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, May 28, 2010

One Latte to go, please

At the risk of making it seem like I’m turning this into a cat blog (don’t worry, I’m not), I adopted a new little buddy yesterday from the Humane Society – a 9-month-old stray who couldn’t be more lovable and she’s already making herself at home.

I named her Latte because her coloring looks a lot like the Skinny Vanilla Lattes I enjoy most weekends and because she’s so sweet. But, as you can see here, we might need to talk about her positioning while we’re watching TV together:

Latte watching TV2She beat me to my work desk this morning, fluttered across the keyboard, jumped in my chair, meowed for affection, and I knew I better figure out something quick if I planned to get any work done.

She has this thing for windows and I have a couple in my home office. So, I grabbed her kitty bed and stuck it on my desk near one of the windows. It was an instant hit with her.

Latte chillinNow, she sleeps right next to me while I work, only coming up for attention every 30 or 40 minutes. Then, it’s right back to the bed on my desk.

I still have a lot more to learn about her and she has a lot to learn about me, so let the adventures being.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Continuing with the 100 life-enriching little nuances series…

I have gathered a posie of other men’s flowers, and nothing but the thread that binds them is mine own. –John Bartlett

When my dad told me he wanted to begin reading the Bible, I gave him mine. It was full of highlighted passages and notes I’d written throughout its pages – most of which I thought probably wouldn’t mean a whole lot to him.

IMG00240A few days later, I asked him how his reading was going. He told me he had read the entire book of John and he said he had a lot of questions. But first he wondered about the blank pages in the back that I’d filled up with various quotations.

“There is a lot of wisdom on those pages,” he said.

“Whenever somebody says something that helps me understand myself – or anything – better, I jot it down,” I said. “I transferred those quotes to my Bible one day so I could have them all in one place.”

I asked him which ones spoke to him. He said he liked the quote, “Don’t let the dirt of your yesterdays bury your tomorrow.” And he liked this one too, “If every man swept his own back porch, the whole world would be clean.” (Unfortunately, I cannot give you a source for either quote because I didn’t record one.)

By expressing his interest my list of quotes I got the feeling he was reaching out for a life preserver for the first time in a long time. The words offered him hope – partially, I think, because he knew I’d found hope in those many quotations; and partially, I think, because he was beginning to read the Bible and he was learning that as long as we breathe, redemption is close.

After he died, his Bible became my Bible again. I would have loved to have found a page on which he jotted quotations that spoke to him, but that wasn’t the case. Instead, I found this on the “Special Events” page near the front, “This Bible was given to me by my oldest son Lee, July 6-98.”

If a collection of quotes is what Bartlett said – a posy of other’s men’s flowers that are bound together with thread that is our own, then I think the collection of quotes that can be found in the back of the Bible that became my dad’s was bound together with mutual respect between a father and a son for the people they were becoming.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Jose Lima Dies; the Baseball World Mourns

I slid into my seat in the press box at Rosenblatt Stadium yesterday (home of the Triple-A Omaha Royals – an affiliate of the Kansas City Royals) and opened a web browser. I couldn’t believe what I saw.

Jose Lima, the former major league pitcher who played for Kansas City in 2003 and 2005, was dead at the age of 37 – apparently from a heart attack. I’m 43, so imagine what ran through my mind.
I wrote a story about Lima’s death from a local perspective (here’s a link if you are interested in reading it) and then I reflected on what I knew about Lima.

We’ve all seen professional athletes who have dogged it. They didn’t run hard. They weren’t mentally engaged. They didn’t even seem like they cared to be on the field.

As sports fans, when we plop down $10.00 for parking, $27.00 for a ticket and $14.00 for food, we hope to see our team win. But at the very least, we demand that they give maximum effort. Anything less is an insult to us.

As a sportswriter, I’ve seen apathetic athletes and was thankful I wasn’t assigned to write about them. I’ve also seen athletes who are fans at heart and they inspired me.

