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.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Best Selling Books of the Last 15 Years

USA Today released their Best Selling Books of the Last 15 Years List recently. It's fun to go through the list to see which ones you've read. It might also bum you out to realize that you haven't read all that many of them. That's what happened to me. Here are the books I've read that appear on the list:

27. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

38. Night by Elie Wiesel

53. The Testament by John Grisham

72. Skipping Christmas by John Grisham

79. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

88. The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson

119. The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans

139. 1984 by George Orwell

140. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

148. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

So I've read just 10 of the 150 best selling books in the past 15 years. Some of the books I would never read. Some of them I have bought but haven't read yet. And many of them I would like to read someday.

I don't feel the need to read more of the books on this list simply because they are bestsellers. Instead, I'd like to read more of them to have conversations with other people about them. I love talking about books with people. A conversation about a book that both people have read creates an instant connection.

And knowing that someone else has both read and benefited from the same book as I have makes it seem as if that person has hung out with me for a while in the deeper places of life. And I love that.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Red Dresses, Part Two

So there's a report out today from the University of Rochester saying that wearing the color red makes women more attractive to men, which gives even more credence to what the late, great Buck O'Neil used to say about women in red dresses.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Making Your Own Opportunities

I filled up my gas tank in Topeka, Kansas this morning before I headed home. As I went in to pay for my gas and to grab a cup of coffee, I ended up in line at the coffee pot. Several men and one woman who all work together were milling around, trying to figure out why type of coffee to get. When one of them noticed me behind him, he politely moved aside so I could get what I wanted.

I ran into the same group of people at the cash register. Again, one of the guys apologized for holding me up and I told him that it wasn't a problem. One of the other guys, the one who turned out to be the boss, asked the clerk if he needed a job. He told the clerk he needed more workers. The clerk said he was fine, so the guy asked a woman who was standing off to the side if she needed a job. She asked what he did and he said landscaping and miscellaneous construction jobs. She told him that she actually is interested. He handed her a card and told her to call him.

He never did ask me if I needed a job or not. I'm not sure what to make of that.

But the situation was a reminder that opportunities often come from simply showing up. Sometimes we don't even need to show up in the "right place." We just need to be active.

Monday, October 27, 2008

This American Life

I slept in today, even though I knew I had a long road trip to make. I didn't get a lot of sleep at the conference, but that's okay. I expect that. So I slept until almost 9:00 this morning, which means I didn't get out of Amarillo until 10:00 AM. I got to Topeka around 8:00 PM and decided to spend another night in a hotel. That's where I am now. I'll have an easy three hour drive to Omaha tomorrow.

During my travels today I enjoyed a podcast I downloaded called This American Life--a series that runs on PBS radio in Chicago. It used Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People as a jumping off point for talking about the way we interact with each other. This is the first episode I've ever listened to and I really enjoyed it. The show used audio clips of speakers telling stories and it used a couple of dramatizations--all based upon the topic of social interaction. Good stuff.

Looking at the list of favorite shows of all time on their website, this could be an addictive program for me. One episode explores "what makes the perfect break-up song and whether really sad music can actually make you feel better." Another describes America as "a nation with fake Oval Offices, fake ethnic restaurants, fake colonial towns, and more."

I'm downloading more episodes of the show as I write this for my drive home tomorrow morning.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A New Mexico Excursion in Madrid

The writers conference in New Mexico I've been teaching at came to an end this afternoon. Ron Benson and I decided to take the scenic route to Albuquerque--where I eventually dropped him off to catch his plane.

We took Highway 14 (which is part of the Turquoise Trail) that runs from Santa Fe to Albuquerque with stops in Madrid (the place where the movie Wild Hogs was filmed) and Sandia Park along the way. Madrid, population 300, is a town unlike any I've ever visited. I did a little research and found it listed on Hippy.com. The main stretch of town is comprised mostly of art galleries. And according to this article, it's a town that attracts artists and free-thinkers.

