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, December 31, 2009

What Did Life Look Like in the 00s?

In 20 years, if a young person asks you to give him or her a picture of what life looked like in America during the first decade of this century, what will you say?

I've been thinking about that question the past couple of days. All of us would answer that question differently. I probably won't have a definitive answer for five or ten years, because time brings perspective, but I'd make a list that looks like this if I had to answer the question today: 

911

Everyone who was alive when Islamic terrorists attacked our country will remember the morning of September 11, 2001. I wrote about my memories here. By the time Americans went to bed that evening, we knew life was going to be different in our country.

We woke up the next day to increased security, a temporary sense of unity, and a deep desire to strike back. American pride filled the streets, and workplace, and worship centers. Nobody cared about political party affiliation, race or religious beliefs. Instead, we saw each other as fellow humans in need. It was an awful time and it was a grand time.

Cell Phones

My dad's car blew an engine in 1997 on his way from St. Louis to Omaha to visit my family. He didn't have a cell phone. It was cold out and he sat in his freezing car in a farmer's field for several hours until the farmer came to his rescue and allowed Dad to use his phone. Dad called me and I drove two hours to pick him up. I made a decision that day to buy a cell phone. All the phone did was make phone calls because that's all cell phones did back then, but that was good enough.

By the middle of the 00s, cell phones took photos, sent text messages, recorded voice memos, played digital music, and had instant messenger features. By the late 00s, people who used social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter could update their status on their cell phone.

As is often the case with new technology, new dangers arose. Teens began sexting and drivers became distracted as they fidgeted with their phones. New laws resulted and we adapted.

Steam Explosion Rattles Rush-Hour Manhattan

[NEW YORK - JULY 18 [2007]: Eric Duberice (L) and Will Ozier talk on their cell phones in front of the New York Public Library after walking away from the steam pipe explosion that occurred during rush hour in midtown Manhattan July 18, 2007 in New York City. Steam and mud were forced from the ground near Grand Central Station on East 41st street from Third to Lexington Avenue forcing people to evacuate the area and also causing subway delays. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images) Content © 2009 Getty Images All rights reserved.]

As the decade came to a close, some people dropped their land lines and switched solely to cell phones. Life without a cell phone became nearly unimaginable and people in all age demographics used them, including children. In fact, in one community it was estimated that as many as 45% of homeless people had a cell phone.

The Internet

Somewhere around 1993, I decided I wanted a computer. I had writing aspirations and I knew it was time to transition from electric typewriter to computer so I called a relative who was into computers and asked him if he knew of any good deals. He pointed me to a friend of his who was selling a computer that ran on DOS for $250.00. I bought it and was thrilled with it.

I eventually upgraded to a windows based machine and got online via AOL in 1994. Throughout the 90s, if you were online, you were probably considered a geek. By the end of the 00s, the geek stigma was gone.

The concept of internet dating was popularized by the movie You've Got Mail. At first the practice of internet dating was shunned, but by the end of the decade, if this website is to be believed, 12 couples per day either get married or engaged through Match.com and 118 couples per day get married or engaged through eHarmony.com.

The internet revolutionized the way we connected with one another, read the news, did research, and published our ideas.

Newspapers that had been around for decades began to fold because they couldn't compete with news websites that offered news for free. The internet created a mindset in Americans that believed content should be free. It could be paid for with advertising or product sales but not subscription fees. As the decade came to a close, old school style of journalism was giving way to the new school, but finding funding was still a challenge.

The internet changed the way many people listened to and purchased music. As the decade started, compact disks were king. Along came music in digital format, called MP3, allowing music lovers to download their favorite music and carry their entire music collection on an MP3 player in their pocket.

YouTube was founded in 2005 and much like the internet opened up the world for writers, YouTube opened up the world for anybody with a digital camera or camcorder. Companies jumped in and began featuring their products. Creative types began filming new mini-series. YouTube eventually led to Hulu, a website that broadcasts entire television shows and movies for free (if you'll watch a few advertisements).

During the 00s, the internet brought us entertainment on demand.

E-mail

Before e-mail came along, I was a huge letter writer. My dad and I exchanged letters often and there's still nothing like receiving a letter that you can pull out of the envelope and see the actual handwriting of a loved one or friend. You can feel the indentations in the paper and know that they were caused by the writer.

E-mail killed the letter and that sort of bums me out. But at the same time, I love being able to send and receive messages instantly. I only wish I would have done a better job of preserving the e-mail I received early on. So much of it was lost as computers crashed (I used e-mail software applications) or e-mail addresses changed. I eventually switched to webmail, even though I despise it, because I always have access to my archives.

By the end of the 00s, you could see a clear split between the way generations used or didn't use e-mail. Older generations embraced e-mail as a primary way to communicate online. Younger generations shunned e-mail in favor of text messaging.

Blogs

Blogs became everything that personal websites hoped to be. I might be overstating this, time will tell, but when blogging became mainstream in the mid-00s, it felt like the modern day equivalent of Gutenberg's printing press. Much like the pamphleteers of old, communicators no longer had to submit their ideas to editors. They could create a blog and hit the "publish" button.

By the last of the 00s, some bloggers had audiences in the millions and they were making a living from what they wrote and published themselves. By 2008, there were some 200 million blogs in existence with nearly one million posts going up on the internet every 24 hours. Anybody who believed he or she had something to say could start a blog and say it. By the end of the decade, nearly every major website had a blog presence.

Ironically, many bloggers received book deals after their blogs gained high readership numbers. 

Social Networking

Social networking started out as activity that young people used to keep in touch with each other. MySpace was founded in 2003 and it quickly allowed people to become online "friends." Other social networking sites soon followed.

Facebook was founded in 2004. Mostly college students used it, but by the end of the decade, every age demographic was represented and 250 million people were on Facebook.

Twitter was founded in 2006 and by the end of the decade it became one of the ways people discovered and disseminated news. Whenever a tragedy struck or whenever a big story broke, firsthand accounts could be read on Twitter.

The use of social networking evolved throughout the decade. Social networking was used by businesses, celebrities, social clubs, journalists, and the average Joe. Some used it to report news. Some used it to read news. Some used to it promote a product. Some used it to promote a cause. And some used it to create a community of like minded people.

In some ways, social networking made the world feel like a smaller place.

Digital Cameras

Film became unnecessary in the 00s. As digital cameras took off in popularity and as memory cards decreased in price, a family could take as many as a thousand pictures on vacation and never have to worry about running out of space. They could also view and delete any photos that weren't keepers. And they could upload them on services like Flickr, Snapfish or PhotoBucket for other loved ones to see before they even returned home from vacation.

By the end of the decade, many, if not most, cell phones had built in digital cameras which made nearly every event in a person's life one that could easily be recorded through the magic of photography.

Celebrity Fascination

As technology advanced throughout the 00s, it led to websites and blogs dedicated to celebrity gossip. Such sites developed their own reporters and photographers and by the end of the decade they were breaking news. This fed America's fascination with celebrities. Every time a celebrity made a move in public (and sometimes in private), it was captured on video or still photography and broadcast to the masses. A few celebrities seemed to embrace this; most did not.