In 2005, I was assigned a couple of feature articles about guys who played for the Kansas City Royals, so I was in the Royals locker room. As I waited to conduct the interviews, I saw Jose Lima gathered around with with some of his teammates before a game. Lima had an iPod strapped to one of his arms and music blared from his ear buds. He sang and danced and laughed and all of that Lima spirit spilled over onto his teammates.

He played the game of baseball the same way. He went all out, all of the time and he had a blast doing it. He had some great years – he won 21 games for the Houston Astros in 1999 – and he had some rough years. But his love for the game and his respect for the fans was always evident. At times, he probably had too much self belief, but if you followed his career, you knew it didn’t come from a place of conceit.

He came up with a phrase to describe the days he pitched. “It’s Lima Time,” he would say to anybody within ear shot.

As he retired hitters, he would pound his chest, pump his fist, contort his mouth into all sorts of shapes and he would laugh. It was Lima Time and he was going to enjoy it. When he wasn’t on the mound, he would stand on the steps of the dugout and wave a towel every time his team did something well. Either way, he was having the time of his life and it spilled over onto you as a fan.

Lima played 13 seasons in the major leagues – the last of which was 2006. But that doesn’t mean he quit playing baseball. He kept playing in independent leagues, even when his phone stopped ringing with major league offers.

In 2009, while pitching in yet another independent league, he gave reporters this gem of an interview, reminding me – and maybe you –that it’s safe to be a sports fan because athletes like Lima are fans too:

Friday, May 21, 2010

Lightening the mood

I don’t have the energy to write about anything major right now. Thought I would do something fun to lighten things up. Here are a few random observations I’ve been thinking about:

One of the prescriptions I take every evening after dinner tastes like a Flintstones vitamin. I used to take those as a kid -- who didn't, right? Can’t say I’ve ever tasted anything like it since, until now.

I always chuckle when grown men chant “Hey batter, batter. Hey batter, batter, swing!” when they attend professional baseball games. Maybe the game really does bring out the little boy in all of us us.

Why do screens on smart phones keep getting smaller when we depend on them more than ever to look up facts on the Internet and to answer email?

It seems like all business people have a set way they prefer being contacted. Some prefer the phone, some prefer email. And a few prefer text messaging. If you violate their preference, regardless of your preference, they aren’t as efficient. Put me in the email category.

On the television show One Tree Hill, a 7-year-old boy named Jamie said this to a movie producer on the most recent episode: “You made a movie with no animation, no stunts, no cars ... , no aliens and no robots. What the heck else is there?” The movie producer gave the boy an answer he didn't want to hear: “Romance.”

I woke up this morning and glanced over at my clock radio. The time said 17:L7. It sent my groggy mind into mental gymnastics. Was I on another planet? Was my vision blurry? When did “L” become part of the time equation? As you might imagine, it turns out that my clock radio is broken.

Microwaves and EasyMac (macaroni that comes in a little bowl and can be nuked once you add a little water) are a match made in single guy heaven.

If you've been on Twitter for any length of time, you’ve seen games people play using hashtags (#). I've been wanting to start a game called #thingschandlerbingmightsaytoday. My first tweet would be, “Could there BE any more spammers on Twitter?”

                  Wednesday, May 19, 2010

                  Goodbye, my friend

                  I had to wait a week to write this post. And even now, as I begin to write it, the tears are flowing.

                  Last Wednesday, my beloved cat, Midnight, died. She was 20 years old this month. I knew something was wrong with her the night before as I went to bed. She just didn't look right. She's been battling kidney problems for a long time and I didn't know if her lethargy was related to it or not, but she just looked like death.

                  As I drifted off to sleep, she didn't jump up and sleep on top of me -- like she has done nearly every night over the past 20 years. When I woke up, she still didn't look right. She was disoriented, walking in circles. I fed her and she ate a little something. Then I pretended that everything was okay, because, well, it had to be. As a single guy, she's all I have ... or had.

                  I don't say that to mean I don't have family and friends. I have lot of great people around me. But none who go through the routines of life with me. There's a difference.

                  Midnight and I took to each other right away on that fateful day in 1990 when I got her. A good friend had called me a couple of days prior and asked if I wanted a cat. His wife had a friend whose cat had kitties and she was trying to get rid of them. Growing up, we always had a dog. I'd never had a cat before but one of my sisters is a cat person so I'd been around them some and enjoyed their company. So, I said yes.

