the characters didn't belong on the court because Andre Agassi and James Blake are both "good guys." They are respectful of opponents and fans. And they are respectful of the game that they love to play.

James Blake probably shouldn't have been there. In 2004, he broke his neck while playing tennis, his father died, and for a while James was temporarily paralyzed in his face. His ranking plummeted and playing a night match on the world's biggest tennis stage probably seemed as unlikely as returning to a "normal" life. But he did. Both. He received a wildcard to enter the U.S. Open and made it all the way to the quarterfinals against Agassi.

Andre Agassi probably shouldn't have been there either. He's 35, ranked 7th in the world, and has been battling a back problem for quite some time. His legs are tired. And his ability to jump on opponents early in matches isn't quite so fast any more. But none of those things factor in Agassi's love for the game and more impressively, his understanding that performing at a high level for fans who are spending time and money to watch him play a game is more important than all of the things that are not in his favor.

The stage was set. Two "good guy" Americans. Two Cinderella stories. But only one guy could win in the quarterfinals and advance. I couldn't figure out who to root for, so I just watched and marveled at two great athletes. Blake was red hot to start the match and an hour into the match he was up two sets to none. Agassi looked spent. He wasn't moving well. He was frustrated with his body. And I'm guessing that he was frustrated that he wasn't putting up a better fight for the fans.

Then something happened. Agassi found a way to win the third set and everybody was stunned—not that Agassi kept fighting, but that he had anything left in his tank to actually win the set. The crowd started to get behind Agassi thinking that they'd love to see a come from behind victory from the two-time aging champion that inspires people to reach beyond themselves.

Agassi won the fourth set and unbelievably, they were tied at two sets apiece. And on a Wednesday night in New York, 20,000 people went crazy as Wednesday night became Thursday morning. The fifth set started around midnight and seemed destined for a tie-breaker. Indeed that's what happened. And of course, the tie-breaker was a battle too. Blake had the first match point at 6-5, but Agassi rallied and won the tie-breaker 8-6.

The two players embraced at the net and the crowd applauded in appreciation for two athletes who gave it everything they had. James Blake said these words to Agassi at the net: "It couldn't have been more fun to lose."

Here's what Agassi said after the match: "I don't know if I can put in context how this compares with some of my greatest experience on the tennis court, but I know it's right up there because this is what you work so hard for, you know. To be honest, with the way a mentality like mine sort of works, is this means as much to me as doing it in the finals. This is what it's about. It's about just authentic competition, just getting out there and having respect for each other's game and respect for each other's person and letting it fly and letting it be just about tennis."

He went on to say this: "At 1:15 in the morning for 20,000 people to still be here, I wasn't the winner, tennis was. I don't know if I've ever felt this good here before."

As tennis fans, we don't know if we have either Andre.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Midweek Quotes

I love to collect quotes. I record my favorites in a handwritten journal. Once a week or so, I'll post a few here.

"No trumpets sound when the important decisions of our life are made. Destiny is made known silently." –Agnes DeMille

"What we become depends on what we read after all of the professors have finished with us. The greatest university of all is a collection of books." –Thomas Carlyle

"Every miracle starts with a problem." --Unknown

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Little Relief Organization Making Big Difference

I love to see stories about private relief agencies stepping up during times of crisis. Most Christian denominations have some sort of disaster relief agencies and my particular denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, is no exception. We have an organization called the Mission to North America Disaster Response and they are on the ground right now helping people. Check out this blog to see them in action: simul justus et peccator.

Katrina Blogs

One of the neatest things about the advent of blogs is to be able to have direct access to other people all around the world without any filters. I've been reading several blogs this past week that are written by people who endured Hurricane Katrina. The stories are breathtaking.

Check out these blogs:

Katrinacus Rex
Standing by Grace
Keeping the Home
Kay's Hurricane Katrina Blog
The Interdictor

The Taking Away

I'm currently using a book called "The Valley of Vision" during my prayer time each day. It's a collection of Puritan prayers that quickly make the reader realize how shallow his or her prayer life has been.

One section from a prayer I read today says: "The greatest injury is in the having, the greatest good is in the taking away. In love divest me of blessings that I may glorify thee the more."

My prayers don't typically include requests for God to remove blessings from my life so that I can glorify him more, but this particular prayer rings so true that I need to rethink my prayer life. Abundance often causes complacency. Lack often causes dependency upon God. Recognizing that truth is one thing. Praying for it is another.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Praying for Authorities

This morning, I heard reports that quite a few 911 operators in New Orleans quit their jobs in recent days because of all the stress. Can you imagine receiving one call after another and not being able to give any concrete information or affirmation that help was indeed on the way?

Then I saw this in an article on CNN.com just a few minute ago: "Several dozen of the city's 1,600 police officers have failed to report for duty, and some have turned in their badges." Included in that article is the sad news that two New Orleans police officers committed suicide.

"What's affected most of our officers is they don't know where their wives or kids are," New Orleans Deputy Police Chief W.J. Riley is quoted as saying in the article. "They don't have homes. They don't have anything."

Can you imagine reporting for your job and having to help people all day while at the same time you don't even know if your wife or kids are alive? It's almost beyond comprehension to me.

While we are praying for New Orleans and the entire Gulf Port area, let's include the 911 operators, the police, and every other person who is trying to serve others while going through a high level of stress in their own personal lives.

God Answers to No Man

I don't think we can ever know for sure whether situations like Hurricane Katrina are judgments from God or not. But a few things are certain: God controls the weather, just as he controls everything else. His ways are higher than ours. He does judge both men and nations.

While others debate about whether Hurricane Katrina was a judgment or not, I'd like to point you to a slightly different perspective: Was Hurricane Katrina 'Intelligent Design?'

