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 29, 2010

Considering a Kindle

Kindle Wireless Reading Device (6" Display, Global Wireless, Latest Generation)Many years ago, on a blog that no longer exists, I wrote a post about "Picard Syndrome." I wish I still had access to that post, but it wouldn't matter because my conclusions would be dated.

Yesterday, after having a conversation with someone via Twitter and then with a friend via email, I remembered Picard Syndrome and I googled the phrase and found this interesting blog post about it.
Picard Syndrome got it's name from Gary North who wrote an essay titled as such, maybe seven or eight years ago. The syndrome is named after Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation (which I've never seen). One character reads digital books, but Picard is still enamored with bound books.

I've felt this way myself for the first 42 years of my life. I'm 43 now.

When I first heard about the Kindle, I was intrigued. But it looked bulky. Would I really sit in my recliner with an electronic gadget and read a book on it? Could I ever get used to that? And what about the smell? I love the way books smell.

Along came the Sony e-Reader and the Nook.

And then yesterday, we had the announcement that the iPad was coming soon. I saw one person on Twitter pronounce the death of the Kindle. You can read many similar pronouncements in this article.

I have no idea if the iPad will kill the Kindle. I can only speak for myself. For the first time since e-readers became available, I'm thinking seriously about getting one. And my first choice would be a Kindle.

As I write this post, I'm look around at the walls of my house -- nearly all of which are filled with bookshevles full of books. In fact, last night I took some to a local bookstore to cash them in. I have between 500-1,000 books. A Kindle2 holds 1,500 books. Much like my iPod made CDs a thing of the past because it allowed me to carry all of my music around in my pocket, the Kindle could do the same thing for me. Although I doubt that I"ll ever really replace every bound book. It would be difficult, logistically speaking, and impractical.

You can see where I'm going with that though. Why tie up so much space in my home when conceivably I could take some of it back by simply using an e-reader in which I could store more books than I currently own?

But what about the feel and smell of books?

I'm starting to believe both are over rated.

A couple of years ago, I edited a novel for a publishing company. They sent it to me in a .pdf file and I printed it -- all 500 or so pages. Five pages into the novel I was completely engrossed in the story. I didn't miss out on the experience. It was a great book even though it wasn't bound and printed.

Whenever I buy a book, I look through the stack of that particular title for the one in the best physical condition -- no blemishes on the book cover, no visible dent marks, no bent pages, no pages with lighter printing than other pages, etc. The truth is, nearly ever book I've ever purchased has a blemish somewhere. I just don't see it right away. Sometimes the binding breaks, sometimes the paper doesn't feel right, sometimes the book doesn't even smell like a book.

We like the notion of feel and smell, but in reality, neither offer a pure experience. In a sense, I've treated bound books like I do with a lot of things in life I over romanticize. Books are about information and/or entertainment. Information and entertainment happen as a result of the words in the book, not the packaging.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

#97 Family Videos

Continuing with the 100 life-enriching little nuances series…

On Christmas Day in 1996, my family on my dad’s side opened gifts at my grandmother’s house.

Grandma had one of those huge camcorders that looked like something a news crew might use (pretty much like the one pictured) while covering a breaking story. I used it to record our gift exchange.

The minute the final gift was opened, my dad waded up some gift wrapping paper and fired it at his wife. She returned fire, and it was on. My brother, Mark, didn’t need any more incentive than that and he joined the fight.

"Grandma, I got a Nintendo!" my niece said, not caring that her family was throwing wadded up gift wrapping paper at each other.

Dad fired at one of my sisters. She objected, playfully, but to no avail. Then it became every man for himself. At one point, my brother launched one at me and it hit the camera.

“Hey!” I said, not having a dog in the hunt.

Dad re-focused his attention on his wife, even calling out to my brother for reinforcement.

“Get her Mark!” Dad said. “I’ll get her from this side and you get her from that side.”

My grandma, watched from a chair across the room with a smile on her face. She was the queen of horseplay, so she must have felt like the baton had been passed on to next few generations.

