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.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


Tomorrow is Little Nuances' third blogoversary. That hardly seems possible. This is the 694th post to the blog and you'd think that a person would run out of things to say after so many posts, but I haven't so far. Thanks for sticking with me. Looking forward to another year together.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Let Them Play

I live in the same house I grew up in and I've been noticing something the past couple of months that reminds me of my childhood days in this neighborhood--lots of families with children have moved in and the kids are playing everywhere.

Just last night, I saw three little girls and a little boy riding their bikes and/or rollerblading along the sidewalk in front of my house. Once in a while the kids in the neighborhood even congregate in my driveway and I don't have any problems with that.

I can remember adults from my neighborhood yelling at me as a boy for fetching a ball from their yard or for walking on their grass. I vowed back then to never become one of those people. I say, let the kids play. So what if they walk on my grass? Isn't that what grass is for?

I love the fact that my neighborhood apparently has a safe enough feel to it that parents are willing to let their little ones stray down the street a house or two. Unfortunately, my area of the city isn't as safe as it once was, but enough of the neighbors on my street know each other well enough to alert one another about anything that looks odd. And I'm thrilled about that.

Seeing kids playing on the same street and in the same yards that I played on and in is so cool.

Neighborhood kids used to gather in front of my house to play baseball in the street (it's a side street). I don't know how it happened, but at some point, a bit of tar or rubber embedded itself into the street and we used it as home plate. We used the tree on the side of my yard as first base. We used a Frisbee, a shirt, or an unused baseball glove for second base. And we used another tree on the other side of the street for third base. We also converted the street to a touch football field sometimes. I can't tell you how many nights we spent playing baseball or football out there, but we had a blast.

Most of those kids grew up and moved away and my neighborhood hasn't had many children in it for more than twenty years. But things are changing now. And I couldn't be happier about it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Waiting in the ATM Line

I was running a few minutes behind schedule yesterday afternoon when I pulled into the ATM line at my bank. A man in a van pulled in just ahead of me, so I was second in line. I thought he might be filling out a deposit slip while sitting at the machine (which is a pet peeve of mine) because it took him so long to insert his debit card, but looking back, I have no idea what took him several minutes to get the process started. But it gets worse.

After two to three minutes of sitting there, he finally inserted his card and punched in a PIN number. Then he touched a few buttons on the screen and I thought it would all be over soon. A guy in a truck pulled in behind me. The guy at the machine hit more buttons on the key pad. It looked like he hit enough numbers to dial China. A few more punches of the buttons on the screen...and then he went back to the key pad. Finally, he appeared to give up, removed his card, and then he put it back in again and he repeated the process twice more. He probably sat there for ten minutes while the line behind him grew longer and longer.

I'm probably about average when it comes to patience in a situation like this, but even the average person would begin to get upset if he had been in my shoes. The guy probably had never used an ATM before or he was low on funds and was trying to figure out how much he had in his account, but common courtesy would prompt most people to see the line forming behind him and maybe pull around to the back of the line so everyone else could get their banking done.

After he finally drove off, I wondered if I should have offered to help him rather than get frustrated. It's probably not smart to approach someone at an ATM machine though. Maybe I should have had more compassion, but where do you draw the line between compassion and his lack of respect for everyone else's time?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Blake Wins in Five Sets

For those of you who aren't tennis fans, I hope you can tolerate my enthusiasm about the US Open over the next couple of weeks. Last year during the tournament, I tried to find other topics to post about, but my head was always in the tournament so I'm thinking--why fight it?

Night One of the US Open was everything a tennis fan could hope for--a five set match that goes past midnight that involves two hard playing Americans; one who is in the prime of his career and one who is just 19. James Blake outlasted youngster Donald Young in a match that didn't start out all that well. The first three sets were played at a high level, but the fourth and fifths sets more than made up for it.

Blake had a two sets to one lead going into the fourth, but Young raised the level of his game and hit some marvelous shots to take the set and push the match to the fifth set. That's when both players seemed to be at their best. Fans were allowed to moved down closer to the action and that always makes for an electrifying environment during late night matches. Blake finally broke Young's serve in the ninth game of the set and he served out the match.

I'm hoping that this was just the first of several five set matches that will be played under the lights. As I said in my post yesterday, the USA network always stays with these matches even though they often go way beyond their scheduled time, and the environment that it creates is second to none in my opinion.

