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

Friday, January 30, 2009

Gran Torino

Spoiler alert: don’t continue reading if you don’t want to know the ending of the movie.

Plot [from The Internet Movie Database]: Disgruntled Korean War vet Walt Kowalski sets out to reform his neighbor, a young Hmong teenager, who tried to steal Kowalski's prized possession: his 1972 Gran Torino.

Last night I saw Gran Torino for the second time. It was just as powerful, maybe more so than the first time I saw it. Nobody wants to get up after the movie is over. They sit there in stunned silence, some wiping away tears. Others just stare. Long after the Gran Torino pulls out of view and the credits have rolled, people are still hesitant to get up.

That’s the power of redemption.

But this isn’t a review of the movie. As I often say, I don’t do reviews here. Instead, I want to talk about something that at first glance seems rather ordinary about Walt Kowalski.

On the day he knows he’s going to give up his life, he mows his grass, he goes to confession for the first time in decades, he takes a bubble bath while smoking a cigarette in the bathtub (the first time he’d smoked in the house—something he apparently refrained from doing out of respect for his wife, who is now deceased), he gets a hair cut and a clean shave, he buys a new fitted suit (to be buried in), and he gives his dog away.

Not many of us get to knowingly choose our final acts on earth. But if we did, each activity would be a reflection of who we really are and what we really believe. By watching Walt’s final actions, we learn that he’s a practical man who understands that he’s made mistakes and who finds pleasure in routine and in the simple things of life. Actually, we already know all of this by this stage of the movie, but seeing him stay true to himself in his final hours is fulfilling.

The part that really got me the second time I saw the movie, was when he gives his dog away. He puts her on a leash and takes her next door to the family with the two kids he’s about to die for, and he tells the elderly woman on the porch that his dog’s name is Daisy. The woman doesn’t speak a lick of English, so she has no idea what Walt is saying, but it seems like it is important to him to say his dog’s name one last time. Then he strokes Daisy on the head once or twice, and then he’s gone—off to face his mortality.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Marley & Me

If you haven’t seen Marley & Me, but plan to, you might want to stop reading right now. Although, this post won’t be a total spoiler. Besides, doesn’t everybody already know what happens in end?

I followed one particular storyline in the movie far more than I did the main storyline about Marley. I was interested in the journey that John Grogan (played by Owen Wilson) took. At the beginning of the movie John is a small time reporter in Miami covering menial topics. He isn’t happy about that, especially since his wife (played by Jennifer Aniston) is a feature writer for another newspaper and his best friend Sebastian is a reporter who lives an adventurous life, but he figures he’ll pay his dues and he'll got a shot at becoming a real reporter somewhere down the line.

Then one day his boss calls him into his office and offers Grogan a temporary column writing about everyday stuff. He begins to write about the escapades of his lovable but completely out of control family dog, Marley. To his surprise, his column is a hit—not just with his boss, but with the entire region of South Florida. So, his temporary gig becomes a permanent gig.

One of the reasons his boss loves his column so much is because Grogan includes so many of his real life experiences. That isn’t easy for Grogan, especially since he thinks of himself as a reporter, but the money is good, and his wife is pregnant, so he opts for security, figuring he’ll get a shot at doing what he really wants to do in the future.

Life becomes complicated though, as it always does. Between an ever growing family, a dog that is still out of control, and the creeping feeling that his dream is slipping away, Grogan begins to get restless. That’s when he gets a call from the editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer offering him a job as a reporter. Jennifer knows he is restless and she knows why so she tells him to take the job and that she and their kids will follow him. It’s a beautiful moment in the movie.

They move to Philadelphia and not long after, Grogan gets called into his new bosses’ office to discuss his first article. His boss tells him that he has too much of himself in the story, which of course is the exact opposite of what his previous boss told him. But he was writing a different type of article, and each type warrants a different style. It turns out that he isn’t all that keen about doing straight journalism.

Throughout the movie Grogan continually dreams about what he really wants and he never stops long enough to realize that maybe his journey has already led him there. Toward the end of the movie, he finally comes to the conclusion that he’s supposed to be a columnist, so he talks to his new boss about writing the same type of column he wrote when he lived in Miami.