I checked with my family yesterday and they are fine with me sharing a clip from the video:

I watched the video again yesterday several times and it brought a huge smile to my face. I can’t imagine not having access to it, or any other videos I recorded over the years. It is so much better than my memory. The videos captures hair styles, clothing, laughter, mannerisms – the things I may have forgotten.

Obviously, technology has changed since 1996. I have never bought a camcorder myself, but I have had several digital cameras that record video and I’ve recorded dozens if not hundreds of family functions over the years.

Yesterday, I saw a flip digital camcorder for $46.00. I didn’t buy it because I don’t know enough about digital camcorders yet to know if that particular one would have been any better than the video I can shoot with my digital camera, but once I’m convinced, I will buy one.

And years from now, no matter where I am or what I am doing, I’ll be able to click the play button on those videos and they will transport me back to another era.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

An Afternoon at Panera Bread

Two young women in cafe
Yesterday afternoon, I went to Panera Bread to work on an editing project. I'm always fascinated by what is going on around me while I'm there. Customers either don't realize how much their voices carry or they don't care.

The first group of people who sat down not far from me consisted of two females and one male. One of the women said to the man, "I thought you said you don't do karaoke." Then she sang YMCA. Eventually the man stood up and did a variation of what looked to be a cross between The Robot and break dancing.

Minutes after they left, two women sat down at the same table. They were quiet talkers. I heard the words "summer," "pacific," "days," "trees" and it made me think they were talking about an upcoming vacation. With all the snow we still have on the ground, it's certainly understandable why they might be dreaming about getting away.

The place was completely quite for a while, except for the chatter of employees.

Finally, a man and woman sat down at the same table the other two groups sat previously. The woman began to talk about sick days. Shortly into their conversation, the man's cell phone rang, quite loudly, and oddly he spoke much louder into the phone than he did when speaking to the woman seated across from him. From the sound of his conversation, his car was in the shop and he was talking to somebody about it. The call got dropped somehow and a couple of minutes later, his phone began ringing again. It took him several rings to pick it up. He finished his conversation and hung up.

"Hot Chai" shouted one of the workers.

Unbelievably, a couple of minutes later, the man's phone began to ring again -- maybe five times before he finally picked it up. I'm guessing he doesn't know he can set his phone to vibrate. I wish he did. They finished their meal and left.

The sounds of soft jazz playing over the PA system replaced the loud ringing telephone.

"Hey Mike, how are ya?" said a worker to a customer.

Then silence.

Ahhh. Silence.

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Either bread or coffee or something must have been ready because the beeping wouldn't stop.

Two hours into my attempt to get more work done by escaping my office, I packed up and headed back for the office. As much as I love people watching (I really do) and the ambiance of Panera Bread, I'm thinking I need to start frequenting a library if I really want to get some work done.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

When Little Things Become Bigger Things

This blog is named Little Nuances for a reason. I believe that life is in the details -- in the small decisions we make, in the phrases that move us, in the lyrics that speak to us, in the questions people ask us, in the seemingly routine events.

A few years ago, an editor asked me to write a sports inspirational book. We brainstormed ideas for sections I'd cover. He wanted a section about NASCAR. I had never watched a NASCAR race in my life. I didn't know anything about it, but when an editor comes to you with a book idea, you listen. And, when necessary, you do some research.

I watched the final three NASCAR races of the 2005 season. The final race blew me away when two competitors raced each other hard, and clean, to the finish line. Afterward, Mark Martin, the guy who came up short, spoke about racing his opponent clean and I could tell from his voice and mannerisms that there was a certain honor in that. And I could tell from the way he spoke that other people in the industry had a ton of respect for him. I became a NASCAR fan and a Mark Martin fan that night. 

Five years later, I have interviewed and written about drivers such as Bobby Labonte, Sam Hornish Jr., David Reutimann, Brad Coleman, Morgan Shepherd and Eric McClure. I've also interviewed and written about other people in and around the industry. None of that would have happened if I hadn't met an editor years prior who liked my work and offered me a book contract.