This is just a small sampling of what life was like in the 00s from my perspective. I'd love to hear your take.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Open by Andre Agassi

Open: An AutobiographyOn Christmas Eve, I started reading Open by Andre Agassi. It's a shocking book. Not only because of his admitted drug use in 1997, but because of his complete honesty about who is and what he believes. He took some huge risks by writing this book. He could have alienated his fans, lost the respect of current and former players and ruined his reputation as a humanitarian.

Apparently he thought the risks were worth taking. 

Early on, Agassi makes it clear that he hates tennis. He hates it because he never had the choice to play it. His father forced it upon him as a young boy and it just so happened that God gave him the ability to play the game on an extremely high level. When he was a teen, his father sent him to the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida which caused Agassi's hatred for tennis to grow. Eventually he reached a breaking point while at the academy.

Here's what happened next:
I walk into a hair salon in the Bradenton Mall and tell the stylist to give me a mohawk. Razor the sizes, shave them to the scalp, and leave just one thick strip of spiked hair down the middle.
Are you sure, kid?
I want it high, and I want it spiky. Then dye it pink.
 A couple of paragraphs later, he says this:
To the casual observer I've done something that seems like a desperate effort to stand out. But in fact I've rendered myself, my inner self, my true self, invisible. At least, that was the idea.
A few years later, after he is a pro, Canon pays him to shoot a commercial in which he utters the line "Image is everything." He doesn't even understand what it means, but it's just a commercial, so what's the harm, right? Overnight, Agassi says, the slogan becomes synonymous with him:
They [advertising execs, sportswriters and fans] treat this ridiculous throwaway slogan as if it's my Confession, which makes as much sense as arresting Marlon Brando for murder because of a line he uttered in The Godfather.
As the ad campaign widens, as this insidious slogan creeps its way into every article about me, I change. I develop an edge, a mean streak. I stop giving interviews. I lash out at linesmen, opponents, reporters -- even fans. I feel justified, because the world is against me, the world is trying to screw me. I'm becoming my father.
Of course, Agassi eventually turned nearly everybody into a fan. But then he wrote Open and confessed his faults and now his critics are saying  he wrote the book to cash in. By being in the public eye, and by writing a book, Agassi is fair game for criticism. And certainly, people are entitled to their opinions.

But what if he really did hide behind the hair and the flare early in his career in an attempt to preserve himself? And what if people jumped to conclusions about him early in his career because of a slogan he recited in a commercial? And what if he wrote Open to not only set the record straight about who he really is, warts and all, but also to reach out to other lost souls?

It's worth considering.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Orange Fuzzies of Life

As I approached the line, I saw something out of the corner of my eye. I was throwing my spare ball in the second frame of the second game. I picked up the spare, miraculously, and looked down into the gutter on the right side of the lane. Sure enough, it was an orange fuzzy. I struck in the third frame and then had to face my nemesis, the dreaded orange fuzzy, again in the fourth frame. I overcame it and got a strike. The rest of the game didn't turn out so well, but I shot a 202 and I'll take that any day.

The guys on my bowling team got a kick out my pointing out the orange fuzzy. I'm known for noticing everything on or around the lane that shouldn't be there. I notice specks of dirt or food on the approach, knots in the wood on the approach and bumper guards that aren't flush like they should be when they aren't deployed. One of my biggest pet peeves is when we get stuck bowling on one of the two end lanes and the curtain that is supposed to cover the back of the facility is left open and I can see boxes and other contraptions as I approach the line.

I don't know why, but I really do notice all of these things and all of them really do bug me, but not as much as I make my team believe. Actually, I know they don't really believe it. We just sort of have fun with it. As soon as I point out a new distraction they all start laughing and telling me they don't see it because they are too busy looking at the spot on the lanes they are trying to hit. I tell them I can see both my spot and the thing that is currently distracting me. And so it continues.

Sure, we talk about all sorts of other things. The orange fuzzies just fill in the gaps. And they create some funny memories.

I went on to shoot a 256 the last game. At one point during the game, one of the guys on my team noted that I had a three-bagger (three strikes in a row) on the orange fuzzy lane. I told him I was overcoming the orange fuzzy. I wasn't going to let it get the best of me.

After we finished bowling, I walked up to the gutter and snapped the photo with my Blackberry that you see in this post. It's not the clearest or best photo, but you can clearly see the orange fuzzy. Actually, I'm color blind, so I'm not sure it's really orange, but it looks orange to me. Whatever color it is, it's legacy will live on.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Check out 1000 Awesome Things

I heard about a blog over the weekend that might interest you. It's called 1000 Awesome Things. It reminded me of the 100 Life-enriching Little Nuances list post I wrote back in 2006.

Every week day, the blogger at 1000 Awesome Things writes about things such as opening and sniffing a can of tennis balls (I love that smell!), the moment at a concert after the lights go out and before the band comes on stage (oh yeah, heightened sensitivities big time) and rain hair (love it --  just seems so natural).

The Book of Awesome: Snow Days, Bakery Air, Finding Money in Your Pocket, and Other Simple, Brilliant ThingsIn April 2010, The Book of Awesome, based on the blog, will be released. Both the blog and the book sound like a great way to spend a few minutes starting each day, or to kill a few minutes during lunch.

I can't wait to find out the top 100 awesome things.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Product Observations

While I was in the shower this morning I came to the conclusion that I must have a thing for mist. The shampoo I picked up the other day is “refreshing waterfall mist.” Not just “waterfall mist,” but “refreshing water fall mist.” I glanced over at the body wash (which I’m really hoping is soap—why can’t we call it soap anymore?) and it is “ocean mist.” So, apparently, I smell like some combination of refreshing waterfall mist and ocean mist today. I'm not sure if that is an advantage or disadvantage.

Prilosec OTC is a great product but it has to be one of the worst in terms of packaging. Removing the pills is an actual project I put on my to-do list. I’m not kidding. The box I opened this morning contained 42 individually packed pills—all of which needed to be removed with a knife. We can put a man on the moon, but we can't figure out how to put 42 pills in a bottle and call it a day. I just had to use the "man on the moon" thing at least once on this blog. Check out the carnage.



One of the Christmas gifts I received was a “mini-multi-tool with LED light.” It’s pretty cool. It has a key chain, a small flat-nose pliers, several blades, a small screwdriver, a wood saw that I hope I never have to use and a bottle opener. It even came with a carrying case—which would make it nice to just toss into the glove compartment of my car in case I ever needed such tools.

The only problem is, I’m not smart enough to figure out how to squish the thing into the carrying case. When I hold the pliers closed, making the unit as skinny as I can figure it goes, it doesn’t even come close to fitting in the carrying case. What’s a guy to do expect toss the carrying case in the trash and brave the world without it?