My friend and I were hoping to eat at Maggie's Diner in Madrid since it was part of the Wild Hogs movie set, but we got a bit of surprise when we got there. The restaurant was closed. And best I can tell from this website, it was never really open for business as a restaurant. Here's a photo I snapped standing outside the place:

With Maggie's Diner out of the realm of possibilities for lunch, we tried The Mine Shaft Tavern. We got there too early though and it wasn't open yet. We decided to stray back onto Highway 14 and see what we could find further down the road. As we wound our way around mile after mile of stunning mountain scenery, we eventually stumbled upon Kokopelli's Restaurant and Kantina in Sandia Park. Snapped this photo inside:

Check out the view of this home from the parking lot of Kokopelli's:

We enjoyed a good New Mexican meal there and before we knew it, our little excursion was over. I dropped Ron off at the airport and hit the interstate for home. I stopped for the evening in Amarillo, Texas and I'll be on the road all day tomorrow as I make my way back to Nebraska.

Sitting in my hotel room tonight, I had a small revelation. I'm often dreaming about doing things on a big scale (see my recent post about Route 66). Unfortunately, the big scale isn't always possible, but that shouldn't stop me from doing things on a smaller scale like Ron and I did this afternoon.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Little Contradictions

Terry Whalin linked to an interesting article recently that was written by Andrew Sullivan for The Atlantic magazine called "Why I Blog." It's a fascinating piece that chronicles the early days of blogging and his journey with this medium that so many of us have come to love.

Early in the article, Sullivan makes a statement about something I've thought quite a bit about:

No columnist or reporter or novelist will have his minute shifts or constant small contradictions exposed as mercilessly as a blogger’s are. A columnist can ignore or duck a subject less noticeably than a blogger committing thoughts to pixels several times a day. A reporter can wait—must wait—until every source has confirmed. A novelist can spend months or years before committing words to the world. For bloggers, the deadline is always now. Blogging is therefore to writing what extreme sports are to athletics: more free-form, more accident-prone, less formal, more alive. It is, in many ways, writing out loud.

I love the fact that blogging exposes small contradictions. People can easily dig into the archives of any blog if its been around long enough and find inconsistencies in what the blogger writes. I don't really see them as contradictions or inconsistencies though. Instead I see them as visual evidence of growth or sometimes just lateral change.

The normal decision making process is all about contradictions. As we are challenged in our thinking about any given issue, be it personal or otherwise, we begin to have an internal conversation with ourselves wondering if the other side might be right; wondering if our starting point was invalid; wondering if we should dig a little deeper. Eventually we come to a decision. Maybe we change our mind, maybe we change our view ever so slightly, but whatever the case, a shift occurs, and sometimes it isn't even noticeable on the outside for others to see.

Blogging on the other hand captures all of the little wonderings and self doubts and everybody can see them. It records subtle shifts and then stores them in our archives. When I first started blogging, I was tempted to delete old posts for that reason, but I realized that having such things on record is good. It helps me to see how my thought process works and it reminds me that many of the things I'm adamant about today might become next years mea culpa.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Long Distance Co-Workers

I made the beautiful drive yesterday from Denver to a small town in New Mexico just outside of Santa Fe. The leaves on the trees are turning all sorts of colors and the mountains stand majestically in the background--sometimes two and three layers deep. At one point, I pulled out my camera at a rest stop and took a number of photos. If they turn out to be decent, I'll post a couple of them here in the next few days.

I arrived at the conference center I'll be teaching at this week and met an old friend--a pastor from Michigan whom I originally met at this very conference five or six years ago. We drove down into Santa Fe and enjoyed a nice meal and attempted to get caught up in each other's lives. I loved hearing about his kids and how they were doing. His daughter just finished running a marathon. How impressive is that? Our conversation meandered like a slow moving crooked stream from theology to politics to blogging to culture and back again.

It reminded me of the camaraderie I used to have with co-workers when I worked in an office. Granted, my friend and I only see each other once a year rather than five times a week, but that's the nature of the business we are in. And it's one of the many reasons I enjoy going to writers conferences. Every time I attend a different one, I see people I only see once a year in that particular city and we find the time to catch up. I love that.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

On the Road Again

I drove from Omaha to Denver today. Tomorrow I'll drive to Glorieta, New Mexico where I'll remain all week to teach at a writers conference there. I'm really looking forward to seeing old friends and to meeting new people.