I loved this storyline because it was realistic. It wasn’t a straight line or even a crooked line from dream to fulfillment. It was more like a circle, but he had to make the complete circle before he understood what he really wanted. It wasn’t a perfect circle though. His circle took him on a journey that zigged and zagged to places he never planned or envisioned and he only found his true calling when he had strayed far enough off course.

Millions of boys grow up hoping to become an NFL quarterback someday. The vast majority of them never even come close. Some of them eventually become pee-wee or high school football coaches and some of them become sportswriters or sports broadcasters. I bet that if you asked most of them if they were are doing what they were born to do, they would tell you yes—assuming that their journey has taken them full circle.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bird Tracks

Maybe a picture really is worth a thousand words.

I grabbed a quick meal before my bowling league last night. While I ate in my car I noticed a scene that I thought might make a good picture (see below). Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me so I used the camera on my cell phone. The picture turned out pretty well, given that my cell phone camera is only 1.2 megapixels. (Did you notice that it looks like the photo was taken during the blue hour? That’s probably the real reason it turned out decent.)

I was intrigued by the small animal tracks leading up to the tree. Whatever it was, it walked up to the tree and that’s where its tracks end. So, it must have been a bird, right? But if that’s the case, then why did it walk through the snow to get to the tree in the first place? Why not fly to the tree?

Maybe it saw some food. If you look closely, you can see that somebody tossed a bag of trash to the left of the tree. But the bird’s tracks never ventured toward the bag—unless the wind moved the bag—which is possible. Maybe the bird planned to check out the bag, but changed its mind and decided to get a better look from the tree. Or maybe a male bird was trying to show a female bird that was sitting in the tree how tough he was so he walked across the frozen tundra to impress her. And maybe it worked and they flew off together to live happily ever after.

Inquiring minds want to know.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

2009 Australian Open

As is the case every time a major tennis tournament is played, I’m firmly immersed in the Australian Open that started a few days ago.

On the women’s side, I’m rooting for Ana Ivanovic, but she’s not the same player who won the French Open last year. The expectations that followed seem to have affected her on the court. She struggled in the first round a couple of days ago. She had an easier time in the second round with Alberta Brianti, but now she’ll be running into seeded players. Her draw doesn’t look overly difficult, so I’ll hold out hope.

Ivanovic would have to play Jelena Dokic in the fourth round if they both make it through, and that would be fun to watch. Dokic has gone through some rather bizarre situations with her father (he was once kicked out of the US Open for going nuts about the price of salmon at the tennis center; he also once claimed that the Australian Open draw was fixed since his daughter had to play Lindsay Davenport in the first round; and more) and she nearly lost her tennis career as a result. She’s come storming back, upsetting the 17-seed, Anna Chakvetadze, in the second round. I’m a sucker for a good comeback story.

If you ask me who I think is going to win, I’ll probably tell you Serena Williams, although I hope she doesn’t.

On the men’s side, I’m rooting for several guys who probably don’t have much of a chance to win. I’m always hoping for an Andy Roddick breakthrough and it’s always possible because of his big serve. He has another new coach, Larry Stefanki, who insisted that Roddick get in better shape, and he’s done that by dropping 15 pounds. Roddick is through to the third round where he’ll be matched up against one of my favorite players, Fabrice Santoro (whom I’ve written about here).

Santoro said he was retiring at the end of the 2008 season, but he’s back. To be honest, his antics sort of bug me, but his game appears to be a throwback to 100 years ago—so I love to watch him play. During the 2008 US Open, Roddick and Santoro met in the first round and Roddick crushed him 6-2, 6-2, 6-2, but it ended rather oddly. Two points from the end, Roddick smashed a 140 mph serve that came straight at Santoro and Santoro barely got out of the way. Santoro refused to try on the last point and Roddick served an ace. Santoro thought it was in poor taste for Roddick to serve toward the body with such a huge lead; Roddick said he wasn’t trying to serve into the body. Hopefully, they’ve worked through all of this before their third round match this week.

I’m still holding onto hope that James Blake will break through. But everything would have to align perfectly. He goes for nearly every shot and this surface is super slow, so his opponents will have more time to run down his shots (even when the do land in).