Well, that’s not the only problem. The packaging says, “Comes with a nylon belt sheath (which I’m assuming is the same thing as a carrying case), key chain and three button batteries.” I have no idea what “button batteries” are . . . are they shaped in the form of a button? are they supposed to go inside buttons? and where exactly are said button batteries? I can’t find them, unless of course they are all inside the tiny flashlight. I’m not going to check.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Omaha Blizzard of 2009

Last I heard, Omaha received about 10 inches of snow today, with drifts as high as five feet. Before the storm ends, we are supposed to receive between 11-12 inches. That's quite a blizzard. Throw in the fact that we had a blizzard on December 8, in which we received 9 inches of snow, and we have snow piled everywhere. I made sure to go outside to snap a bunch of photos this afternoon.


 My roommate


The snow fought the bush and the snow won


 The ice on the tree branches pulled them down almost to the ground


This will give you a little perspective regarding the depth of the snow


That's not going to melt for a while

With the roads nearly impassable, most of the plans people had for Christmas Day needed to be changed. My family was not able to get together for the first time since I was born. I didn't get bummed out though. On Christmas Eve, my roommate and I watched Serendipity (the second time in four days I saw it) and You've Got Mail. Today I spoke with my family several times throughout the day and we were just happy that everyone was safe and warm.

By the middle of the day I began to wonder about the stories we might hear from people who were forced to stay home and ended up enjoying themselves more than they imagined. I put the call out on Twitter and Facebook asking for such stories. Here are a couple of the responses, both of which are insightful:

The relatives that we invited over won't come until Sunday, or New Year's day if the snow doesn't stop. So, we are sharing a very quiet Christmas and I have had time to spend with John [Pamela's husband] by the fire in his favorite place . . . the garage. But finding the connections, instead of the busyness has been a treat. Plus, this will bring us from Christmas through the Epiphany since our family dinner is delayed. The importance of the ENTIRE Christmas is brought to light through this blizzard.  -Pamela Sonnenmoser 

Thankful for electricity, friends, and family. Even if I can't be with them.  -Amber Tiedeman

Do you have a similar story? If so, share it.

UPDATE 12-26-09: Just as I expected, my local newspaper is full of stories this morning about people who made the best of a bad situation and some of them even enjoyed the adventure.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

A White Christmas, and Then Some

My local newspaper says we are going to get anywhere between 8-17 inches of snow over the next 48 hours. That will probably paralyze the city by tonight. By tomorrow, Christmas Day, well, it sounds like we’ll be nestled in our homes. That’s not the worst thing in the world.

I doubt my family will be able to get together for Christmas Day, which is going to feel extremely odd. But we can celebrate on Saturday or Sunday or whenever the roads are passable again.

I’ll probably do a little work, since I have a home office, but I’m really planning to just enjoy the next couple of days—no matter what it brings. I’ll watch a couple of Christmas movies, do some reading, play a game or two, map out a personal game plan for 2010, and just relax.

Whatever your plans are, I hope you have the merriest of Christmases. Be safe.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Internet Radio

Internet radio has been around for for ions--at least in Internet years. I have been online since 1994. A few years later, I started running across internet radio stations. Most of their content was fine, but dial up connections simply wouldn't allow you to enjoy the music because it was so choppy.

Things are so much different now with a broadband connection. Now I listen to some of my favorite local radio stations online. It's easier and more convenient.

A week or so ago I looked into Blip.FM--a free service that allows you to create your own internet radio station of sorts. You pick the songs you want to hear and presto (when is the last time you heard that word?), you have a station. You can even tweet about the music you are listening to right from the Blip.FM website. I don't have any real problems with the functionality of the website, but best I can tell, it doesn't suggest similar artists, which sort of is the main point of using internet radio for me.

Yesterday I look gave Pandora a try and it seems to be exactly what I'm looking for. I created a station called "Real Life Radio," and loaded it with Over the Rhine, Gavin DeGraw, Dar Williams, and Journey. Before long it was playing not only those artists, but similar artists. It allows me to push a thumbs up or thumbs down button and that trains the station about what to play in the future. Last night, I heard a John Mayer song called "In Your Atmosphere" and I really liked it. I don't own any of his music, but I can see giving it a shot at some point in the future. The service has a Twitter and Facebook option, which is important too.

Have you given internet radio a try? If so, what are your thoughts? For me, it's a great way to find new music.

UPDATE: I probably should have mentioned that I'll be appearing on an internet radio show called "Communicating with Power" this afternoon from 1:30-2:30 pm (CST) to talk about Christmas traditions.We'll be giving away quite a few books too. The show will be archived if you miss it, but you have to be listening live to win a book.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

All I Ever Get for Christmas is Blue

I don't really get blue at Christmas, but I love the song "All I Ever Get for Christmas is Blue" from the "Snow Angels" CD by Over the Rhine. I love it even more after seeing the video.

There is so much going on in this video (you can watch it below).

You can watch it once simply for the passion. Each member of the band is completely lost in his or her own portion of the song. They don't make eye contact with one another; they don't need to. They aren't making eye contact with the audience; the audience doesn't need it. Karin Bergquist's vocal performance is stellar and intoxicating and sad and hopeful. Linford Detweiler's performance on the piano is inspiring. The guitar work is simplicity at its best. Yes, watch the video once for the passion.

If you need the lyrics, you can find them here. Although the verses don't match the order Bergquist sang them in at this performance.

Watch the video a second time for the message. The song seems to be about someone who knows she is going to be blue at Christmas. She has lost something in her life and she feels the loss most deeply at Christmas while everybody else seems to be enjoying the season. But this year, she has hope in the form of her husband, whom she plans to get lost in. She makes the transition from singing, "All I ever get for Christmas is blue," to "All I really want for Christmas is you."

Then she says, "When you play my song /  Play it slowly / Play it like I’m sad and lonely." There are several assumptions in those lines. He must know her song if he is going to play it. He must know her song's tempo if he is going to slow it down. And he must have put in the time to know what her sad and lonely looks and feels like if he is going to alter the song accordingly.

By the end of the song, she's thanking God that her husband is there with her. A transformation has taken place.

Watch the video a third time, paying special attention to the audience between the 2:45 and 2:50 mark. On the bottom right hand side of the screen you'll see a woman sitting in front of a man. As Karin sings "Maybe you can solve my mystery / Wrap me in your arms and whisper / You miss me," you'll see the man reach out with his right arm and touch the woman. The camera pans away for a couple of seconds and when the couple is in the shot again, you'll see her lean back into the man.

That's the power of music. It has the ability to play a role in the mystery of bringing a man and a woman together.

Enjoy the song on whatever level you choose. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section afterward.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Top Personality Blogs?

If you look at the top 100 blogs, as ranked at Technorati, it's not hard to spot a trend. You see three types of blogs: celebrity/entertainment, politics, and technology.

While I enjoy a good technology blog and the occasional political blog (assuming the writer isn't telling me the other side is the devil), I gravitate toward personality blogs, even though they are not nearly as popular. That's why so many of the blogs on the blog roll here at Little Nuances are personality blogs.

As I looked through the list at Technorati, I couldn't find one personality blog. In fact, I couldn't even find a place on the Technorati website in which they rank personality blogs. They do have a "People" section and it appears to list some personality blogs alphabetically, but that's not really what I'm after.