                  I went out and bought some cat food and a bag of cat litter. Then I converted a shoe box into a bed for the cat and another shoe box into a potty box. As I prepared for the cat's arrival, I called and told my mom I was getting a kitty and after she found out the little girl kitty was pure black she told me I should call her Midnight.

                  Midnight it was.

                  My friend, his wife, and their little two- or three-year-old daughter arrived at my house. Their daughter must have had a ball with Midnight because by the time they handed her over to me, Midnight had candy stuck in her fur and she was anxious to escape the little girl's clutches.

                  After my friend and his family left, I picked up Midnight to show her her new surroundings. She literally fit in the palm of my hand (she was the runt of the litter). We stopped at her food bowl. Her new bed and potty box were close by. I set her down and she attacked the food I'd set out. Then she tried out her new bed. And then she gave me some idea about her personality when she attacked her bed.

                  I snapped a few photos of the events that day:

                  She was the cutest thing I'd ever seen. And over the next few weeks and months, we began to develop a routine.

                  I'd wake up and attempt to move her off my body. I tend to sleep on my stomach and within the first couple of nights she established a pattern of sleeping on the back of my legs -- although she made it clear that I needed to spread my legs wide enough for her to be able to sink down into the covers and have her own fortress. I didn't really understand what she wanted at first, but after she continued to dig and burrow her way between my legs, while lying on top of the covers, I finally got it.

                  After we were both up, she would often march in front of me and take me to her food bowl. Then she'd follow me into the bathroom. After I cleaned up, she'd settle in for a nap. When I was working away from the home, she went ballistic before I left for work, begging for attention -- which I always gave her.

                  After I got home from work each day, she would be waiting for me on the kitchen counter. I'll never know how such a little thing got up on the counter, but the second I set my keys down on the table, I could expect her to leap off the counter in my direction with all four legs sprawled out. I'd catch her and give her all sorts of ruvins (that would be "lovings" for those of you who don't speak cat-ese). She liked to rough house so I'd take her into the living room and we'd wrestle. She never lost a battle. At the end, I'd hold up her paw in victory -- a practice I continued until one week ago.

                  One of her earliest hobbies was catching flies. She loved to bat at them and disable them. I never saw her eat one. She just loved to swing her paws at them. Another one of her other hobbies was batting at visitors. She would hide behind a corner or under an end table and as they walked by, her little paw would shoot out and bat the living day lights out of the passerby's foot, giving the person a heart attack. One day, my mom was visiting and I heard her scream. Midnight had struck again. She had to be the most feared three-pound kitty to ever live.

                  She developed lots of other hobbies as she grew up, including lounging on top of the television, begging for people food (she once carried a McDonalds cheeseburger -- still in the wrapper -- off the kitchen table), working on her sun tan by lying around in windowsills, drinking out of every uncovered cup in the house, taking over every shoe box the second the shoes were removed, sneaking away to sleep under the covers when it was cold (to her, whenever the temperature was below 80, it was cold) inspecting the Christmas tree by chewing on the branches or swatting at the bulbs as she walked by, curling up in my lap every afternoon as I settled into my recliner to read a book, and meowing her fool head off every time I returned from somewhere, until I picked her up.

                  She also had a sock toy, which we affectionately referred to as her "socky," and she loved to carry it around with her. It was small so she could fit it in her mouth and I'd find it all over the house. Sometimes I found it in bed, sometimes it was in the living room, sometimes it was in the kitchen and sometimes it was in my office.

                  She got into all sorts of predicaments growing up. When she was really young, she shimmied her way down one of the heat vents that somebody left off after painting and I found her down inside the furnace. I just followed the meows. When I got close to the furnace (it wasn't on, thankfully), I reached my arm in, way past the filter and found her. She was covered in dust, but safe.

                  Another time, she slipped out the front door one morning when my roommate was going to work. She'd never been outside (except for when she was born -- she was born in a barn) so when he called me to tell me I was panicked. When I got home, she was waiting on the porch. I guess she realized she had it a lot better inside.