Marcos Baghdatis is always fun to watch. He’s through to the third round where he’ll play another player I enjoy watching, Mardy Fish. I’ll be rooting for Fish, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Baghdatis go deep into the tournament either.

Giles Muller is making a little noise (I wrote about his comeback here). He’s into the third round. I’m always rooting for him.

I can’t see Rafael Nadal winning on a hard court, even though he is ranked number one in the world. But if he’s ever going to win on a hard court it would be this one since it is so slow.

Roger Federer has a chip on his shoulder about being introduced before each match as the number two seed and as much as I admire his game, I can’t get past what I perceive as arrogance. He’s always a threat, but I think Novak Djokovic would take him out in the semi-finals.

Djokovic’s comments at the US Open last year after the Roddick match coupled with his Ivan Drago-like attitude (yes, that’s a Rocky IV reference) that he’s made out of steel is wearing on me. I was starting to become a fan, but I changed my mind about him. I’d love to see Baghdatis or Fish take him out in the fourth round, but I don’t think it’ll happen.

That leaves Andy Murray, who I’m not a fan of, but he’s my pick to win the tournament this year.

If you are following the tournament, feel free to leave comments about your predications or with stories about your favorite players.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Series of Firsts: First Best Friend

There’s something about being a kid that makes you not only choose a “best” friend, but also to proclaim it to the world. I guess it’s a combination of not understanding diplomacy while at the same time doing everything with reckless abandon. But that’s just what you do when you are eight.

When I was eight, my parents divorced and that meant change. My mom, my sister, and I went from living in a large new home that my parents built to living in a smaller home in an older neighborhood. It was the same neighborhood my mom grew up in and from what she described not much had changed over the years. It was still a good place to raise kids, but you just had to make sure you didn’t wander across an elderly person’s yard. If you did, you were going to be yelled at. I adjusted to that pretty quickly.

My previous house was in a neighborhood that was set off the beaten track and there weren’t any kids to play with. That wasn’t the case with the older, more established neighborhood my family moved into. Not long after we moved, I met a kid about my age named Willie. He lived just a few houses away. We had similar interests (cars, baseball cards, sports in general, and cub scouts) and we quickly became friends. Before long, we were referring to each other as best friends.

He had a killer hot wheel collection, but it wasn’t just something you looked at. An eight-year-old boy doesn’t have much use for that. It was something to be experienced, and boy did we ever experience it. His house sat up on a hill, so we’d connect hot wheel tracks and run them all the way down the front porch stairs and then the main stairs. Then we’d set up a tournament bracket (much like the ones used during March Madness) and have the cars compete against each other. He always rooted for the 43 car. I must have had a favorite, but I can’t remember. What I do remember is rooting against the 43 car. But we had a blast.

I spent many weekends at Willie’s house—even after his family moved a couple of miles away. As we got older, we started watching and then playing tennis. His new house was close to tennis courts and we spent hour after hour on those courts. At first, we were terrible (I had to hit my serves off the bounce rather than tossing the ball in the air), but we practiced like time didn’t matter because when you are 12, it doesn’t. Eventually we were able to sustain rallies. By then, we’d already chosen our favorite tennis players and we tried to imitate them. Willie was an Ivan Lendl fan, so he’d put sawdust in his pockets to absorb the sweat on his racquet handle just like Lendl did. I was a John McEnroe fan, so I tried to master the art of putting spin on the ball and I came to the net a lot, just like McEnroe did.

Willie started noticing girls before I did. Well, I noticed, but I was too shy to do anything more than notice. After entering high school, we drifted apart for various reasons, some of which were my fault, and some of which were his. But the truth is, not all friendships are meant to last a lifetime. Sometimes they are meant for a season. And for a season, we were best friends.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Sticking Your Tongue on a Light Pole

The temperature dropped to 16 degrees below zero yesterday in Omaha, making it the coldest January 15th in the city since 1888 (when it dropped to 25 degrees below zero). Overall, yesterday was the coldest day in Omaha since 1996. And guess what a six-year old child named Mason decided to do? Yep, he couldn’t resist the urge to stick his tongue on a light pole. Can you imagine?