The funny thing is, the book was never released. The distribution fell through and the publisher pulled the plug. There wasn't any hard feelings though. They paid me for the book and I've written other books for the editor since then.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Nascar: 101 Stories of Family, Fortitude, and Fast CarsYesterday, the UPS man rang my doorbell and dropped off a box. I opened it and inside I found my contributor copies of Chicken Soup for the Soul: NASCAR. In it, on page 162 you can find my contribution titled, "How Mark Martin Turned Me into a NASCAR Fan." The book will be released on February 16.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Dating Book Passages

Hand holding red pencil, on open text book
A couple of weeks ago, I grabbed a book off my bookshelf because I wanted to quote a passage from it in something I was writing. I underline passages so I can find them under such circumstances. I found the passage I was looking for and for some reason I had written a date next to it in the margin. Seeing the date gave me context. It helped me remember what was going on in my life when I read that passage.

It gave me an idea to begin writing the date in the margin of every book I read at the beginning of each reading session. I did that as I read Open by Andre Agassi. I'm doing it now as I read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. In the years to come, as I flip through these books I'll have context for the passages that spoke to me and I think they'll mean more to me.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Soundtrack of Life

Clearwater Benefit Concert - Show
If somebody were to ask you to put together a 12-song sound track of your life, what songs would go on it?

I'm not talking about songs you love or even like necessarily; instead I'm talking about songs that are just part of who you are. They gave a voice to some emotion you were feeling or they were background music for some period in your life and the second you hear the first note, you remember.

Here's what would go on mine:

Dream On by Aerosmith: The song came out in 1973. I was seven years old. I didn't actually know the song until I was probably 14 or so, but Aerosmith became my favorite group and this song was the main reason. I thought Steven Tyler was so cool and I just loved their music. When I went to work at a fast food restaurant, all of us had our own cup we used and re-used for soda pop throughout our shift. The name I wrote on the masking tape on my cup was "Steven Lee Tyler." Pretty ridiculous, but hey, that's where I was at the time in my life.

Baby Come to Me by Patti Austin and James Ingram. I had a girlfriend in high school who deemed this our song. I never liked it much, but I've heard worse. I can't hear it now though and not think about those days.

Purple Rain by Prince. This was sort of a transition song for me. It came out in 1984. I graduated from high school that year. I saw the movie, that shares the same name, twice in one day -- once in a movie theater with a female friend who adored Prince and then later that night at a drive-in theater with some friends, including a former girlfriend. After I started working at the fast food place, this song became our anthem as we cleaned the place after we closed. We'd pull out the boom box, pop in the tape, and blast it.

Hello by Lionel Richie. I was in college when this came out. Whenever I heard it, I thought of a woman I was into at the time. One day, while playing in the final of a tennis tournament on campus, this song came over the PA. I'm a sappy romantic at heart and I drew inspiration from the song as I thought about the woman I was interested in -- especially since I was there alone and the other guy had a small cheering section. I won the match, and the tournament, and then I told the woman about it. She wasn't impressed or interested, but I'll always have "Hello."

Like a Virgin by Madonna. Another song that came out when I was in college. It was on the radio non-stop as I drove to and from class every day. I can still hear it as I drove down 24th Street toward home one day. I don't know why, but my mind took a snapshot of that moment and stored the photo in my permanent memory banks. I didn't really like the song a whole lot, but when I think about college, I think about this song.

Faithfully by Journey. So, this one involved another woman. Sensing a recurring theme here? Said woman and one of her friends and I went to see Journey perform in Lincoln, Nebraska. This would have been 1986 or so. I was into said woman more than she was into me. But, we were there, sitting together and during this song, as Steve Perry belted out the chorus, I slipped my arm around her. A couple of weeks later, I got the fateful note/letter -- remember those? -- telling me she just wanted to be friends. But for one night, I got swept up in the moment provided by Journey. And things were good.

Alone Again by Dokken. I went to an outdoor music festival with a friend around 1986. Dokken was one of the bands. I didn't really know their music, but they sang a ballad that was dripping with emotion called "Alone Again" and I was hooked. The lyrics and the feel of the song really grasped the way I was thinking and feeling at the time.