                  As she aged, she became a bit of a prima donna. No more chasing bugs for her. Why chase bugs when you are served several different types of food every day, in addition to eating human food? My dad was a photographer and he shot this photo of her one day as she posed like a queen:

                  She took over every inch of the house and I loved it. She transformed the house from a place in which I stored my stuff to a place in which I lived and enjoyed life. I grew to depend on her every bit as much as she depended on me. She was a faithful companion. One who hung out with me at night while I read a book or watched television. One who spoke to me in so many ways. And one who loved me as I much as I loved her. That's pretty hard to find.

                  Tuesday, May 11, 2010

                  #93 Finding a new author

                  Continuing with the 100 life-enriching little nuances series…

                  During the fall and winter months, my friends and I usually frequent bookstores on Fright nights. What’s not to love about books, conversation and coffee?

                  Over the years, I’ve spent countless hours wandering up and down the aisles – mostly in the literature section – looking for new authors to read. That’s my main goal anyway. I don’t really look for a new book to read because it’s too much work to find one new book at a time that speaks to me. Of course, there are exceptions, but I’d much rather stumble across a body of work that speaks to me and then dive into it a book at a time. The notion that more books exist within that body of work is almost too delicious to endure and it keeps me reading.

                  Quite a few years ago, I was in Barnes and Noble one cold Friday night and as my eyes scanned the shelf, I saw a book called The Sportswriter by Richard Ford. As I flipped it over, I learned this about the protagonist: "As a sportswriter, Frank Bascombe makes his living studying people – men mostly – who live entirely within themselves. This is a condition that Frank himself aspires to. But at thirty-eight, he suffers from incurable dreaminess, occasional pounding of the heart, and the not-too-distant losses of a career, a son, and a marriage."

                  Here was a book written about men, by a man, for men. With a few notable exceptions, that's normally not a combination that works all that well in fiction because men don't read a lot of fiction. According to this NPR article, "Men account for only 20 percent of the fiction market, according to surveys conducted in the U.S., Canada and Britain." My guess is, 99% of that 20% read Tom Clany or John Grisham exclusively.

                  The thing that appealed to me about The Sportswriter was, the protagonist is a pretty accurate representation of the way men really are, in spite of the fact that most of us seem to prefer to escape this reality in two hour snippets by watching blow 'em up and car chase movies. My guess is, we are into these types of movies (notice I'm not saying books) because we want to escape the realities of life that Ford so accurately depicts through the eyes of Bascombe. I'm not opposed to a little escapism now and then. But I'd much prefer to process along with a character like Bascombe than to escape.

                  Independence DayWith all of that in mind, going back to the day I originally found The Sportswriter, I was quite pleased to see that Ford already had a body of work. The Sportswriter was the first in a three-book series. The second book, Independence Day, had already been released. I bought it when I was just a few chapters into The Sportswriter because I knew it would speak to me as well. Shortly thereafter, the final book of the series, The Lay of the Land, was released and I bought that as well. I devoured all three books and I've gone on to pick up more of Ford's work.

                  Recently, I came across these videos of Ford on YouTube in which he drives and walks along the Jersey shore and talks about the series and it's too good not to share with you here. It comes in two parts:

                  Monday, May 10, 2010

                  One Good Shot

                  Photography is not my thing. I take pictures – lots of them – but getting a good shot is always a struggle for me. That normally doesn’t matter, except when writing an article on assignment for a publication and they need a photo to go along with the article. That’s when I get nervous.

                  I don’t have a digital SLR camera that takes 2,435 photos a second (an exaggeration, of course, but that’s what one sounds like). My camera, which is new by the way, takes about 2.5 photos a second. That’s better than my previous camera which seemed to take about one photo every time I flipped the calendar.

                  The weekend before last, I was commissioned to write a feature story for the US Olympic Committee website about 14-year-old table tennis champion Ariel Hsing as she played an exhibition against Warren Buffett at the annual Berkshire Hathaway convention in Omaha.