His mother saw the incident through a window and ran outside in her pajamas with several glasses of water. The third glass did the trick, freeing Mason, but he left part of his tongue behind. An article in the Omaha World Herald this morning says that Mason had been thinking about doing it for a while, so it was premeditated. His parents warned against it but he didn’t think they were right.

Child-like wonder seems to know no bounds. When I was young, probably Mason’s age, I was fascinated with electrical outlets. The slots looked like the perfect place to insert keys. So, one day I put a key in one of the electrical outlets in our living room. Nothing happened. Then I put a second key in the socket and got quite a shock. There’s nothing like learning immediate consequences.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, by the time we reach adulthood we’ve often gone to the other extreme. We’ve spent most of our lifetimes avoiding actions that might hurt us and while that’s a good thing physically speaking, it can be detrimental in other ways.

The potential entrepreneur may never risk starting his or her own business simply because of the failure rate. The lonely single person may never take a risk at finding love again because being alone hurts less than rejection. The person who longs to paint, or write, or sing may never do so in front of an audience, fearing laughter rather than praise.

Obviously, living somewhere between the two extremes is the answer. But if I really had to choose one extreme or the other, I’d stick my tongue on a light pole because attempting something and feeling pain as a result is better than being too fearful to ever take the chance.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Forget the Groundhog, Clanci Saw Her Shadow

My mom my called me this morning. During our conversation she told me about a new quirk her cat, Clanci, has developed in the past few days. Clanci loves to eat, as evidenced by the fact that she usually beats my mom to the spot where Mom puts Clanci’s food bowl. She prances around and meows until Mom sets the bowl in front of her and then, look out. As she digs in, loud slurps fill the air and food particles go flying. Here’s one of the first photos I ever took of her:

Recently Mom set Clanci’s bowl of food in front of her and Clanci saw Mom’s shadow about the same time and Clanci darted away in fear. Mom thought it might be a fluke, but apparently Clanci recently saw her own shadow by her food bowl and all of this shadow business has caused her to stop eating. This morning Mom told me that she moved Clanci’s bowl into the bathroom (where apparently no shadows exist) and Clanci is back to inhaling her food again.

Mom got the biggest laugh out of this ordeal as she explained it to me. Very few things on this earth make me happier than hearing Mom laugh. I love how the simplest of things, like the crazy antics of a cat and the laughter that follows, can make life so grand.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Weak Ties

I heard a term that was new to me while listening to a podcast of the Kim Komando show last night. She was talking about “weak ties” and how beneficial they can be for advancing a career or simply getting a different job. Weak ties are the ties we create on social networking websites, or they are former co-workers who we touch base with once in a blue moon, or just an acquaintance we cross paths with occasionally. The theory says that by letting our weak ties know about our job search, we are more likely to find what we are looking for because we have a lot more weak ties in our lives than strong ones.

I did a little research when I got home and found a great post written by Ryan Healy about the topic on his blog called Employee Evolution. Here’s a little of what he said:

Everyone should embrace new technology and social networks to create as many weak ties as possible. Having a million online acquaintances allows you to embrace the diversity that exists in the world and provides the connections you need to advance anywhere you want in your career. But the way I see it, a thousand weak ties cannot replace the connection that comes from one strong tie.

The comments after his post are enlightening as well. One of the common themes among those who joined in the discussion was that having weak ties is a natural part of life and that they should not be a substitute for strong ties (people we know well). It’s a balancing act, just like everything else in life.

We aren’t supposed to be close to everyone we know. There wouldn't be enough hours in the day. When I get stressed about not being close to a lot of people, I often remember that Jesus hung out with a band of twelve men, and even then he was closer to Peter, James, and John than the others. He did have other friends. Many of them are mentioned by name in the gospels. He even wept when one of them died. Of course, he also had many weak ties as well: people who heard him speak, people he healed, and people he spoke with during his travels. But in his humanity, he was only close-close with a few people.

Seems like a pretty good model to me.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Series of Firsts

Over the years, I’ve written a couple of posts here at Little Nuances about firsts. My first car, etc. But I’ve been thinking about doing a series of posts, maybe once a week or so, about firsts. Beyond that, I’d love to see other bloggers pick up the idea and run with it because I’d love to read your stories.