That's What Friends are for the cover version by Dionne Warwick and friends. This song became one of those songs that define a relationship that was hard to define. It also became a privately shared knowing between us whenever it came on the radio.

Every Rose Has its Thorn by Poison. I was never a real song writer, but for a while, in the late 80s I played the guitar a little and wrote about a dozen songs. I learned how to play "Every Rose Has its Thorn" although I'm not sure I ever learned it all the way through. But I could play most of it and it sounded pretty good. One night, I had a group of friends over and one of my friends brought a woman who knew the words to this song. So, she sang along as I played. We wouldn't have won any awards, but it was fun.

Easy Street by Zwarte. This song came out the same year I became a Christian. Everything I believed was changing. During this same period, a friend and I went to see Zwarte play at a bowling alley every time they came into town. Zwarte's anthem was (and I suspect still is) "Easy Street" -- a song about the perils of choosing the easy way. The song meant a lot to me because it gave a voice to they way I was feeling.

Your Life is Now by John Mellencamp. This song came out in 1998 on Mellencamp's self-titled CD. After my dad died in 2000, this song became a powerful reminder of who I was and how short life is. Mellencamp sings, "Your father's days are lost to you / This is your time here to do what you will do / Your life is now." I felt that. Something about losing a parent makes you realize that your life is now -- it's not some distant dream.

Ohio by Over the Rhine. Last June, I wrote about this song and the emotions it creates in me. When I listen to the song, I think about it from the "Your Life is Now" perspective. So much is changing and my "father's days are lost" to me in the sense that you can never go back. But sometimes, you have to go back -- mentally speaking -- to remember where you came from, and ultimately, to help you see where you are going.

Your turn. What songs would go on the soundtrack of your life?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

(500) Days of Summer

“I dream sometimes about flying. It starts out like I’m running really, really fast and I’m like superhuman and the terrain starts to get really rocky and steep. And then I’m running so fast that my feet aren’t even touching the ground and I’m floating and it’s like this amazing, amazing feeling. I’m free and I’m safe, but then I realize, I’m completely alone. And then I wake up.”  –Summer Finn, from (500) Days of Summer

I love it that Summer realizes the contradiction of flying about, free and clear, while at the same time experiencing loneliness. It’s a non-romantic view of freedom. Something about hearing people wrestle through their contradictions is inspiring to me. It makes me feel better about my own. It also helps me to be honest about them and to examine them.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Jimmy Fallon as Neil Young

This video of Jimmy Fallon as Neil Young doing "Pants on the Ground" is hilarious and brilliant:

Friday, January 15, 2010

#98 Gifts

In 2006 I wrote and posted a list of 100 life-enriching little nuances in which the items are in no particular order. Once a week, over the next couple of years, I’m planning to write a post about each item on the list. I’d love it if you would add your own comments and experiences. 

On Christmas Eve In 1993, my family gathered for Christmas at my grandmother's house, just like we'd been doing for as long as I could remember. I was anxious for Dad to open the gift I got him -- a copy of Rush Limbaugh's newest book See, I Told You So. We'd been talking about the book on the phone and in letters since it had been released a month or two prior.

He unwrapped my gift and a smile spread across his face. There's nothing like seeing a genuine smile from someone after you have given him or her a gift.

I unwrapped the gift he got me and that's when I understood why he was really smiling.

"Unbelievable,"  I said.

He bought me the same book.

It was a special moment for me. Gifts are so personal and it's not always easy to know what to get another person, but if you pay attention to his or her likes -- to the things they gravitate toward, you can almost always pick up on something.

When I unwrap a moleskine notebook, or a pack of G2 pens, or a DVD I don't have but want, or any number of other things, it tells me the other person is honed in on what I like and people who listen to you talk about the things you like genuinely care about you.

I really want to be that type of person too.

After Dad died in 2000, one of the things I wanted was the copy of the book I gave him. I found it. It now sits proudly on my bookshelf next to the copy he gave me. To make it even more special, they are both inscribed:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Waiting until Wednesday

Last Friday I sent the following email to my city councilmember:
My roommate is visually impaired -- not to the point that he needs assistance or anything like that, but enough so that it keeps him from driving. So, he walks to work every day and he doesn't mind it at all. He enjoys walking.