Personality blogs interest me for a number of reasons:
  • Personality bloggers often talk about what they believe and why. Getting a glimpse into their thought process helps me to process my own life better.
  • Personality bloggers are often honest about what they've done wrong and what they are hoping to do to turn the corner. Reading about their journey helps me to examine my own mistakes better.
  • Personality bloggers are often honest about their hopes and desires. I like to dream along with them.
  • Personalty bloggers dig deep inside themselves and tell you why they love what they love. There's nothing like 1,000 word post by someone who loves a certain movie, book, or song. Reading such posts makes me feel a little less alone on my own journey.
You already know some of my favorite personality blogs. Now, tell me about a few of yours by leaving links in the comments section.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Feel Good Christmas Story

A couple of my friends and I continued one of our Christmas traditions last weekend. Four or five years ago, we stopped exchanging gifts and decided to pool the money we used to spend on those gifts to pick up supplies for our local homeless shelter. The past couple of years, the shelter's website said they needed diapers, so three single guys who don't have any children ventured into diaper world to try to figure out which ones to buy. I wrote about that last year.

This year the shelter's website said they needed turkey and everything that goes with it. One of the guys in our group, Bob, sent out an email to his co-workers to ask if they wanted to chip in. Then he started calling various supermarkets asking if they'd give us a discount. By the time we headed to the grocery story, we had $225.00 and a 5% discount, thanks to the generosity of people who wanted to help.

We were able to purchase 15 turkeys:


And a whole lot more (that's my friend John in the foreground and me in the background):


The store clerk who rang us up said he'd never seen anybody buy so many turkeys at once.

We drove to the shelter and somebody pointed us to a cart we could use to bring the food inside (here's a shot of my friend Bob after all the turkeys were loaded):


Somebody from the mission came out and helped us box up everything:


We took the food inside, met the chef, and talked briefly with a man who is going through the new life recovery program. No doubt about it, it was a feel good moment, but when you look around, there is still so much need. There's more to the story though. Bob heard from a group of his co-workers who plan to duplicate what we've been doing. They are going to stop exchanging gifts at Christmas, pool the money they would have spent on those gifts, and use it to help others.

Now that is cool.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

10 Totally Random Thoughts

  • But then, sometimes you find a gem like this:


Fifty People, One Question: Brooklyn from Fifty People, One Question on Vimeo.

  • Does anybody really buy the "bugs could crawl into your drink" dilemma proposed in the Bottle Top commercials?
  • Vince, of ShamWow! and Slap Chop fame, is both comical and not all that believable. "You are going to spend $20.00 every month on paper towels any way. You're throwing your money away."$20.00 a month on paper towels? Seriously? I still want a Slap Chop though.
  • No, I don't watch too much TV. But the Tennis Channel has some of the craziest commercials I've ever seen. 
  • Speaking of the Tennis Channel, I watched portions of the 1999 French Open final they aired last night that pitted Andre Agassi against Andre Medvedev. I loved watching Agassi's reaction after finally winning the major that eluded him for so long. It also made me wonder if I'm doing anything today that anybody will care about ten years from now.
  • Currently, my favorite word is "affinity." I don't know why.
  • I find it strange when it is considered news that a celebrity stops tweeting--especially when I've never even heard of said celebrity.  
  • I'm not a dog person, but I think this is a good idea.
  • The word "literally" is overused. One of the settings in the "Post Options" on Blogger is "Show HTML literally." As opposed to figuratively? Symbolically?

    Wednesday, December 16, 2009

    Around the World in 80 Blogs

    Shannon over at Everyday Stranger came up with the beautiful idea of pulling 80 bloggers together for a virtual tour of the world. Here's the view from world.

    I live in Omaha, Nebraska.

    Most people think of two things when they think of Omaha: cold weather and farmland. For the record, Omaha is listed 34th on the "Top 101 cities with the largest temperature differences during a year (population 50,000+)." It gets as cold as -20 degrees and as hot as 104 or so. You won't see a lot of farmland in Omaha though. You have to go outside city limits to see that.

    Omaha is nearing the half million mark in population. It's considerably larger if you include the suburbs. The typical Omahan is middle class, blue collar, and independent minded. The arts community is large enough to attract people who are bent that way. Here's a photo of me appearing to have a conversation with a statue of a sailor at the Durham Museum. The museum was built on the same ground that used to be Union Station, where many a soldier shipped out for battle:

    I love this photo, also taken at the Durham Museum, that shows a man and a woman enjoying a intimate moment prior to his leaving for war:

    We have plenty of outdoor attractions for those who like to hike, fish, or enjoy nature. A few of my friends and I like to rent a cabin, located just outside of town, once a year. Here's where we stayed last January:

    There are certainly enough sports in Omaha for people who enjoy them. Omaha has been home to the College World Series since 1950. I'm not much of a college baseball fan (I'm a huge fan of the local minor league team and its parent club), but I'm glad the city has the event:

    2008 Men's College World Series Game 2

    I enjoy going to high school sporting events with parents who have a son or daughters on the field or court. High school events always have such a community feel. Here's a photo I took at one such high school freshman football game in September:

    The city is full of coffee shops and steak houses because, well, we like coffee and we like steak:

    The pace of the city seems about 7 on a scale of 1-10, which is faster than I prefer, but since it doesn't move at breakneck speed, a 7 is acceptable.

    From what I understand, Omaha has one of best zoos in the world. I don't frequent it all that often, but a couple of years ago, I went with a couple of friends and took this video. The zoo has a huge aquarium with a tube that runs along the bottom that patrons can walk through and examine fish, sharks, stingrays, and just about anything else that swims. That's what you see here:

    video

    Every year at Christmastime, the city lights up the Gene Leahy Mall downtown and it's just beautiful:

    As you enjoy the scenery, you get a chance to hear groups from local churches and schools sing Christmas carols:

    Of course, it's always cold enough for us to make a mandatory coffee run before we begin the journey through the sights and sounds of the season:

    That's snapshot of Omaha, Nebraska as I see it. Hope you enjoyed the mini-tour.

    For more like it, check out Shannon's blog, Everyday Stranger.

    Tuesday, December 15, 2009

    The Benefits of Coffee

    Over the weekend Parade magazine ran a story about the six ways coffee can keep us healthy. Here they are:

    1. Ease your headache pain.
    2. Fight prostrate cancer.
    3. Enhance your physical endurance.
    4. Keep your mind going and going . . .
    5. Lower your risk of Parkinson's.
    6. Ease an asthma attack.

    You can read more in depth about each way on Parade's website.

    It's cool to hear about all the health benefits of coffee, especially since I drink several cups every day and one or two on the weekends at various coffee shops.

    For me, one of the biggest benefits has more to do with relational health.

    "Grabbing a cup of coffee" with a friend, or even a date, has become a social event in our culture. It's now considered to be "doing something."

    In reality, it might be better than doing something because it means you almost have to converse with the person or people on the other side of the table.

    family
    [Every Wednesday night Pete, right, and Patty Mueller, pictured September 9, 2009, walk to Bakers Square in Chicago, Illinois, for Date Night where they enjoy a cup of coffee, a slice of pie, and some alone time for themselves. (William DeShazer/Chicago Tribune/MCT) Photo via Newscom. Content © 2009 Newscom All rights reserved.]