Help me to brainstorm about ideas for posts. Here is what I have so far:

  • First best friend
  • First crush
  • First pet
  • First record player/cassette player/CD player
  • First album/CD/cassette
  • First kiss
  • First school
  • First high school memory
  • First high school dance
  • First sporting event (as a spectator)
  • First sport/activity (as a participant)
  • First hobby
  • First favorite song
  • Fist favorite album
  • First favorite group/singer
  • First favorite author
  • First favorite book
  • First favorite actor
  • First favorite movie
  • First computer
  • First blog
  • First job
  • First paycheck
  • First concert

Add more firsts in the comment section.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Four Friends and a Cabin

Spent the night last night in a cabin with three friends. We watched a little football (my Steelers won!), grilled some steak and hamburgers, got a fire going in the fireplace, played a board game, drank some wine, and stayed up too late. But we had a great time.

When I woke up this morning I saw a deer walk by my bedroom window. I grabbed my camera and went outside. I eventually found a pair of deer, but since we've had some snow and ice lately, the walking trails weren't clear, so I couldn't get as close as I wanted to. I was able to snap this photo though:

And here's a picture of the aforementioned fireplace and wine. Coupled with good company, it made for a nice evening.

I am soooooo tired this afternoon. I shouldn't have any problems getting to sleep tonight.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Lessons Learned in a Bad Economy

The USA Today is currently running an interesting article on their website: A generation adjusts as teens confront a harsh economy. Early on, the article makes this point:

Perhaps never before has a generation that has wanted for so little—these offspring of acquisitive Baby Boomer parents have amassed cellphones, iPods, laptops and a perceived sense of entitlement—been forced to give up so much.

The journalist who wrote the article went to a high school in California to get the reaction of teens to their family’s cutbacks. As you might imagine, many are disappointed that they can’t do as much or purchase as much as they are accustomed to, but they are also learning something.

One teen girl has started going to thrift stores instead of the mall. One teen boy invites friends over to play board games instead of going to the movies. Another girl calls this a wake-up call about how much she and her friends have. And a 17-year-old boy said this, “Things are a lot cozier now. The standard for what makes a great weekend is a lot lower. Video games with a friend are it for me. But it’s OK.”

I wonder if by saying things are cozier, the boy is learning the benefit of engaging with people rather than things. Coziness doesn’t come from playing Xboxes or listening to iPods in solitude. It comes from sitting on a couch with a cup of hot chocolate with a friend or loved one and getting caught up in each other’s lives; from playing a game with people as laughter fills the room; from looking across the table or across the room and seeing a smile.

If he’s learning all of that right now, then having less money in his pocket might just turn out to be one of the best things that ever happens to him.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Letter Writing Week

The second week in January every year is Letter Writing Week. I tend to turn it into letter appreciation week. I like to go through old letters I’ve kept (and I’ve kept most of them I’ve received) and re-read several of them at random. This week, I decided to do something a little different. I decided to re-read some of the letters I sent to others.

Back in high school, I made a cedar box during wood shop. Nobody would ever mistake me for being a carpenter though. In fact, I must not have measured something correctly because when I cut the top off the box so I could fashion it into a lid, I cut right through several dowels (which you can probably see in the picture below). Oops. But I attached some hinges and it worked anyway. Eventually I gave it to my dad. After he died in 2000, I took the box back into my possession and when I opened it I found quite a few letters—many of which I wrote. And I even found a photo of me I’d never seen before (you can probably see that in the photo below too). It’s actually a photo of my horse, Frito Bandito (who was apparently named after the cartoon mascot for Fritos during the late 1960s), and the back of my head. I’m not sure why Dad kept that particular photo in the box.