But ever since the first snow storm on December 8, the sidewalk on the … Street viaduct between … Street … and … Avenue have not been shoveled. So, he either has to walk in the street or avoid the viaduct and walk through neighborhoods that also aren't dug out yet either.

My roommate has called the city snow removal line and they say it is the state's responsibility. He called the state. Initially a representative told him they'd get right on it. They didn't. My roommate called back and this time they told him it was the city's responsibility.

All my roommate wants to do is be able to walk to work … Is there a way you could light a fire under somebody at either the city or state level to get the sidewalk on the viaduct shoveled (on both sides)? Anything you can do would be appreciated.
My city councilmember was quick to respond, asking one of his staffers to look into it with the intention of getting the sidewalk cleared by Monday. I was carbon-copied on several emails in which city and state personnel discussed the matter. This viaduct is on a state highway within city limits. It wasn’t hard to figure out why the viaduct hadn’t been touched. Nobody understood who was responsible.

The sidewalk wasn’t cleared over the weekend. Or on Monday. Or Tuesday.

Tuesday night, I was copied on another email in which one state worker paraphrased a state statute to a city worker saying it was the city’s responsibility if the state highway is located within city limits. That email did the trick.

My city councilmember emailed me on Wednesday to let me know the sidewalk was clear.

The truth is, sometimes you have to wait until Wednesday, even though it is a major inconvenience, and in this case, a genuine safety concern.

Life is messy. We misunderstand one another sometimes. We disagree with one another sometimes. We do stupid things to one another sometimes. But redemption really isn't all that far away.

In this case, my city councilmember -- who doesn't happen to be in the same political party as I am -- wasn't at fault, but he and his staff dug in, asked questions, got an answer, and the sidewalk on the viaduct was cleaned as a result. It wouldn't have happened without his help and I'm hoping he and his staff feel good knowing they made it easier for a citizen to get to work.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Gremlin Meeting

A couple of mornings ago, I was awakened by what felt like somebody repeatedly sticking a needle in one of pinky fingers. I knew what it was before I opened my eyes: a small sliver from my fingernail went rogue and the blanket was bending it backward. I hate when that happens.

Yesterday morning I woke up and the left side of my nose hurt. I have no idea why.

Nearly every morning, I wake up to some new adventure. I often envision little gremlins hovering over my bed at night, just waiting for me to fall asleep so they can begin their work.

They take out their little hammers and pound away on my knees and hips all night long. They wiggle my nose and ears back and forth. They climb on my shoulders and elbows and jump up and down. They laugh and mock and make promises to meet each other – same time, same place – the next night.

By the time I wake up, they are gone, but I know they’ve been there. I can feel the effects of their handiwork.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Howard the Duck

Continuing the 4,000 Questions series: "What movie did you like that everybody else hated?" 

Howard the DuckThat's an easy one to answer: Howard the Duck. I have no idea why this movie bombed at the box office or why people make fun of it, but I love it! I saw it again on cable a few months ago and cracked up as Howard delivered these classic lines:

"That's it, No more Mr. Nice Duck."

"Desperate ducks commit desperate acts."

"No one laughs at a master of Quack Fu!"

"Of all the alleys in the world I could have fallen into that night, why did it have to be yours?"

"I know why you need the toolbox -- you've got a screw loose."

And my favorite line:

"What is the name of this place?" Howard asks Beverly.

"Oh, Cleveland."

"Cleve-Land. Perfectly weird name for this planet."

Every time I hear Cleveland, I hear it as Cleve-Land.

My friends make fun of me for liking this movie. Critics hated it. I think even Lea Thompson is embarrassed by it. But I love it.

You want to see the trailer, don't you? Go on ...

Monday, January 11, 2010

2009 Blizzard Photos

With temperatures expected to climb up into the 30s this week, I decided to jump in my car yesterday and snap some photos of all the snow we have on the ground before it starts to melt. I have a feeling we’ll be talking about the 2009 blizzards in Omaha for a long time. It’s always good, and fun, to do a little documenting.

