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, July 30, 2010

Sold out

IMG00689 So, I’m minding my own business, driving down one of the major streets of my home town. I pull up to a stop light, glance over at the Walgreens sign and I see something that makes my heart flutter. Okay, not flutter, but I’m interested in what it has to say:

“Pilot G2 Pens 19 cents”

No way.

I look up again, and the sign has moved on to advertise notebooks or some other back to school special.

The light turns green and I punch the gas.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see it again: “Pilot G2 Pens 19 cents.”

No way. Those things normally cost $5.99 for a pack of four at Walgreens.

I arrive at my destination and forget all about the best pen sale ever.

Okay, probably not.

A couple of days later, I’m in that area of town. I drive by again and there it is. Same sign. So, I go in, prepared to buy 20 or so, fine point, blue ink, Pilot G2 pens. I go to the back-to-school aisle, 5A, and begin to skim.

Glue, nope.

Scissors, no.

Tape, rulers, pencils, highlighters, book covers.

No, no, no, no, no.

Wait a minute, where are the G2s?

Maybe they are in the “regular” office supply aisle.

I get there and see the aforementioned pack of four G2s for $5.99, but no 19 cent G2s. So I go up to the counter, the clerk points me back to aisle 5A, saying the G2s are back there.

I check it out again – and no, they aren’t there.

I find another clerk and ask her about the 19 cent G2s. Maybe I wasn’t specific enough with the first clerk.

“We’re out of those.”

“But your sign says . . .” I point rather weakly.

“Nope, we’re out of ‘em.” She walks away.

Disillusioned, I stumble to my car, pull out my Blackberry and snap a photo of the sign advertising G2s for 19 cents just to remind myself about the sale I missed out on .

But wait. There’s hope in the form of another Walgreens about a mile away.

Off I go.

I pull in, glance at the sign, hope begins to diminish. They have lots of items on sale, but no G2s that I can see.

I walk in, ask the clerk about the 19 cent G2s.

“Had them last week for 19 cents,” he says, “but we ran out.”


I couldn’t help but wonder if he pulled out his iPhone and tweeted about the delusional, older dude who came into the store solely to stock up on G2s.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Gauging moods on Twitter

Trends intrigue me. The way we track them intrigues me too.

The USA Today has an article on their website reporting research that indicates “people are the happiest during Sunday mornings and saddest during Thursday evenings” based on some 300 million tweets over a three year period.

Teacher holding up signs

Researchers used “happy” and “sad” words to gauge moods, using a process called “Affective Norms for English Words.”

Here are the top words on their lists:

Happy words
1. paradise
2. laughter
3. friendly
4. sweetheart
5. affection
6. excellence
7. romantic
8. pleasure
9. treasure
10. rollercoaster

Sad words
1. betray
2. grief
3. headache
4. failure
5. sick
6. debt
7. fearful
8. upset
9. bomb
10. seasick

Looking over this list, I’m not convinced I buy their conclusions.

Someone might have tweeted, “It’s just another day in paradise” while meaning he is stuck inside his cubicle walls again. Another person might have tweeted, “Just a little friendly advice, you better get out of my way.” In both cases, “happy words” would be anything but happy.

Someone might have tweeted, “Avatar was da bomb” or “I might have experienced failure recently, but it was all just part of my journey toward success.” In both cases, “sad words” aren’t at all sad.

Context matters.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Management, the movie

Management Most movies I watch, have little impact. I watch them, laugh a little, and then move on. That’s okay with me. But Management was not one of those movies. I’m still processing it even though I watched it 24 hours ago. I may watch it again this weekend to pick up things I missed. But there’s one scene I want to talk about now. I just can’t get it out of my head.

First, the plot of the movie: it’s about a woman named Sue (played by Jennifer Aniston) – a traveling art saleswoman who is trying to cut ties with a motel manager named Mike (played by Steve Zahn). Sue is aloof, unsure of what she wants, and going through the motions in life. She needs Mike, but she just doesn’t know it. Mike is immature, unsettled, and a bit of a wreck. But he’s in love with Sue and it makes him want to be a better man. Mike needs Sue every much as Sue needs Mike.

About a third of the way into the movie, Mike takes Sue to visit his mother, who is lying on her death bed. After all three share a visit, Mike’s mother asks to speak with Mike alone. Here is their conversation:

“I like her,” Mike’s mom says.


“She’s a bit of a long shot. But she’s logical in an emotionally annihilated kind of way. But that’s okay. Underneath there’s a heart of –”

“Gold?” Mike says.

“No I wouldn’t say gold. Maybe made of leather. But, if it works out, she’ll be good for you when I’m gone. Needless to say, what would make me happy is for you to find something for yourself before my checkout time. Just so I know it’s not you and your father alone here walking around like robots.”

“Ma, Dad’s not a robot.”

“He is, but I was mostly talking about you … unless you find a way out.”

“Of what?” Mike says.