Anyway, I’ve never gone through these letters before. I pulled a few of them out and read them. I ran across this passage from a letter I wrote to Dad on September 4, 1994—I had just picked up my first Windows-based computer (before that I had a DOS-based machine):

As you can imagine, I spent the rest of the late afternoon and night figuring this new computer out. I’ll tell you, it took me four hours just to have any idea what I was supposed to be doing. Finally, I figured it out enough to begin getting into the programs and working with them. The computer came loaded with six or seven different types of software, all of which are pretty expensive if you buy them individually. This computer seems to have it all, now it is just a matter of figuring it all out. It even has America Online, Prodigy, and CompuServe. You hook these services up through your phone line and then you can access these services for a monthly service fee. I haven’t even gotten into these programs yet, nor have I looked into hooking them up through the phone, but I will.

This brings back so many memories. I really wasn’t crazy about going to a Windows-based machine. You can probably hear that in the tone of my letter. I was so accustomed to DOS. I still remember many of the commands I had to type just to get a program to open. But I could see the writing on the wall, so I took the plunge. I ended up trying AOL, Prodigy, and CompuServe. I stuck with AOL for quite a while. But even after Dad got online, we still continued to write letters. We emailed some, but the email didn’t go into the depth our letters did.

And boy am I glad.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A Civil War Letter

The struggles that you and I currently face are quite similar to the struggles that people have always faced. I was reminded of this again recently when I read an old letter online that was written by a Confederate soldier named James Parrott. It was one of many letters Parrott wrote to his wife during the war. But I was especially moved by the letter he wrote to her on September 10, 1864. Here is an excerpt (the spelling is left intact—somebody added brackets to help when necessary):

Dear wife I shuder to think of your trubles when your little children is a sleep you are awake. I am in this wear [war] I don't know when I can get out of it. You had rather have me a brave man than for me to be a coward. Wife you do not want me to run resks [risks] of coming home and take [protection in the wild]. I could rite a grate deal more but I am not allowed to so I must close buy saying I remain your husban until death. Good buy for this time. Lety I want you to rite to me and tell me who is your sweatheart.

According to the website this letter appears on, the South knew they were losing the war at the time Parrott wrote this letter. The South surrendered the following April. Can’t you just feel Parrott’s internal conflict? He had no plans to desert the cause, but he ached to see his family. Knowing he couldn’t see them, the one thing he needed most was for his wife to to tell him that he is her sweetheart. He had to know that his life mattered to her. He had to know that he was missed. He had to know that he was loved. Knowing all of that would make his duty bearable.

Sort of makes you want to pick up the phone and tell your beloved that he or she is your sweetheart, doesn’t it?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

2009 Trends

I love looking at year end lists. I found one at USA Today recently that predicts 2009 trends. It’s done with the downturn in our economy in mind.

It says that high-priced steakhouses will be out and the best cheese steak joints are in. I’m fine with cheese steak, but this is one man who will not be giving up steakhouses. I much prefer having a hunk of meat in front me at dinner and I get a little crabby when I don’t have one—no pun intended.

[Here's a photo of the steaks I grilled after a snowstorm for my family's Christmas dinner, if that gives you any idea.]

Health clubs memberships are going to be out in favor of walking a dog and running. I don’t have a club membership, but I do enjoy walking around a lake in my area. But in Nebraska that isn’t possible from December through April because it’s often below zero or snowing. And it isn’t preferable from June to August because it’s often 100+ degrees. So I’m thinking that a membership to the local YMCA is in order soon.

Online entertainment is supposed to be out in favor of getting out and dancing, etc. I like to dance, but I haven’t done so in years, and it will certainly not be my form of entertainment in 2009.

Energy drinks will be out of vogue in favor of strong liqueurs. I have never had an energy drink, so I won’t start now. But I’m not a fan of strong liqueur. (And isn’t the term “strong liqueur” a bit redundant since “liqueur” means “strong drink.”) I prefer a good glass of wine or lite beer.

Noticing a pattern here?

As I make my way down the list of 2009 trends, I’m still stuck in the old trends. And with the exception of technology related issues, that pretty much describes who I am.

How about you? Where do you fall when it comes to this list?

Monday, January 05, 2009

The Blue Hour

Now that I have a decent camera, I’ve been doing a little research about how to become a better photographer. I’m never going to be great, but I take a lot of photos, so I’d like to get better.

I ran across this bit of information on Kim Komando’s website:

“But here’s a secret: Many night photos aren’t taken at night.