Unfortunately, the battery in my digital camera was dead so I had to use the camera on my cell phone. It does an adequate job, but some of the photos turned out pretty grainy.

A few of the photos were not necessarily taken yesterday, but they were taken since we received the last big snow on Christmas Day.

My favorite photo of the bunch is the last one, which for the record should say, “Please don’t block driveway.” Somehow the spray painted word “block” disappeared. I suspect a conspiracy.

What the sign means is this … the streets are so full of snow that the plows haven’t been able to clear them all the way from curb to curb and since snow is piled high at the end of everyone’s driveway, they can’t turn sharply enough to avoid the cars parked behind them on the street. And for whatever reason, people who park in the street aren’t taking this into consideration. So many of them are parking directly behind driveways and they don’t really need to. Hence the sign.

Anyway, here are the photos of the aftermath from the 2009 blizzard(s) in Omaha:

IMG00483IMG00538 IMG00494 IMG00495 IMG00496IMG00544 IMG00539 IMG00540 IMG00542 IMG00543IMG00566 IMG00551 IMG00554 IMG00557 IMG00558 IMG00559 IMG00561 IMG00562 IMG00565 

Update 9:34 AM: I found several more photos I’ve taken over the past couple of weeks:

IMG00522 IMG00523 IMG00525 IMG00470IMG00468

Friday, January 08, 2010

#99 School Plays and Concerts

In 2006 I wrote and posted a list of 100 life-enriching little nuances in which the items are in no particular order. Once a week, over the next couple of years, I’m planning to write a post about each item on the list. I’d love it if you would add your own comments and experiences.

Having just come from work, I walked into the school gymnasium as my niece’s second grade class took the stage. I searched the crowd for my family, found them, and sat in the seat they saved for me. Then I began looking toward the stage for my niece. There she was – standing at the end of the front row of students – supporting herself on her walker.

She was born with cerebral palsy in her lower extremities and it took all the strength she had to stand. I can still she her legs quivering when she stood for long periods of time.

She really just wanted to be treated like everybody else. She wanted to stand next to her classmates and sing with them. So she did. 

I don’t know why, but one of the songs they sing, called “Must be Santa” sticks in my brain.

Who’s got a beard that’s long and white?
Santa’s got a beard that’s long and white.

Who comes around on a special night?
Santa comes around on a special night.

Special night, beard that’s white, 
Must be Santa must be Santa,
Must be Santa, Santa Claus.

Their heads sort of sway back and forth as they sing.

We applaud as if we just heard the best rendition of the song ever performed and since they are our kids, we have. Some of the students are oblivious, some ham it up, some drink it all in. My niece is the bashful type, especially at this stage in her life – which is now 12 years ago, so her eyes dart back and forth and she partially conceals a smile.

All these years later, I’ll sometimes begin to sing the chorus of “Must be Santa” at Christmastime and my niece will roll her eyes. But there’s nothing she can do to stop it. The concert, the song, her struggle to stand next to her fellow students, her bashfulness – it’s all part our family folklore now.

Technically, folklore is unwritten, so I guess I’ve just moved the story beyond folklore to heritage. Either way, it’s remembered. And that’s the important thing. It’s also why school plays and concerts are on my list of 100 life-enriching little nuances. They have the potential to stay with us forever.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Rethinking 10 Phrases

  1. Each and every: Why not just say each or every?
  2. Whole nother: What does "nother" mean?
  3. Lip sing: You mean lip sync?
  4. Free of charge: Why not just free?
  5. Free gift: Aren't all gifts free?
  6. People that: Should be people who.
  7. Off of: Just off.
  8. At this point in time: Why not say now?
  9. In order to: Why not just to?
  10. Very (followed by any word): How fast is very fast? How far is very far? How good is very good? 

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Odd City Name Pronunciations

In 1997, the singles group from my church went on a murder mystery train ride on the Fremont Dinner Train. We had a marvelous meal and a great time trying to solve the mystery as we traveled from Fremont, Nebraska to Hooper, Nebraska in a 1940s style train (round trip is about 36 miles).