    Nearly every time I meet friends for coffee, I learn something new about them. Sometimes it is the smallest of things: preferences, desires, little facts about their history, etc.

    At the very least, I always get caught up with events in their lives.

    I love that.

    Monday, December 14, 2009

    Men of a Certain Age

    Men of a Certain Age is Ray Romano’s “Stranger in This Town.”

    After having the huge television hit, Everybody Loves Raymond, Romano has decided to try something different, much like Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora tried in 1991 when he released his solo, blues-influenced album “Stranger in This Town.”

    Yes, Stranger flopped commercially, but its generally considered a good CD. I remember him saying a few years later that he probably leaned too heavily in favor of the purely artistic and not enough on commercial success. But he didn’t really need it to be a success. Bon Jovi had already released multi-platinum disks in Slippery When Wet and New Jersey. Sambora just reached a point in which he wanted to create a product because it was inside him and it had to come out.

    That’s the same raw creative emotion that Romano felt.
    "This is more in common [with] me than Ray Barone," Romano is quoted as saying in TV Guide recently. "Obviously, I'm not divorced and the situation's a little different, but I think internally . . . there's a point where I'm kind of going through the same doubts that this character is. The same wonderings of where am I going next? That's kind how I felt after Raymond ended. It was exciting to come off of a successful show and something that I was very proud of. But there was a bit of an identity loss there, and a bit of a void from not being able to do something everyday creative."
    The program follows the lives of three middle-age men:

    TV-TINSEL
    [Andre Braugher, from left, Ray Romano and Scott Bakula play three pals who share a mid-life crisis in TNT's new show, Men Of A Certain Age, premiering on December 7, 2009. (Art Streiber/Courtesy TNT/MCT) Photo via Newscom. Content © 2009 Newscom All rights reserved.]

    Owen (played by Andre Braugher) is a car salesman at his father's dealership. He's also a husband and father of three kids.

    Joe (played by Romano) runs a party store and has a gambling problem which led to him being separated from his wife. He has two children.

    Terry (played by Scott Bakula) is an actor who never has enough work and therefore does temp work. He's also a playboy.

    I've read several reviews of the pilot episode (which aired a week ago today on TNT; the show will air at 9:00 PM CST on Mondays) and one remark on the Daemon's TV website by someone who has seen more than one episode nailed the reason I enjoyed the pilot: "To be honest, not much happens each episode, this is definitely more of a character study show, so your enjoyment will depend on how compelling you find the characters."

    Whether it's reading a novel or watching a television show, I always find character studies more fascinating than plot driven stories.

    In the pilot, I found myself winching every time Owen was on screen because he never seems to be good enough for anybody. His father calls him an embarrassment because he's overweight, struggling with Diabetes, and out of breath all the time. Therefore, he's not good enough to take over the family business. Even in the eyes of his wife, I thought I detected a little disappointment in him. I think I'm drawn to Owen because I can identify with him so much, even though I'm not married, nor am I running my father's business. I just feel like him sometimes.

    Joe seems to be a likable guy, with the exception of his gambling problem that caused the rift in his marriage. But who can't identify with a person who has a vice of some sort or another?

    Terry is a free spirit who may grow on me. I do like the chemistry between him and the barista he visits each day. I'm hoping they become and item and that as a consequence he changes his ways.

    Romano considers the show to be a "dramedy," which is probably a good label for it. The pilot drew 5.4 million viewers, so it's off to a great start. I just hope that my seal of approval doesn't kill the show.

    That's usually what happens.

    If you want to see the pilot episode, you can watch it on the TNT website.

    Friday, December 11, 2009

    What You Need to Know

    Over the past few days, I've made a few changes--mostly cosmetic--to the place. I've added a "TweetMeMe" button near the top of each post. If you are on Twitter, and if you enjoy a particular post, I'd appreciate you clicking the icon and letting your followers know.

    And while you are at it, consider following my tweets. There's a good chance I'll follow back.

    I've been reconstructing my blogroll (under the "Blogs I Dig" section in the sidebar on the right). You may or may not enjoy them, depending on your personal taste. But give them a try, you might stumble across one that adds something to your life.

    According to ProBlogger, I need a disclosure policy. Sounds like all bloggers do. I'll work on that and get one posted in the next week or so.

    Comments are usually cyclical on a blog. Since I just re-started Little Nuances recently, that probably hurt the momentum the blog once had, but don't be shy. If you have a comment, I'd love to hear what you have to say. Just click on "Comments" under each post.

    And now, back to your regularly scheduled blog posts.

    Thursday, December 10, 2009

    You Might be a Single Dude if . . .

    You might be a single dude if . . .
    • You open your refrigerator only to discover that the mayonnaise expired on November 5, 2008. Yes, 2008.
    • You know that eggs will eventually become hollow if they are in your refrigerator for a few years.
    • You know that green beans turn orange if they have been in your refrigerator for a while.
    In case you are worried about my safety, don't. Only the first situation has happened to me recently and even then I had enough sense to throw it out. The last two happened many years ago, but they are still pretty funny, don't you think?

    On to non-refrigerator items on the list.

    You might be a single dude if . . .
    • You can't remember the last time you were caught up on laundry.
    • You can't remember the last time you cooked something other than chili or hamburgers.
    • Your Christmas tree has a George Brett ornament on it.
    • You got your Christmas stocking at a Royals "Christmas in July" promotion.
    • Your home office is painted powder blue (in honor of the Kansas City Royals, who probably don't deserve a lot of honor, but hey, I'm a loyal guy).
    • All of your furniture is a different color and you couldn't care less.
    • Your vacuum cleaner is missing a hose thingy and it doesn't really matter.
    • You have shag carpet and you think it's just fine.
    • You have no useless artifacts and trinkets on the walls and shelves; instead you have useful items such as a Royals poster from the 1980s and baseball media guides.
    • You lose your shoes, your keys, and your iPod in the house once in a while, only to discover them in the oddest of places.
    • You have bought Christmas cards for the past four years, but never got around to writing in or mailing them.

    Wednesday, December 09, 2009

    Contemporary Christmas Movies I Watch Every Year

    1. Serendipity. Jonathan and Sara meet in a department store during Christmas as they both reach for the same pair of gloves. They hit it off, but Sara leaves their relationship in the hands of fate and they lose track of each other. The yearning they both feel for one another over the years hurts my heart. I always get a little misty eyed when they finally find each other again.

    2. You've Got Mail. Joe and Kathleen are rivals by day (he owns a bookstore chain and she owns The Little Shop Around the Corner she inherited from her mom), but they are unknowingly romantically interested in each other by night. This movie set the stage for internet dating. It's endearing and touching and that's why it's part of my annual rotation, even though it seems a bit dated.

    3. The Holiday. Iris lives in England; Amanda lives in L.A. Both need a break for the holidays and after meeting on a home exchange website, they decide to take the plunge and trade places for a while. As a result, they both end up finding love during Christmas. I added this one to my rotation last year. I didn't see it when it came out in theaters and it sort of flew under my radar for a while. Not any more!