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Another Way to Help

If you are a Christian, I'm guessing that you have six or eight or ten Bibles in your home—many of which you probably haven't used in a long time. How about sending them to this couple who will distribute them to the victims of Hurricane Katrina who probably don't have one copy of the scriptures left? I'm planning to round up several of my Bibles and send them asap.


Watching Andre Agassi play in what might be his last U.S. Open is a little sad to me. Nowhere near the sadness that so many are feeling in the New Orleans area right now, and it hardly feels acceptable to be talking about sports right now, but as I mentioned in a previous post, we all have different aversions in life…those things or activities that give us the calming sense of normality…for me it's sports.

I've been watching Agassi play tennis since the year after I graduated from high school. I've followed his career as he dealt with the various problems we all deal with—relational, personal, motivational, and others. I've seen him rise above it all and play well. I've seen him have little interest in the game and I've seen him take long breaks. Now he's married with children and he seems to enjoy and appreciate the game more than ever.

I'll probably never meet him (although I am a sports writer, so you never know), but oddly he's been part of my life for a long time. And it was hard to really appreciate him until he was on the verge of retiring. It's odd don't you think? We seldom appreciate what we have until we realize we are about to lose it.

A Thin Line?

Does this make you wonder if our troops aren't spread too thin?

Friday, September 02, 2005

Even More Bad News

Thankfully the National Guard showed up today, but now we have this story about one of the busses turning over that was carrying the refugees to safer ground.


After we've written a check or helped in some other fashion, we all need to find a way to cope with disasters such as Hurricane Katrina. We find solace in work, in novels, in sports, or anything else that seems to bring a sense of normality—if even for just a few hours.

This morning, everything is relatively normal in the city in which I live. At least until I took my car in for an oil change and noted that gas is now a dollar higher than it was just a couple of days ago. But all over the city, people are working, getting their cars maintained, and doing the things that we do on any other normal day.

Of course, it's anything but normal. American citizens are living on bridges in New Orleans. Many family members cannot find relatives. Food is scarce in the Superdome, which doesn't seem all that aptly named right now. And the President is on his way this morning to see what he can do.

It's ironic though. Most days we long for anything but normality. Today we long for it in the biggest way, but it seems so elusive, doesn't it?      

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Where's the Love?

Ivo Karlovic played an unbelievable match at the U.S. Open this afternoon and he lost 7-6, 7-6, 7-6 to Andre Agassi—who is still playing at a ridiculously high level. Karlovic is 6' 10" and he just crushes the ball on his serves. The rest of his game is a little lacking, but he's fun to watch.

If he had won today, we could have had an awkward situation. Players who win the premiere matches are interviewed on television and everybody in the stands can hear it as well. Problem is, Karlovic has a stuttering problem and he doesn't do interviews. He doesn't even openly question line calls even when he probably should. He's highly sensitive about his speech problem and you've really got to feel for the guy.

I can relate. I've had a weight problem most of my life and I know what it feels like to be made fun of, or worse, to be snickered at. I suspect we all have a hang up of some sort. Some hang ups are just more noticeable than others.

I know it's never going to happen, but wouldn't it be nice if people like Karlovic could just live his life and be accepted for who he is?

U.S. Open Memories

I've been vegging out in front of the television this week watching the U.S. Open tennis tournament. It's an annual ritual that started around 1990. I've always love tennis. I started playing at the age of 12 with my best friend. I tried out for my high school team and made it. Well actually, everybody made the team. My high school wasn't exactly a tennis powerhouse. Sometimes we had a hard time finding enough people to even field a team.

But I fell in love with the game. I loved the strategy and it became "my" sport—the one that I enjoyed the most and performed the best in. I was never great, but good enough to compete. After graduating from high school, I tried out for my college team. Like high school, they didn't really cut anybody, but they had a ranking system. The top eight guys played in matches. I never got higher than 10, but I had a blast in the process—even winning one tournament on campus.

After college, I played briefly (one summer) in tournaments around the Midwest. Then, other things took a higher priority—things like work, women, and partying. I wish I had stuck with the game, but I've never really abandoned it. I kept playing recreationally, but after sitting down to watch U.S. Open one year, I began to appreciate the sacrifices and discipline of professional players.

In 1990, at the age of 39, Jimmy Connors made a run at the U.S. Open. He was a wildcard into the tournament—which means he didn't even have enough cumulative points that season to gain an automatic bid—even though he'd won 109 tournaments (more than anybody else in history) in his career. But that year was magical. He dug deep and found a way to beat the younger guys. With each win, the crowds got more and more excited. He chased down shots he had no business getting to and he pumped his fists after hitting unbelievable passing shots. And it was so much fun to watch. He made it all the way to the semifinals before finally losing.

A year later, John McEnroe made a run at the U.S. Open, defying time, like Connors did and he made it to the quarterfinals before losing.

During the 1996 U.S. Open, a young Pete Sampras got into a battle with Alex Corretja during a quarterfinal match. Sampras was dehydrated and out of gas as they went into the fifth set tie-breaker. Sampras ended up puking, but somehow, overcame his exhaustion to win the match and eventually win the tournament.

Many other great memories run through my mind as well. A wild-eyed, aging, Todd Martin making a run at the title late in his career. Peter Korda doing celebratory scissor kicks after making a mini run one year. Michael Chang running down every shot that came his way year after year. Andre Agassi winning the tournament in 1994 as a young, long-haired rebel who would later become the model of hard work, a good spokesman for the game, and a great humanitarian. And so many more.

So, I'm watching the U.S. Open again this year. Hoping to add another memory or two and trying to get motivated to get back out on the court again myself.


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