As we approached Hooper -- a town of less than a thousand people -- several passengers on the train informed us that the pronunciation of the city sounds like "hooker" with a "p."

"Huh?" I said.

"Yeah, like hooker with a p."

How could that be correct? I didn't argue though.

Recently, I found a message on an ancestory bulletin board asking why it is pronounced that way and so far nobody has answered the question. I also found a newspaper article written about the city and many of the locals chimed in about the proper pronunciation, but again, nobody really said why.

Some 13 years since that dinner train ride, I hear the city pronounced the way locals always say it and I smile, as if I'm in the know or something.

Oddly, we have another city in Nebraska that isn't pronounced the way it looks.

The city is Norfolk, Nebraska -- a city of nearly 23,000 people, located about 90 miles northwest of  Omaha. Many locals pronounce the city name as "Norfork."

One television station attempted to find out the proper pronunciation so it asked the mayor (who said both pronunciations are correct) and a number of citizens, all of whom had varying opinions for varying reasons, but most natives seem to favor "Norfork." One woman in the video said it was Norfork "because of the fork in the river." Another said it was Norfork because "it's always been that way."

Residents in Norfolk don't seem as dogmatic about the odd pronunciation as the people in Hooper. But I have to wonder if the founders of these towns didn't alter the pronunciations of these towns purposely -- maybe to identify the non-natives easily. Or maybe to be different. Or maybe there really are good explanations that nobody seems to know about.

But it's kind of fun to talk about.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Last Three Books

Continuing with the 4,000 Questions series: What were the last three books you bought?

Revolutionary Road (Movie Tie-in Edition) (Vintage Contemporaries)Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates. Set in the 1950s, a young married couple with two children and a starter home lives "on the assumption that greatness is only just around the corner. But now that certainty is about to crumble."

I really wanted to see this movie when it came out, but never got around to it. I think I'll read the book before watching it on DVD. Most of us, to varying degrees, live on the assumption, or least the hope, that greatness is just around the corner. I certainly do.

Greatness looks different for each of us though. For me, it would be marriage, a nice quiet home life spent with the woman I love and a writing career that brings in enough income.

Up In The Air (Movie Tie-in Edition) (Random House Movie Tie-In Books)Up in the Air by Walter Kirn. Ryan Bingham has one goal in life -- to reach the one million frequent-flyer miles club. He's a career transition counselor, which is just a fancy title for someone who is hired to fire people for companies that don't want to be involved in the dirty work.

I saw this movie on New Year's Eve. Portions of it were filmed here in Omaha, which was neat to see. George Clooney plays the part of Bingham and he is quite convincing in the role. Bingham loves the routines of the road and he loves the fact that his job keeps him absent from family events. Why deal with the headaches? He eventually figures out the reason.

As an introverted person, my tendency is to prefer to disengage. I've had to work hard over the years to avoid this. So, I'll be interested to read this book. I imagine I'll see more of myself in Bingham than I care to.

The Lovely BonesThe Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. The story is told through the eyes of a fourteen-year-old girl named Susie Salmon, who was murdered. She is able to see life on earth continue without her. She can hear what people say about her disappearance, she can see her killer as he tries to cover his tracks and she can see the way her family grieves her death.

I wanted to read this novel when it first came quite a few years ago, but since it isn't my type of book, I never got around to it. This book seems pretty heavy and, generally speaking, I'm not into mysteries or books about crime -- probably because they are so heavy on plot. I prefer character-driven fiction. But this book seems to be both.

Deep inside, we want to believe that heaven exists and that our loved ones who are there are watching events as they occur hear on earth. I'm a Christian, and as such, I have no doubt about the existence of heaven. And I know from the Bible that on occasion -- including the great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) -- people are allowed to see what is going on here. So, I'm intrigued by this book.

There you have it. Those are the three latest books I've added to my to-be read pile. How about you?