“Of whatever it is you’re stuck in. You get it from your father. He came back from the war stuck. Been talking about joining a gym every since. Never has. But that doesn’t have to be you.”

His mother gave him permission to chase his own dreams – to not feel like he must continue on with the family business if he doesn’t want to. And while he didn’t need her permission, having it freed him from feeling the weight of expectations – real or imagined. And he took advantage of it.

Freeing somebody of expectations is one of the most empowering things we can do for one another. By doing so, we are saying, “Be free. Pursue your passion. Live. Breathe. Cry. Laugh. Dance. Contemplate. Go with God.”

Thursday, July 15, 2010

#90 Rainbows

Continuing with the 100 life-enriching little nuances series…

Windstorms are becoming more frequent in Omaha in the past couple of years. We had one in 2008 that nearly crippled the city – knocking down trees, pulling down power lines and knocking out power for days. We had another one a couple of months ago that wasn’t as severe and then another one last night that was accompanied by sheets of rain.

My sister and I were in the car together, heading to the hospital to visit a relative, when, all of a sudden, the sky turned black, debris fluttered through the air and traffic signs swayed violently. The radio report we tuned into said the temperature was too hot for hail (a major plus, given that I’m leasing a new car), but we could expect winds up to 70 mph. They were correct. Winds reached 70 mph and 40,000 people lost power.
We made it to the hospital parking lot, then dashed inside. We were soaked, but happy to be inside somewhere. After our visit, we exited the lobby doors and were blown away by what we saw – two full rainbows. A peaceful, orange calmness replaced the violence we witnessed just an hour earlier.

People pulled out their cell phones and snapped photos. I took quite a few myself. This one was probably the best of the bunch:

Double Rainbow

Most of us who were shooting pictures tried in vain to capture the two rainbows. We kept backing up, but they just wouldn’t be contained in our feeble technology. I shot a video, but even that didn’t do them justice.
As my sister and I left the parking lot, we talked about Genesis 9:8-16, that says:
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”
After I got home, I looked up the passage and thought about it for a few minutes, happy to bask in God’s mercy. Then I looked up what Matthew Henry had to say about it and he put words to my emotions. This comes from his concise commentary:
The rainbow appears when we have most reason to fear the rain prevailing; God then shows this seal of the promise, that it shall not prevail. The thicker the cloud, the brighter the bow in the cloud. Thus, as threatening afflictions abound, encouraging consolations much more abound. The rainbow is the reflection of the beams of the sun shining upon or through the drops of rain: all the glory of the seals of the covenant are derived from Christ, the Sun of righteousness. And he will shed a glory on the tears of his saints. A bow speaks terror, but this has neither string nor arrow; and a bow alone will do little hurt. It is a bow, but it is directed upward, not toward the earth; for the seals of the covenant were intended to comfort, not to terrify. As God looks upon the bow, that he may remember the covenant, so should we, that we may be mindful of the covenant with faith and thankfulness. Without revelation this gracious assurance could not be known; and without faith it can be of no use to us; and thus it is as to the still greater dangers to which all are exposed, and as to the new covenant with its blessings.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Print and broadcast journalists are using the word “integrity” a lot these days when reporting about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico – not so much as it relates to BP, but more so as it relates to the well itself.

The view from a BP remote camera still shows that plenty of oil is still leaking from the ocean floor after a cap was placed over the well, on June 7, 2010. The device is collecting one third to three-fourths of the oil gushing from the sea floor. UPI/BP Photo via Newscom

BP plans to do an “integrity test” on the new cap, which according to this article, includes closing valves on the new cap and then checking them to make sure the cap can handle high pressure.

If the pressure readings are too low, it’s an indication that oil is leaking into the surrounding mud and rock formations below the gulf floor.

An article on the EngineerLive website makes this point about well integrity:

After many years in services well structures may become unstable due to corrosion of the conductor, surface and production casings. Many of these areas are unseen and corrosion can go unnoticed. To prevent potential structural failures, which in many cases can lead to disastrous consequences, casings need to be strengthened and protected from further corrosion. Densit provides complete solutions for reinstatement of the well integrity using UHPC (Ultra High Performance Cementitious) material.

Densit UHPC material provides structural integrity of the well conductor and casings, together with effective protection against corrosion. These benefits are usually achieved without any adverse effects on production rates.

I’ve been thinking about integrity in this context and it has given me a better understanding of what it means. Integrity not only stands up under high pressure, but it requires high pressure to test for unseen areas of corrosion.

I don’t think this means we ought to go looking for high pressure situations, but I also don’t think we ought to go running from them either. When they come, they make for good opportunities to learn our true weaknesses, and then, hopefully, to do something about them.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bookless libraries?

As someone whose home is being overrun with books, I read this article on the NRP website with interest: Stanford Ushers In The Age Of Bookless Libraries.