    4. Elf. Buddy the elf finds out he isn't really an elf, so he heads to New York City to find his real father and to learn who he really is. The genuineness with which Will Ferrell plays Buddy engrosses you in the film even though the plot line is far fetched. And I love the way Buddy pursues Jovey, a department store elf who is down on her luck.

    What about you? What are your favorite contemporary Christmas movies you watch every year?

    Tuesday, December 08, 2009

    Late Bloomer

    I often wonder what people mean when they use the phrase, "late bloomer."

    Poet Sharon Olds once said, "I was a late bloomer. But anyone who blooms at all, ever, is very lucky." It sounds like she believed herself to be thus because she didn't get her first collection of poetry until she was almost 40. I understand what she was saying, but I'm thinking about the concept of being a late bloomer on a deeper level--beyond vocation.

    The New Yorker magazine published an article last year called "Late Bloomers: Why do we equate genius with precocity?" by Malcolm Gladwell. In it he quotes an economist named David Galenson who did a study titled, "Old Masters and Young Geniuses: The Two Life Cycles of Artistic Creativity" as saying "Their [late bloomers] goals are imprecise, so their procedure is tentative and incremental."

    Like Olds, Galenson was referring more to the arts than life, so I'm not going to necessarily tie his comment to what I'm about to say, but I do think there's a hint of it.

    There seems to be a stigma stigma attached to those who are deemed late bloomers; as if they couldn't quite focus hard enough at the stage in life they should have been able to and therefore they drifted and wandered until they finally stumbled on their purpose or calling in spite of themselves.

    I don't buy that. Maybe it's because I consider myself to be a late bloomer (minus the stigma) of sorts, in more ways than one. But I think it has more to do with life being a road with differing winds and bends and even surfaces for each of us. Along those roads are differing experiences, understandings, and perceptions.

    One of my grandfathers spent the final couple decades of his working years as a foreman in a factory, but you've probably never met a man who was more committed to being a loving servant to his family. That was his legacy and it's something I aspire to nearly 25 years after his death.

    He wasn't always the man he should have been. He was a late bloomer when it came to the role of loving servant. But I don't think it was a result of him drifting through life without any direction. Instead it had more to do with his perception about how a man was supposed to express himself.

    When he was growing up, expressing any emotion other than anger or happiness wasn't seen as masculine. If a man shed a tear, it better be over the death of a loved one, because anything short of that would have been viewed as weakness. If a man provided for his family, it was his way of saying he loved them. Actually saying it, unless circumstances were dire, just wasn't done.

    So, he entered adulthood exhibiting all of those characteristics--characteristics he believed to be virtuous. But something changed. I was too young to know what it was, but by the time he had grandchildren, he was a gentle man who spoke softly while at the same time authoritatively.

    He became less about demanding action and more about taking action himself, quietly, behind the scenes. He helped neighbors. He spoke loving truth to family members. He opened his wallet when he saw someone in genuine need and he closed it when he saw someone who needed direction more than money.

    Did he come to such realizations later in life than he "should" have or than other people do? I don't think so. In fact, I'm not sure many of us ever live the way he did over the final twenty or thirty years of his life, let alone the first twenty or thirty.

    Monday, December 07, 2009

    Heidi Joy Sings Gesu Bambino

    Last Thursday night, a couple of my friends and I went to see Heidi Joy's annual Holiday Joy concert. It was the last time she'll be doing it.

    In years past, I've written posts about my experiences at her concerts. I won't be doing that this year because I'm writing a newspaper article about it instead. But I still thought you might enjoy watching and listening to her sing "Gesu Bambino." It always puts me in the Christmas spirit. I believe this video was shot at her concert in 2006. (If you are reading this post via email subscription, you'll have to click through to the blog to see the video.)

    Saturday, December 05, 2009

    Saturday Thinking

    I'm having a hard time relating to the top 10 searches of 2009 recently released by Yahoo! But then again, I never use Yahoo! as a search engine and last I heard they were a distant second to Google, so maybe I'm not completely out of touch. So, how did I find out about the list in the first place? Google.

    Regardless of whether Joe Posnanski is writing about sports or pop culture, he is always worth reading. I particularly liked his recent post about the honesty of country music.

    Saturdays during the winter have a different feel to them. They seem to be more about getting together with friends to watch a football game or chilling out and reading a novel than just another day to get stuff done.

    Certain types of jazz music are perfect for background noise and other types give me a headache. Can't speak articulately enough about jazz to differentiate them for you, except to say that the irritating type is fast, and seemingly, too loud.

    Friday Night Lights is an excellent television show, but I don't know one person who watches it, other than some tweeps on Twitter. For the record, I'm also a One Tree Hill fan and I don't know anybody who watches that either, tweeps excluded.

    It seems to me that you are either a Facebook person or a Twitter person. I'm a Twitter person who uses Twitter to update Facebook. I wonder why we gravitate toward one or the other?

    Speaking of Facebook, I heard somebody say recently that he was glad there isn't a "dislike" option next to each update. I agree. Imagine how you'd feel if you went out there and saw that one or more of your friends didn't like your updates.

    People who are wise enough to find their own rhythms in life impress me.

    Friday, December 04, 2009

    Black and White Christmas Movies

    Black and white movies have never held much appeal to me. I think it's because the acting feels overdone; facial expressions are exaggerated, voice inflection is too. And what was with the music?

    But I wonder if my failure to connect stems more from not living in a generation that is expressive when dealing with one another. We get plenty animated behind the scenes, but when somebody does something we either appreciate or fail to appreciate [read: loathe], we are stoic.

    Maybe things were different when black and white movies were shot. Maybe people showed their emotions more readily. And maybe as a result, life really did feel like it had all that dramatic music as a backdrop.

    With that in mind, I'm going to give a couple of black and white movies a try this Christmas season.

    The original 1938 version of A Christmas Carol is going to be on in the next couple of weeks, so I set my DVR to record it. I read the book a couple of years ago and I saw the most recent version of the movie at the theater just two weeks ago. So, it'll be fun to see the original.

    Christmas in Connecticut, from 1945, is also going to be on television soon too and I've set my DVR for that as well. It looks like it might be funny while also heart warming--a perfect combination in my opinion.

    Years ago I saw It's a Wonderful Life. I had the colorized version of the video. I may hunt down the original black and white version on television this month and watch it again too.

    How about you? What are your favorite black and white Christmas movies?

    Thursday, December 03, 2009

    Board Game Night

    Imagine playing some new version of Pictionary (called "Electronic Pictionary Man Game") and being asked to draw Lindsay Lohan. Or playing another game in which you try to get your teammates to guess the name of a song that came out before they were even born. Or yet another game in which you have to guess which personality trait best describes another player.

    Actually, all three scenarios occurred last night when my small group from church got together for a board game night.

    We had a blast.

    I had no idea how to draw Lindsay Lohan and it's safe to say that my teammates would agree.

    We didn't get that point.