More posts in the 4,000 Questions series:

Monday, January 04, 2010

Comfort Over Fashion

A couple of weeks ago, when the temperatures dipped to zero in Omaha, as they always do around this time of year, I pulled out a pair of gloves from one of the drawers in my kitchen. I was looking for an old pair of gloves, but I couldn’t find them so I had my pick of two new pair. I picked one of them, snipped the thin piece of plastic that held them together, and put them on. They barely fit, were super bulky, and rendered my hands pretty much useless outside.

When I got home, I opened the kitchen drawer, dropped that pair of gloves back inside and went in search of my old pair. They really aren’t meant to be winter gloves. They are work gloves. And they are camouflaged and probably more suitable for a hunting trip than anything else. But I like them. They are comfortable. My hands are functional when I wear them. And they do a decent job of keeping my hands warm.

I found them and have been wearing them outside ever since. Give me comfort over fashion any day.

That is my philosophy as I find myself in middle age. Most places I go, I’m probably underdressed one notch. In fact, that has sort of become my goal: don’t underdress by two notches, just one. If you underdress by two notches, you look like you don’t care. If you underdress by one notch, people at least believe you gave it a shot. The cool thing is, you are more comfortable than they are, so it’s a win-win.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

#100 Lakes, Ponds and Rivers

In 2006 I wrote and posted a list of 100 life-enriching little nuances in which the items are in no particular order. Once a week, over the next couple of years, I’m planning to write a post about each item on the list. I’d love it if you would add your own comments and experiences.

People have drawn inspiration from lakes, ponds and rivers since time began. The sound of gentle waves acts as two loving hands that massage away the concerns of this world. And that’s usually why we come. In his novel, Where the River Ends, Charles Martin said it this way:
“People come to this river for lots of reasons. Some of us are hiding, some of us are escaping, some of us are looking for a little peace and quiet, maybe trying to forget, anything to ease the pain we carry, but … we all come thirsty.”
When I was a small child, my grandfather used to take me fishing once in a while. We went to a place called Catfish Lake, located just south of the city. I was always a shy kid who wasn’t comfortable around a lot of people. It’s one of the reasons I loved hopping in my grandfather’s truck on a Saturday morning to head for Catfish Lake. And by the way, nothing beat jumping into my grandfather’s truck on a Saturday morning knowing we were headed for Catfish Lake.

As we pulled up to the place, it always smelled fishy, which gave me hope because if I could smell fish, there must be fish in lake and that meant I might just catch one that day.

My anxieties about being around other people disappeared and my senses came to life as my grandfather baited my hook and taught me how to cast a line. He’d get his own line in the water; then we’d wait …  in silence. I think the silence is what I liked best. There’s nothing like sitting next to someone you love and not needing to say anything.

But it wasn’t the type of silence you experience in a library. It was the type of silence that allows you to hear things you wouldn’t ordinarily hear – a tiny frog jumping into the water from the shoreline, a fish jumping out of the water across the lake and then splashing on impact, and the drone of insects.

I don’t remember what type of fish we caught or how many. But we caught our share.

When the fish weren’t biting, my grandfather would tell me I wasn’t holding my mouth open the right way. I don’t think I really ever believed him, but that’s not to say I didn’t try holding my mouth open once or twice just in case he might be right. I’m pretty sure I must have looked like a big mouth bass when I did it.

People who know me now would say I’m not an outdoor person because I don’t like heat or insects and they would be partially correct. But I still love the silence that can only be found when you are around water.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Leap Year is a Lock

Whenever I see a movie with a couple of my single dude friends, we make little comments about the previews to each other. I'll usually whisper either "Super going to see it!" or "Stuuuuuuuuupid." One of my friends will shake his head in disbelief through most of the previews, which is a pretty good indicator that I'll never get him to go see those particular movies.

Sometimes, after the movie we went to see is over, we'll talk about which of the previews interested us. I'll usually bring up a chick flick that looked good and one of the guys will say, "Oh, I knew that was lock the minute I saw it" meaning, he knew it was a lock for me. Well, we haven't collectively seen the previews yet for Leap Year, but when we do, it's going to be a lock.


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