A “bookless library” seems like an oxymoron. But in this case, it makes a lot of sense. The library is an engineering library and according to the article, information in that field becomes obsolete quickly, as evidenced by this excerpt:
The new library is set to open in August with 10,000 engineering books on the shelves — a decrease of more than 85 percent from the old library. Stanford library director Michael Keller says the librarians determined which books to keep on the shelf by looking at how frequently a book was checked out. They found that the vast majority of the collection hadn’t been taken off the shelf in five years.
Keller expects that, eventually, there won’t be any books on the shelves at all.
“As the world turns more and more, the items that appeared in physical form in previous decades and centuries are appearing in digital form,” he says.
Young man sitting in chair resting feet on second chair using laptop
It makes sense to digitize such a library as much as possible as part of the Google Books Library Project given that text books cannot keep up.

I have a set of encyclopedias in my basement that haven’t been used in 30 years. They are from the late 1940s. They were great at the time, and even for school reports when I was a kid since they were all I had, but as information changes, we need to have access to it.

But what does this mean for mainstream libraries?

Seems that the writing is on the wall. The article goes on to say, “According to a survey by the Association of Research Libraries, American libraries are spending more of their money on electronic resources and less on books.” But, as I said in a post back in January:

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.
Since writing these words, I have purchased a Kindle. I’ve read two books on it and I have purchased and downloaded several more. It feels a lot like a book. I take it to bed with me at night and it’s just as easy to read, if not moreso, than a book book.

But the other day, I saw book in a bargain bin that caught my eye and I bought it. I don’t expect to ever stop buying book books for various reasons such as this.

In a way, this transition period feels like the 8-track/LP/cassette/CD transition that occurred when I was a kid. I’d just begin to accumulate music in one format and the next one would come along, which would require me to buy a machine that would play music in multiple formats.

You make the transition and deal with multiple formats because that is the age in which we live.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Remember Shmoo?

Shmoo As a friend and I were leaving Buffalo Wild Wings last night, I glanced inside the claw crane machine and saw a rather cute little fellow that resembled Shmoo – only this guy was blue and didn’t quite have the same bowling pin shape.

“What is Shmoo?” my friend said.

“You don’t remember Shmoo – the cartoon character? He sort of looked like a ghost.”

“Never heard of him. I think you’re making this up.”

“I’m so going to Google it when I get home and then blog about it tomorrow.”

I found all sorts of information, pictures and video clips. I didn’t know that Shmoo actually first appeared in the Li’l Abner comic strip in 1948 which lead to Shmoo-mania according to a couple of websites I visited. He even appeared with Li’L Abner in a print advertisement for US Savings Bonds in 1949.

In the late 70s, Hanna-Barbera Productions produced The New Shmoo for NBC. Apparently Fred and Barney from the Flintstones had a few run-ins with Shmoo as well. And to bring everything full circle, Shmoo even has three Facebook pages. There’s a fan page for The New Shmoo (yes I clicked on “Like”) and one called “i remember the new shmoo” and one simply called “Shmoo.”

Shmoo2 There’s quite a bit of Shmoo memorabilia available. You can buy books, such as The Short Life and Happy Times of The Shmoo (which seems like a rather odd title given how long Shmoo has been around). You can even buy a hardback book called Al Capp’s Complete Shmoo: the Comic Books.

Shmoo Coffee Mug And what coffee mug collection would be complete without an I Love Shmoo coffee mug? If the heart wasn’t pink, I would so order one.

Thanks to YouTube, we can even watch the intro to the show:

I don’t remember a lot about Shmoo, which is probably apparent if you go back to the top of the post and look at the photo I took of the blue character who I thought looked a lot like Shmoo. I do remember him saying “Uhhhhhh Ohhhhhhhh” a lot. And I remember him transforming into different objects to help the three crime fighting teens he hung out with. But that’s about it. Do you remember anything else about him?

Monday, July 05, 2010

Knowing a lot about a little

A week or so ago, somebody on Twitter asked this question: “Are you the type of person who knows a lot about a little or a little about a lot?” I’m definitely the type who knows a a lot about a little.

LONDON - MAY 10:  In this photo illustration  the logo and search page of the Manchester Evening News is displayed on a computer screen on May 10, 2006 in London, England.  (Photo Illustration by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

I find no satisfaction in knowing bits and pieces of information. I must know and understand the journey.

That’s why I’m not a big highlight guy when it comes to sports. I don’t care what the score was if I don’t know how the score got that way. Who scored? How did he score? What were the circumstances?What sort of resistance did he face? What is his story? Did he overcome something? What did he do when he wasn’t scoring? What are his strengths and weaknesses and how were both on display throughout the game?

When I know the story and the background, then I care. Otherwise, I don’t even look at the scoreboard.

Sometimes people ask me my opinion about a certain event going on in the news and I am not even aware of it. It’s not because I don’t care about the news or about what’s going on around me. I just can’t comprehend it all, so I take smaller bites.

So, what type of person are you? Do you know a lot about a little or a little about a lot?


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