    I chuckled when I had to try get them to name the song "Convoy" by C.W. McCall. I had this album when I was a kid and loved it. But how do you describe the song to people who may have never heard it before? The only thing I could come up with initially was to mention a few of the the lyrics.

    "Breaker 1-9, this here's the Rubber Duck," I said in my best CB voice to people who weren't event born when this song came out. I eventually came to my senses and asked, "What is it called when semi-trucks line up in a row on the road?"



    We got that point.

    The personality trait game was hilarious. I can't remember what it was actually called, but at one point, three people in the group described my personality as "glee" which probably couldn't be further from the truth.

    All of this reminded me of another game night I enjoyed a couple of years ago with different people. I still hold a grudge about one of my answers not being allowed. So I brought it up for the court of opinion last night and I got a sympathetic vote or two.

    Here's the scenario. We were playing Scattergories and we had to come up with words that start with the letter "P." One of the topics was "Something you'd find in a souvenir shop," so, naturally, I wrote "pickles." Nobody believed me when I said some souvenir shops in the south sell homemade pickles. I've seen it firsthand.

    My answer wasn't allowed and I haven't been the same since.

    I just googled the phrases "souvenir shops" and "pickles" and I found a souvenir shop in Oklahoma that says, "We sell things ranging from hula hoops, bikinis, bumper stickers to collegiate gear. And homemade pickles when the growing season is good to us!"

    That's what I'm talking about. Why didn't I do that from my Blackberry that night?

    Anyway, if you haven't played board games with friends for a while, give it a shot. You'll laugh, you'll learn things about each other, and you'll make great memories.

    Wednesday, December 02, 2009

    Music by which to Think

    I'm sort of in a music groove right now.

    I downloaded "The Darkest Night of the Year" by Over the Rhine yesterday and I listened to it all the way through. It's an odd Christmas CD, in a good way. Several of the songs are instrumentals. I love that. The first song on the album, "The First Noel" is an instrumental. It's haunting and soul stirring. "O Little Town of Bethlehem" is an instrumental too. Both songs feel like a blank greeting card. They give you plenty of room to reminisce without feeling rushed.

    Next on my list was "The Taylor Swift Holiday Collection EP." I'm especially drawn to the song "Christmases When You Were Mine"--an honest look at experiencing Christmas while missing someone. Who can't relate to that?

    Do you remember Steve Augeri? He was the lead singer for Journey in the early to mid part of the decade. He's also been part of band called Tall Stories. They released a CD called "Skyscraper" this year and it's a solid disc. There's a bluesy gospel number on it called "You Shall be Free" that I really like. Anything that makes me think about the eternal is a good thing.

    The next album I'm going to mention comes straight from the bargain bin: "The Best of Survivor." Of course, it has "Eye of the Tiger" on it--one of the most motivational songs of all time. It also has "The Search is Over," "Burning Heart," and a few others you may have heard. Without the Rocky series, Survivor probably never would have had a chance. But the marriage between the two worked quite well and I still appreciate the music that resulted.

    How about you? What are you listening to these days?

    Tuesday, December 01, 2009

    The Experiment

    For the past few months, I've been blogging over on my website. For reasons I won't bore you with, I'm planning to move those posts over here and pick up where I left off with Little Nuances. You'll see that I've done a slight re-design, adding buttons at the top that link to much of the stuff that cluttered the sidebar of this blog previously. Let me know what you think.

    Monday, November 30, 2009

    The Blind Side

    The Blind Side is the story of Michael Oher, an African-American homeless boy who was eventually chosen in the first round of the NFL draft after a white family took him in, loved him, and launched him into the world to become the person he was intended to be.

    The movie will challenge you to see past barriers you might not normally see past; to help someone in bigger ways than you might initially want to; and to sacrifice beyond your comfort zone. Ultimately, it might even challenge the way you live out your faith.

    Looking around the movie theater, I saw one of the more racially diverse crowds I've ever seen in a movie. And I saw more men than I usually see at a feel good movie. There was also applause after the movie and even a few tears.

    As my friends and I were walking out, two guys behind us had a short, guy-like conversation:

    Guy #1: "Great movie."

    Guy #2: "Yeah."

    Guy #1: "It's the closest I've come to crying."

    I presume Guy #1 meant it was the closest he's come to crying at a movie rather than the closest he's ever come to crying, period.

    Either way, it's that kind of movie.

    Friday, November 27, 2009

    This Day in Family History

    My family usually likes to watch a movie while eating a big Thanksgiving dinner. Last year, we watch the Rocky marathon on cable television. We had a blast because those movies were popular when we were much younger and all living under the same roof. My mom took my sister and I to see the first Rocky when it came out in 1976. Some 32 years later, there we were, watching the same movie together, even though so much has changed since then.

    Yesterday, the movie of choice was Cinderella Man. I was the only one who had seen it, but my memory isn't the greatest so I felt like I was watching it for the first time. I'm not sure what the deal is with us watching boxing flicks. The funny thing is, my sister mentioned the possibility of seeing Ali since she's never seen it. The rest of us haven't either, so it'll probably go to the top of my Netflix queue for the next time.

    As I was watching Cinderella Man yesterday, a thought ran through my mind. On the last page of my local newspaper, they usually publish "This Day in History" complied by the the Associated Press. I like to read through the list whenever I have the time. It helps me to feel grounded somehow. Wouldn't it be cool if someone in each family took the time to record such a list regarding family activities during get togethers?

    You could bring it out each year, maybe at Thanksgiving or Christmas, and go through it as a family. It would generate all sorts of laughs and sentimentality and maybe tears. I'm thinking it might be my new project. It doesn't have to be long. Just a sentence or two that captures the essence of what happened that particular year during that particular event. I have a running start on Thanksgiving:

    Thanksgiving History:

    2008: While enjoying a moist turkey with all the trimmings, we watched Rocky I, II, and part of III. We cheered. We might have cried. But most importantly, we laughed.

    2009: While enjoying a smoked turkey that tasted a lot like ham, we watched Cinderella Man. Mom reminisced about how her dad, who was from Ireland, used to talk about James Braddock -- the main character the movie is based on.

    Thursday, November 26, 2009

    Thanksgiving Thoughts

    This morning, as I was showering and getting ready for the day, a random thought crossed my mind. This will be my 44th Thanksgiving. That's a lot of turkey, football, and family time. It's also a lot of laughter and good memories. None of it should be taken for granted.

    The Bible talks about the brevity of life. You never know when this could be the last Thanksgiving you, or someone you love, is here to celebrate it.

    I heard from a friend this morning. Her husband of 51 years passed away yesterday and it was completely unexpected. He had just returned home from the store, and just like that, he left this earth and found himself standing in the presence of God. It was a glorious day for him, but a difficult day for those he left behind.

    My heart aches for my friend and her family. Today will be a difficult day for them. I suspect Thanksgiving will always be difficult for them from here on out. I'm praying they sense God's presence in a powerful way as they mourn and then try to figure out how to pick up the pieces.

    Whether you are with family, friends or acquaintances today, be thankful. And cherish every minute of your experience.