Usually a couple of us will go down to Santa Fe for an authentic Mexican meal one night. I'm hoping we get a chance to do that again this time. I also packed my tennis racquet and am planning to play one morning with a friend.

Glorieta is a beautiful place to visit--especially this time of year when the trees are changing colors. My schedule will be hectic, but I'm going to make sure to stop and enjoy the beauty.

I took photos a couple of years ago and put them in this post. I'm hoping to take a few more photos this year. If I do, I'll post them here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Comedic Doctor Appointment

I had a doctor appointment this morning. I always bring a book when I go because I know I'm going to have to wait to get into his office, and then I'm going to have to wait for him to come into his office once I'm there. So, on my way out the door I grabbed the novel I was reading. A few minutes later, as I went to check in, I put the novel and the rest of my stuff up on the countertop while I reached for my insurance card.

One of the clerks looked at me and said, "I hope that's a novel, and I hope it's a comedy." She'd seen the spine of the book, and I have to admit that the title does seem a little suspect. It's called How to Kill a Rock Star by Tiffanie Debartolo. And yes it's a novel. I can't really say it's a comedy (unless you use the word in old literary terms), but I told the clerk it was so that she wouldn't call the police on me. I'm just kidding, but hey, you never know.

So, hoping that I've convinced the clerk that I'm not a crazy person who is reading a manifesto about how to kill a rock star, I took my seat in the waiting room and absentmindedly set my novel and other stuff down on the chair next to me while I checked my email on my Blackberry. A minute later, I notice a rather wide-eyed look on a woman's face who is sitting across from me. She was looking at the novel.

So, at this point, I'm fairly certain that the police are going to show up before I ever get out of the doctor's office. I'm already thinking about how funny it will be when I show them a novel rather than an instruction book, but at the same time, I'm hoping it doesn't actually happen.

It didn't. Thankfully.

But this did prove one thing to me...people definitely notice what other people are reading.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Friday Night Lights

I've been searching for a new television series to work my way through on DVD--one that I've never seen before. I love starting with season one and working my way through all of the seasons. I've even done this for shows that are no longer on television--which worked out pretty well because I never had to wait a week between current episodes once I got caught up.

I picked up season one of Friday Night Lights over the weekend and began watching it. I'm a sports fan, but I'm not normally a fan of sports movies. Many exceptions exist, but so often actors who portray athletes on the field look so awkward that it pulls me out of the story and I hate being pulled out of a story. So far, so good though on Friday Night Lights though. The acting on and off the field is totally convincing. My only problem so far has to do with the fact that the actors who are portraying high school students look more like they are 25 than 17.

I'm already rooting for Jason Street (played by Scott Porter), the quarterback, and Lyla Garrity (played by Minka Kelly), the cheerleader. Jason is severely injured on the football field in the first episode and Lyla keep the faith for both of them even after Jason gets the news that he will probably never walk again. Unfortunately, I've read a couple of reviews and I already know that she's about to have an affair with Jason's best friend. That sort of bums me out.

One thing that really is hard to get used to in this series is the camera work. I'm sure it's intentional (maybe to make it feel more realistic), but the camera never seems to be stationary. It sorts of bobs up and down as if an amateur was attempting to shoot the footage without anything other than a camcorder. The tops of the characters heads are cut off in some scenes. And sometimes the camera angle is really low--which gives the effect of looking up to see a person's chin.

It's too early for me to give the series a thumbs up or down, but so far I like what I see. Anybody else into this series? If so, please remember that I'm on season one. I don't want to know what is happening in season three right now.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Free Big Comb

So, in honor of the big combs post I did a while back, a friend of mine saw this CD at Target recently and he just had to snap a photo of it and send it to me...notice the "Special Offer" in the lower right hand side of the picture:

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Taking Route 66

I'll be taking my annual trip to the Albuquerque, New Mexico area in about 10 or 12 days and I'm looking forward to the drive. I made the drive last year and it wasn't bad at all. I got there in two days and I was able to stop and rest overnight in a motel along the way. But I've been dreaming about another trip lately and I don't know why.

I've been thinking that, in the perfect world--in which money nor time was an issue--I'd like to start at one of end Route 66 and drive all the way to the other end. Yeah, I know it was de-commissioned in 1984 and that only 85% of it is drivable now, but I'd still like to do it. I'd probably start in Chicago and make my way west toward California. Sadly, many parts of the Route are no longer actually marked, but from what I can tell, maps of the modern day version of the Route still exist.