“They’re taken during the blue hour, the ‘hour’ between daylight and dark. The term comes from the French l’heure bleu; it’s just a better name for twilight.

“The blue hour doesn’t occur at a set time. It changes depending on the time of year and your location.”

The vast majority of life happens outside the window of the blue hour, but just knowing about the blue hour makes me aware that a small sliver of time exists each day in which photos are going to look better. All I need to do is take advantage of it.

Life is sort of that way, isn’t it? When we are more aware of the details, we tend to get more out of each moment.

Photo credit: Laura Leavell

Friday, January 02, 2009

Tracking Life

Sean Fowlds sent me an email yesterday with a link to an article from the Wall Street Journal called “The New Examined Life: Why more people are spilling the statistics of their lives on the Web." He knew it would intrigue me and he was right.

Without some record of life, it's hard to remember the specifics. And if you can't remember the specifics, its hard to feel like the time you've spent doing anything really matters. I know that it does matter, but I'd still rather remember the little things that so easily slip away if they aren't noted.

In my 2008 reflections post, I told you that I wasn't all that happy about the way I failed to keep track of my life in 2008. I like to be able to look back and see what books I read the previous year and how my bowling average fluctuated and what I thought about a certain movie. I find that by keeping track of such things, I not only enjoy them more, but I also find good and bad patterns in my life and it helps me to make adjustments when needed.

The people who were interviewed for the WSJ article track their lives for the same reasons. Here's how the article describes it:
These quotidan aggregators believe that the compilation of our daily activities can reveal the secret patterns that govern the way we live. For students of personal informatics, the practice is liberating because it shows that our lives aren't random, and are more orderly than some might expect.
The primary subject of the interview, Nicholas Felton, can tell you that he lost six games of pool in 2007, read 4,736 pages in books, drank 632 cans of beer and then sorted them by country of origin, and he could even tell you every street he walked down in New York that year.

I wonder how the guy ever has time to do anything but track his life. But obviously he does – just look at how many activities he was involved in. Apparently he isn't the only person tracking the minutiae of his life. According the the WSJ article, a website called Mycrocosm has 1,300 users who chronicle everything from their moods to their medicine to their coffee drinking habits. Another website, co-founded by Felton, called Daytum, is in beta and will presumably allow its users to chronicle nearly anything as well.

I don't have any big desire to join one of these websites so I can share my life with people – most of whom I don't know. And I don't really care about chronicling every detail of my life. I'd never keep up with it even if I was interested in it. But I've noticed that if I keep track of what I'm reading, what I'm watching, and who I am spending time with, then I not only notice patterns in my life but I also feel a little more balanced – especially when I take the time to examine such things. My problem is, I am often so busy I don't take enough time to either track the things I want to track or to examine the information I have tracked.

So even in tracking the little things, I find that I need a balance. And I'm always pursuing it. How about you? Do you track the little things? Why or why not?

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Brandilyn Collins Helps Homeless Woman and Daughter

How about a positive story to start the new year off right? You’ve heard a lot of stories about technology being used for the wrong reasons. Here’s a story about technology being used to help people in need.

Brandilyn Collins is a Christian suspense novelist. A woman named Liz Hughes from the San Jose, California area has been reading Brandilyn’s books for the past four years. Liz is a widow with a 16-year-old daughter named Katy. Liz hasn’t been able to find work for the past couple of years so they have been struggling financially. Recently, they became homeless and were living in a car. Katy began to blog about her experience using the internet connections at restaurants and cafes. Here’s a link to Katy’s blog called Anywhere But Here.

When Collins found out about Liz and Katy, she wrote about them on her blog Forensics & Faith. She also began to write about their plight on Twitter. People wanted to know how they could help. Collins began accepting donations for them and then she went to see them. She took $971 in donations with her and they were able to get into a hotel. You can read more about all of this on Collins’ blog. A local ABC affiliate heard about the situation and went out and did a story about Liz and Katy. You can watch the video by clicking here.

Liz and Katy are far from being out of the woods, but thanks to Collins and the people who rallied around her words, things are far better than they were just a few days ago. You can get involved by going to either Katy’s blog or Brandilyn’s blog.


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