Monday, August 25, 2008

2008 US Open

The 2008 US Open tennis tournament starts today and I'm stoked. I try to plan my work schedule around this event every year and I've done a decent job of doing it this year.

Unfortunately this is the last time the event will be televised on the USA network. ESPN won the rights to the event starting next year. The USA network began carrying the US Open back in 1984 – the year I graduated from high school. I don't remember what year I started watching it, but I remember the 1990 Open, so it had to be late 80s.

I love the USA network coverage for so many reasons. First, the US Open is the main event on the network each night, so if it is 11:00 PM in New York and a great match is still going on, USA stays with the coverage. I'm guessing that ESPN won't be so quick to stay with the matches, given the way they have handled the first three majors this year.

During the French Open, ESPN cut away for the evening during a third set in match in the late rounds. That didn't make me happy. Besides, I love the commentators on USA. Not so much on ESPN. Sounds like John McEnroe will make the transition to ESPN next year, so at least that's something.

At least USA network has it for one more year. I'll enjoy it while I can.

One match I'll be paying attention to is Fabrice Santoro vs. Andy Roddick in the first round. Fabrice is one of my favorite players (for reasons I wrote about here) and last I heard, he plans to retire at the end of the 2008 season. I'll really miss watching him play.

One of the first things I looked at when I printed the men's draw this year was whether James Blake had a chance to play Fernando Gonzalez. They just played each other at the Olympics and Blake was quite unhappy with Gonzalez. (You can read more about it here if you are interested.) Unfortunately, they are in opposite halves of the draw so the only way they could play each other would be in the finals--unlikely, but what a final it would be.

This is the first time since his rise to the top that Roger Federer will not be seeded number one. Rafael Nadal took that away from him earlier this year and the tennis world seems to be holding their breath in hopes of a final similar to what we saw at Wimbledon between these two players. I'm not convinced that either one of them will make it to the final. Roger isn't playing his best tennis and Rafa has never looked good on the hard courts.

Personally, I'm rooting for James Blake, Andy Roddick, and Mardy Fish, but I have a feeling that Novak Djokovic is going to break through and win it all.

On the women's side, I'm pulling for Ana Ivanovic and I think she's going to win it. She'll have to contend with one or both Williams' sisters to get through to the finals, but I think she's capable. I wouldn't be surprised to see her play Jelena Jankovic in the finals and Ana just has too much game for Jankovic to overcome (Ivanovic is 7-1 in her career against Jankovic).

If I'm a little slow answering email or in writing posts over the next two weeks, you'll know why.

So, who are you rooting for? What are your predictions?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Joseph Hall: Elvis Impersonator

If you are receiving this post via Feedblitz, you may want to click the link to read this post at the blog so you can see the video clips I've included.

Speaking of Elvis, there's an Elvis impersonator who lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, which is just about 60 miles from here I live. He's 23 years old and his name is Joe Hall. You may have seen him on the television show America's Got Talent. He really is an incredible talent. Here's a clip from the NBC website showing him impersonating a young version of Elvis:

My local newspaper did a story about him a couple of days ago. He has aspirations of either becoming an actor or a singer who performs his own music. He's surprisingly, but wisely, concerned about losing his identity while impersonating someone else though. During a recent concert, someone in the crowd asked him about Sharon Osbourne (one of the judges on America's Got Talent) and Hall said this:
"There are so many secrets about Hollywood," he replied. "I signed my life away."

The audience -- unaware of the potential irony of his joke -- roared. Hall knows a contract means TV time and perhaps even fame, but he could lose himself in an unreal world.

He's willing to risk it -- he can count on his family to keep him grounded. He has big dreams that don't include Elvis -- acting or recording non-Presley tunes.
I can't imagine having the presence of mind that Hall does at the age of 23. It's impressive to see him counting on his family to keep him grounded. But I wonder if he hasn't tapped into a universal problem--one that exists beyond the stage. Whenever we pretend to be someone we are not, we risk losing ourselves.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

It's Not About the Coffee

While perusing the bookshelves of Barnes and Noble one recent Friday night, I came across a book that caught my attention called It's Not About the Coffee: Leadership Principles from a Life at Starbucks by Howard Behar, the former president at Starbucks. It's a short book that covers the ten basic principles that can be found in The Green Apron Book that employees at Starbucks receive and presumably read.

This book needed another copy-edit or at least another proofread before it was published. But if you can get past the odd phrasing in some places, the missing words in other places, and a lack of specific examples in yet other places, it's a book worth reading.