    Wednesday, November 25, 2009

    Rethinking Free

    A couple of weeks ago, I had a conversation with an editor of a magazine at a writer's conference about the changes currently taking place in the publishing industry. As you probably know, traditional newspapers are dying and the race is on as publishers try to to figure out how to survive financially while at the same time providing free online content.

    The dilemma they face is real. Sending people to cover events, do interviews, conduct research and then do the actual writing of the content costs money. I'm one of the people they pay for such content. But if they give my content away, how do they pay me?

    We've grown less tolerant of advertisements on websites. With a few exceptions, people are unwilling to pay for content online. So, what's a publisher to do?

    As the editor and I talked about this, she asked me if I'd heard about "Free: The Future of a Radical Price" by Chris Anderson. I told her I'd just heard about it that week, but didn't know much about it.

    Interestingly, Anderson has arranged for the book to be distributed in different fashions for different prices. For example, a person can purchase the hardback on Amazon.com for $21.59 right now. It's available on the Kindle for $9.99 (the standard price). The abridged audio version is available on audio.com for $7.49 and the unabridged audio version is available for free (yes free) at audbile.com and iTunes. The abridged audio version isn't free because the listener gets the point in half the time and time is money.

    I downloaded the unabridged (free) version on iTunes and have been listening as I run errands. One the distinctions Anderson makes early on is between the 20th and 21st century mindset--especially as it relates to the Internet.

    Those with a 20th century mindset are suspicious about free items because they believe "there is no such thing as a free lunch." Those with a 21st century mindset have grown up with free being the standard--they have free Yahoo or Gmail accounts; they use Google Docs; they use free Wi-Fi in coffee shops; etc.

    The editor and I continued our conversation via email after the conference. She said she has the 21st century mindset described in the book. I told her I have a foot in both worlds and it can be confusing sometimes. She responded by saying, "a foot in both worlds might not be a bad place to be. I think old school values reapplied to new school ideas can provide a good balance."

    As I've thought about all of this and the way it applies to my writing business, I've started to re-evaluate the tools I use.

    I've always hated webmail for a number of reasons, but the fact is computers crash and we change IPs (thus losing email addresses) and backing up email is a major pain, so I've gravitated away from MS Outlook and other email clients in favor of webmail because it's portable, I'm in control of it, and I never have to back it up. Oh, and it's free. But I choose to give the webmail provider I use $20.00 a year for the extra bells and whistles. That's one way free leads to income and I'm fine with that.

    I've never been a big fan of Google Docs. But here I am typing this post using the product. Why? I don't think the writing industry is moving away from MS Word as the standard any time soon, but practically speaking, when you have two or three computers, it's a pain to set up a network or to use a thumb drive, and it's an even bigger pain to continually back up your documents. With Google Docs, you don't have to do any of those things. You simply open a browser on any computer you are using, sign in, and begin working. When you're finished, you can download the file as a Word document with the push of a button and send it to your editor.

    I don't know how long I'll stick with any of this, but when I think about using free web-based tools it just makes sense for the portable times in which we live. So, I'm adapting, both personally and professionally, as I watch the industry I'm in go through the same changes. Ultimately, I'm looking to ride the crest of the wave of change so I don't get left behind.

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009

    Reading Season

    I love this time of year.

    Most of the sports I follow are in their off season and television shows are often in re-runs. So, for me, it becomes reading season. I probably read more books between November 1 and February 1 than the other nine months combined.

    I just finished reading Twitter Power by Joel Comm. I'm always looking for ways to interact with and to serve potential clientele. This book provided some great insight about how to do that.

    Last week, I started reading The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks and I can already tell it's going to be one of his classic feel good stories with a twist in the end. If you've read it, don't tell me what happens. I want to experience it.

    I put a feeler out on Twitter a couple of days ago, looking for suggestions for a feel good Christmas novel or novella.

    Somebody suggested The Christmas Sweater by Glenn Beck. Somebody else recommended The Red Gloves Collection by Karen Kingsbury. I may take both suggestions, but the Kingsbury series looks a little girly. This coming from a guy who loves The Mitford Series by Jan Karon.

    My good friend Ron Benson recently started a book reading discussion on Facebook about The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-up, and Burnt Out by Brennan Manning. I joined that group and look forward to working my way through the book with added insight from the group.

    And I still really want to get to A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. I bought it a few weeks ago and it's just staring at me from the corner of my desk.

    Oh, and my copy of Open by Andre Agassi should arrive today!

    Yes, I love this time of year.

    What do you plan to read during the holidays?

    Monday, November 23, 2009

    Storing Books You've Read

    “What do you do with books you have already read?” –from 4,000 Questions by Barbara Ann Kipfer

    This is a real problem for me. I know some people give them away so others can enjoy them. I don’t do that, for a number of reasons.

    First, I underline passages that move me. Second, I make personal notes next to other passages—notes I really don’t want other people reading. They aren’t earth-shattering as much as they are personal. Third, I often refer back to books I’ve already read when I’m writing a book or an article, so I need to hang on to them. Oh, and sometimes I re-read books. I’m really thinking about diving back in to the Mitford Series by Jan Karon.

    If I had all the time in the world, I’d go through books when I finished reading them and enter the marked passages into a database. That way the nuggets would always be at my fingertips when I’m writing and I wouldn’t have to worry about finding each book from which I want to quote. Realistically though, that’s probably never going to happen.

    Consequently, my real problem with knowing what to do with books I’ve already read is figuring out how to store them in such a fashion as to be able to find them when I need them.

    A few years ago, I went through my entire library and assigned books to designated bookshelves, including a shelf of books I’d already read. But then my collection outgrew my shelves and it became a free for all. Now, I have books stacked everywhere and in no particular order. Well, that’s not entirely true. Some semblance of order exists from my previous organizational effort, but not enough.

    I’m thinking this needs to be a Saturday afternoon project in the near future.

    Thursday, November 12, 2009

    On the Road Again

    It felt great to be home for two days, but now I’m on the road again. I headed for Kansas City this morning to teach at the HACWN writer’s conference. This conference holds a special place in my heart because it’s where I got my start. Back in 1998, I attended this conference and got bit by the writing bug. Five years later, I began writing full time.

    Many of the people I met in 1998 and over the next couple of years at the conference have moved on and they no longer attend the conference. That sort of bums me out, but I’ve already bumped into so many people I met at the conference in recent years and it is fun to catch up with them. I saw one guy today who handed me a published copy of his book—the same book that was just an idea as we discussed it five years ago at the conference.

    Life is about relationships—both new and established.

    I met a woman today whom I’ve never met before. She contacted me via email before the conference to let me know she signed up to pray for a member of the conference faculty and she got my name. Today she told me she’s still praying for me. She even handed me a gift bag this afternoon. It was a very humbling experience.

    Tonight, after I got back to my hotel, a woman on the conference faculty knocked on my hotel room door and handed me a pop. She heard me say I wanted one earlier and she went out of her way to bring me one.

    Tomorrow is a new day. I’m going to look for a way to be a blessing to somebody else the way several people were a blessing to me today.

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