                  I arrived an hour early and a PR person pointed me to the risers the media was supposed to stand on overlooking the table that Buffett and Hsing would be competing on. The risers resembled the ones I stood on at Robbins Elementary for class pictures – only there wasn’t as much rise between one level and the next.

                  I climbed the stairs and found a corner at the top of the risers to claim as my own. Over the next hour, the media section filled up and all of us began jockeying for position.

                  “Are you planning to stand there?”


                  “This guy is right in my shot.”

                  “This isn’t going to work.”

                  “Let’s get this guy to move. He’s not press.”

                  “Why don’t these risers rise very high from one level to the next?”

                  “Excuse me, this spot is reserved – see the sign on the floor down there?”

                  There’s a lot of pressure to be in the right place at the right time. I was a writer among many professional photographers – people with big cameras with big zoom lenses and big tripods – who just wanted one good shot of my subject to go along with the story I was going to write.

                  We had heard that Buffett and Hsing would only play a few points and that the their exhibition would be over quickly. Nothing like adding even more pressure.

                  Just before the exhibition started, I leaned over to a guy who was shooting video of the event for Bloomberg and told him I just hoping for one clear shot.

                  “You’ll get it,” he said. “Don’t worry.”

                  That sort of calmed me down.

                  Then Buffett entered the area and it was on. The media leaned forward in collective fashion and their equipment sprang to life.

                  I ended up holding the camera over the heads of the photographers in front of me and hoped for the best as I snapped as many photos as my camera would allow.

                  About a minute and a half later, the exhibition was over and all of us fumbled with our equipment, reviewing what we’d captured, looking for the shot.

                  As I flipped through my photos, I thought I saw one that would work well, but I couldn’t really tell.

                  Most of the media packed up and left. They were there to capture the Warren Buffett moment. I, on the other hand, climbed down from the risers and moved in closer to the action to snap more photos – just in case – of Ariel playing points against some of the shareholders.

                  I ended up shooting 440 pictures, which was probably overkill, but I’d rather shoot 440 and get one good one than to shoot 439 and not get one good one.

                  Then came the part I was familiar with – interviewing the subject.  Ariel and her parents graciously answered all of my questions. I went home, wrote the article and sent it off – thankful for the Bloomberg guy who calmed my nerves for a second in the heat of battle.

                  Here’s a link to the feature if you are interested in reading it: Hsing’s Game Against Warren Buffett.

                  I ended up choosing several photos to submit with the article, but ultimately here’s the one I fought for, and stressed over.


                  It ended up running on the front of the table tennis page on the USOC website and once readers clicked on it, they saw the feature along with another photo I took of Ariel.

                  Monday, May 03, 2010

                  It's Depends on Your Perspective

                  Eight Days a WeekI watched Eight Days a Week over the weekend. Overall, the movie was disappointing and forgettable. But there was one particular scene that drove a point home that I’m still thinking about.

                  The main character, Peter (played by Joshua Schaefer), is having a conversation with an elderly neighbor lady (played by Ernestine Mercer) about some of the crazy things she does. In fact, she’s known around the neighborhood as Crazy Lady.

                  Here is their exchange:

                  Peter: Explain why you sometimes go out to your car and eat dinner.

                  Crazy Lady: My car radio has better reception than the one on my stereo. I go out there to listen to my opera.

                  Peter: What about doing your gardening in a scuba mask?

                  Crazy Lady: I love to garden, but I’m allergic to pollen. It’s the only way I can work in the yard without having my eyes all tear up.

                  Peter: Okay, but admit it. Cutting your grass, in the middle of the night, is a little strange.

                  Crazy Lady: With this humidity, my time is the only sane time to cut the grass.

                  Peter: What about sitting on your roof with the telephone?

                  Crazy Lady: Oh, that. My best friend Mabel lives just a couple of blocks away from here. She’s going senile. But she won’t admit it and she insists on driving her car. So, when she’s coming over to visit, I go up on my roof. I can see her back out of her driveway and if she makes a wrong turn, I call her on her car phone and give her directions. Walla.

                  Peter: That all makes sense.

                  Crazy Lady: Everything does. It just depends on your perspective.

                  It sure does.


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