I liked what Behar said in the first chapter, based on the principle that we should "wear one hat" in business--meaning, we ought to know who we are, what motivates and inspires us--and choose a profession accordingly. In that chapter, he said this:
To know who you are may sound like a solo enterprise, but it's not. Every book you read, person you meet, and experience you have is an opportunity to learn about yourself and what you're made of. We all need the wisdom of others. There's nothing like your own spouse or roommate or child to keep you honest about who you are.
He's right. The idea that we need to fly solo in order to find ourselves ignors the fact that we are easily self-deceived. We convince ourselves of all sorts of crazy things; that we aren't really addicted, that we aren't really that far in debt, or any number of other lies. Whenever I spend time reading or with friends I can feel a certain synergy that I don't feel when I'm disconnected from others.

Of course, all input isn't created equal, but I know who I trust and I bet you do too. Recently, I've been trying take it a step further when I'm interacting with someone who doesn't know me all that well, or, who I don't trust; I'm mindful of the fact that he or she might just see something in me (good or bad) that nobody else does--so I'm trying to stay open.

At the end of the section I quoted above, Behar says this:
Learning--from experts, workshops, trainings, practical experiments, therapy, coaches, observing, and silence--is all good. It's how we test and hone our values, our potential, and our goals in the real world of life.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tripping Over Epiphanies

"Nature poets can't walk across the backyard without tripping over an epiphany." --Christian Wiman.

I'm doing some research for a writing project I'm working on and I stumbled across the quote above. I just about died laughing--mostly at myself. I'm not a nature poet, but I do tend to trip over epiphanies in the most ordinary of places. But that's part of the beauty of life in my opinion. If you dig deep enough, you can always find something you didn't see at first glance.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My Trip to the Laundromat

Not long ago, I did something I've been dreading for a long time. I gathered up all of my comforters, piled them into my car, and headed for the nearest laundromat. Unfortunately, as I pulled up to the one by my house, I saw that it was closed (for good). So I drove several miles out of my way to another laundromat that I knew would still be in business. I grabbed about eight dollars in quarters from the change tray in my car and went inside.

It was near 100 degrees outside, so I wasn't happy to learn that the place didn't have air conditioning. Then I realized I had more issues than just the temperature to deal with. This particular laundromat probably had five or six different types of washing machines to choose from. I didn't have a clue which one to use and the two women who were in the place didn't look all that friendly, so I began reading instructions that were taped to the individual machines. I determined that if a comforter would fit inside, then it was probably big enough. I found one that took the first comforter and it didn't have a price tag on it. So, I began feeding it quarters. It took $4.50 for one load. I couldn't believe it. I reached into my pocket and stuck a $10.00 bill in the change machine because my $8.00 in quarters just wasn't going to cut it.

My next hurdle was figuring out where to put the detergent. All of the instructions dealt with detergent made of powder, not liquid, and of course, I had liquid. I finally figured out where to put the detergent and I got four machines going at the same time. By now, sweat was dripping down my face and arms and I needed to get outside just to "cool" off. I went outside and sat down to read a book I brought with me. As soon as I opened it, a woman pulled up in the parking lot and stood outside of the convenience store next to the laundromat speaking quite loudly into her cell phone--dropping F bombs and acting all hostile toward the person on the other end of the phone. Sometimes I forget that singleness isn't necessarily a bad thing.

She eventually stopped yelling and went inside and I was able to return to my book. After 40 minutes or so, I went back inside and had to learn how to use some of the various different dryers--another long and expensive process. But I figured it out and resumed reading my book outside after I got the dryers going. All in all, it took my about two hours before I was back in my car (with the AC running at full power) and heading for home.

A friend visited me the next day, and I really didn't want him to have to sit in the cat hair on my futon, so I begrudgingly covered it with one of my freshly washed comforters. After my friend left, my beloved cat, Midnight, took up residence on the comforter and that was the end of it until I get back to the laundromat, which I'm thinking won't be any time soon. But the other three comforters are safely tucked away. Well, that's not exactly true. One went on my bed, on which, Midnight sleeps with me at night. So, I guess I'm down to two clean comforters.

It seems like it would be easier to just thrown them away when they get dirty and buy new ones. I know, that's the single guy in me talking. But I'm just saying.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Remembering Elvis

The thirty-first anniversary of Elvis Presley's death came and went over the weekend. There wasn't as much of a buzz about it this year as there was last year, but I still heard a few of his songs and caught a few of his videos. And it brought back a lot of memories for me.