I'd bring along several moleskine notebooks to journal in as I went and of course, I'd bring a digital camera. I'd stop whenever I wanted to. I'd keep a full accounting of my trip. And I wouldn't just write about the timeless places I'd visit. I'd write about the people I'd meet who could tell me the history of those places. And I'd do my best to forget about arriving at a certain place along the Route by a certain day or time.

According to this website, some of the old towns along the Route haven't changed since they were bypassed by interstates. According to the pictures you can see on the same website, many of the businesses look to be frozen in time. And according to this website, many of the businesses have been restored.

One of the motels along the way is called the "Blue Swallow Motel." It's located in Tucumcari, New Mexico. You can see a picture of it here and here. When was the last time you stayed in a non-chain hotel? It's been a long time for me. When my grandparents used to take my sister and I to Arkansas to visit relatives, we'd stop at places like this for the night and they were always an adventure.

One of the cafes on the Route, located in Litchfield, Illinois, is called Ariston Cafe. Here's a picture. It's been located on Route 66 since 1924 and it's still in business. How cool would it be to stop in for a home cooked meal and 80+ years of stories you could surely hear from the staff?

I don't have the time or money to make such a trip right now. But maybe someday.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Golf Memories

I powered up my digital picture frame this morning that sits on my desk and one of the first pictures I saw was this:

To anybody else but me, it's just a picture of a golf hole. But for me, it is so much more. It's hole number one at a golf course in the St. Louis area. I took the photo a couple of months ago when I was visiting family. I haven't golfed on this particular golf course in many years. But when my dad was still alive, we'd hit the course about once a year--or as often as I could make the trip to St. Louis. Since he died in 2000, I haven't played on the course. But I've always wanted a picture of the first hole to remind me of the great times we shared there.

One such instance happened in the 90s. My dad, my brother, and I all went out for a round one Saturday morning. My brother was little--probably eight or nine years old. He'd teed up his ball on hole number one and took a mighty swing. You are going to think I'm making this up, but I'm not. He struck the ball and it split in two pieces--both of which sped down the fairway. My dad and I nearly died laughing when my brother turned around to look at us in amazement. He must have felt like Hercules or something.

My brother retrieved both halves of the ball and said something along the lines of, "Cooooooooool, I'm gonna keep these forever."

During my recent trip I asked him if he still had both halves of the ball and he said he did. I didn't even think to photograph them, but you can bet that I'll do that sometime in the future.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


I was going through a junk drawer the other day looking for something when I ran across an old pocketknife. I haven't seen one in years, but it sure brought back a lot of memories.

Remember when nearly every boy carried a pocketknife? I got my first one when I was in the Cub Scouts. And I can remember a green one that my grandfather gave me shortly thereafter. It had an emblem on it from an organization he belonged to or supported. I wish I still had knife somewhere. Maybe I do, but I haven't seen it in years.

Whittling sticks was sort of the in thing back then. I had an uncle who used to fascinate me with his whittling talents. He lived in Arkansas and I only got to see him once every year or two, but most of my memories of him revolve around him sitting at his picnic table and whittling blocks of wood into various animals. He could do amazing things with a small knife.

I never had the desire or talent to follow in his footsteps, but I still spent some time whittling. I'd look around my grandparents' yard for sticks that were about as thick as my thumb and I'd sit on the picnic table in their back and whittle away. Eventually, I'd whittle the stick until it had a sharp point at one end and I'd throw the "spear" into the woods.

Probably not the safest of practices, but going through Cub Scouts for a couple of years gave me a healthy respect for using instruments like pocketknives correctly.

I was never into the pocketknives that had a corkscrew and a screwdriver and a bottle opener and 19 other features. I just wanted a good strong, sharp blade and maybe one short, sharp blade. I wanted it fit into my jeans pocket without feeling like I was carrying the kitchen sink.

Remember that pocketknife I told you I found recently? I don't really remember where this particular one came from, but I know it's part of the memories I've shared with you here in this post, and it makes me want to hang on to it.


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