I was a huge Elvis fan when I was young. I probably got interested in him because my mom adored him. But I became a genuine fan all on my own. I had a blue tee-shirt that I used to wear that had a picture of him during his concert in Hawaii. And I once drew a picture of him that turned out pretty well. I have no idea where that picture is now, but my grandma hung it on her bedroom wall and it was there for many, many years.

I was too young to understand the problems in Elvis' life. I was just eleven when he died. But his problems wouldn't have deterred me from liking his music anyway. In fact, I think his problems were what drew me to his music--especially after he died. I always had the feeling that the words he was singing were some sort of cry for help, or least a way of telling others about the pain he was feeling.

Growing up, I purchased many of his LPs with my allowance and I'd sit in my bedroom and listened to them over and over again.

One such LP was called Elvis as Recorded at Madison Square Garden Live. It was originally released in 1972. I always got goosebumps when the album started with the "Theme from 2001: Space Odyssey" because it meant that Elvis was about to take the stage. He ripped right into "That's All Right" and a couple of songs later did a cover of "Never Been to Spain." I still catch myself humming this song once in a while. Another song I really love on this album is "Suspicious Minds." And toward the end of the album, I loved listening to "Can't Help Falling in Love."

Another of his albums that I purchased and listened to over and over was called Elvis in Concert. It was originally released a couple of months after he died in 1977. It too started with Space Odyssey, but then it transitioned to "See See Rider." I love his version of "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" on this LP. One of the more obscure songs on the album that I was drawn to was called "Hurt."

I also listened to an album called Elvis: A Legendary Performer, Volume 1. It was a short album, containing a number of his big hits, including "Heartbreak Hotel," "Don't be Cruel," "Love Me Tender," and "Can't Help Falling in Love."In general, I'm usually not drawn to hit songs by performers I like. I usually find other songs from them that I am drawn to for various reasons, but with Elvis, I found myself drawn to nearly all of his songs--including the biggies on this LP.

Maybe I was just fooled by the quality of his voice and his ability to sell himself, but I don't think so. His music has endured and even now his music doesn't sound dated. It still has a certain quality to it that makes you stop and listen.

Somewhere in my basement, these three albums lie covered in dust. I've never upgraded them by purchasing the CD or the MP3, but I'll do so at some point. I'd love to have these albums in MP3 format so I could play then on the next long drive I take.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Happy Birthday, Technology Style

Yesterday was my 42nd birthday. And it was the most diverse birthday I've ever had, technologically speaking.

Two people sent me a text message wishing me a happy birthday; four called me; five sent me an email (one remembered because we are buddies over at Amazon.com and it displays the date of birth); three sent me traditional birthday cards; and one sent me a message through Facebook. That prompted someone else I know to write birthday well-wishes on my Facebook wall.

That's the world we live in. Some use old school methods of communication and some use new. I pretend to live somewhere in between. But everybody pretty much knows that I'm not cool enough to pull off anything modern--especially social networking.

I have a Twitter account, but I haven't quite figured out the point. I know just enough about online social networking to use it, but not nearly enough to use it efficiently. I'm still trying to figure out what it means to get "poked" on Facebook. [I'm guessing that it means someone is sticking his or her cyber finger into my side to say "hi," but I'm not exactly sure--so it's probably better not to "poke back."]

All kidding aside, I really do appreciate all of the many methods people used to let me know they were thinking about me on my birthday. It's nice to be remembered.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I'm Back

Three and a half months ago, I went on hiatus from Little Nuances. Honestly, I thought I was saying good-bye. Life was so busy then. But I realized something I probably already knew. This blog is an extension of who I am. It chronicles the way I relate to the world. And I really missed that.

While I was away, someone left a comment that said, "As a writer myself, I know that you will be back. We always come back to what we love." Indeed, we are drawn to the things we love and I love writing this blog. I received an email last week from a friend who said, "I feel like I haven’t seen you in a long time. I wouldn’t feel that way except I MISS YOUR BLOG!" Thank you for saying so. But the truth is, I miss interacting with you here at Little Nuances at least as much.

So here am I. Back from a one hundred day hiatus. I've always made it a habit to post five days a week (at least as often as I could). I have doubts that I'll be able to do that now. Some days just won't allow for it. But some days may allow for multiple posts. Sometimes I'll post in the morning and sometimes I'll post at night. Either way I look forward to being a small part of your life again on a regular basis.


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