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.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fifth Blogoversary

Five years ago today, Little Nuances was born. It seems much longer than that.

Maybe it’s because I’ve written 997 posts since the day I started this blog. Maybe it’s because so much has happened in my life over the past five years. Or maybe it’s because my tastes, preferences, and thought processes have changed over the years. My guess is, it’s all of the above reasons, and more.

Thanks for putting up with me as I write about the moments in life that move me. And thanks for taking the time to leave comments to tell me about the moments in life that move you.

Here’s to another five years together.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Esther Vergeer's Night to Shine

The opening night ceremonies for the US Open tennis tournament tonight included stories about tennis players who have overcome obstacles and adversity. One of those athletes is somebody I’ve been reading about lately. Her name is Esther Vergeer.

She’s been wheelchair bound since she was 8. She’s 29 now. She picked up a tennis racket at the age of 12 and took to the sport. She competes against other wheelchair players all around the world and is on an incredible 391 match winning streak. She hasn’t lost since 2003. Her career record is 599-25.

Beyond her incredible won-loss record and her stunning winning streak, I think I’m most impressed by her desire to see other wheelchair players do well. In an interview with the BBC a couple of years ago, she said this:

“I have several sponsors and that’s how I earn my money. The prize money on the ITF Tour is not that big. The winner’s cheque for a Grand Slam is usually between $1500 and $2000.

“Sometimes I feel guilty because I feel like I steal the sponsors away from the other wheelchair tennis players in Holland.”

Here’s to hoping that the attention she is getting for her winning streak will lead to more sponsorship money for her and wheelchair tennis in general.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Original Kermit the Frog

“Hi Ho! Kermit the Frog, here!”

Can’t tell you how many times I sat down in my grandparent’s kitchen to watch “The Muppet Show” with my grandpa over the years and heard that phrase.

Grandpa was partial to the two elderly muppets, Statler & Waldorf, who sat in the balcony and provided commentary throughout the show. Grandpa would smile and laugh at their comments. That made me smile and laugh.

I was always partial to Kermit. I understood his humor better. I also liked Fozzie Bear, Beaker and Animal. I wasn’t really a Miss Piggy fan, but I loved the “Pigs in Space” skit.

All of this is why the “Original Kermit the Frog donated to the Smithsonian” story in the USA Today caught my eye. Jim Henson’s widow, Jane, recently donated 10 of her husband’s original characters.

The original Kermit was made from an old dull-green coat that Henson’s mother threw away initially (see the above pictures). His eyes were made of ping pong balls.

You have to love creative types.

This trip down memory lane today, led me to YouTube where I found this adorable clip of Kermit interviewing Animal:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

#89 Online Shopping

Continuing with the 100 life-enriching little nuances series ...

Ten years ago, I decided to shop online for all my Christmas gifts. I logged into my AOL account and as I browsed various websites, I knew I was close to the cutoff deadline, but as long as I ordered in the next couple of days, my packages would arrive before Christmas.

I placed my order from one website and waited. Two days before Christmas only a few packages had a arrived and I started to panic. I called the company and a representative told me they had been overwhelmed and were behind, but my gifts should arrive at their various destinations the day after Christmas.

That wasn’t the answer I wanted to hear. I think the company sent me a voucher for future purchases, but that didn’t do me much good at the time. In the big scheme of things, it wasn’t that big of a deal. Nobody freaked out because their gift showed up a day late. But the experience made me gun-shy about online shopping for a while.

I tend to jump into trends early if I think it will make things simpler. Of course, the problem with jumping into trends early is that they often contain kinks that haven’t been worked out and thus, it doesn’t make things simpler at all.

Ten years later, online shopping is much more dependable and I find myself gravitating toward it more and more. But there’s a new twist  –the ebook. I love downloading a book from anywhere and then having the ability to read it a minute later on my Kindle if I want to.

But I find myself in a quandary. On one hand, I have no desire whatsoever to go to the mall to buy a gift if I can buy it online. On the other hand, I never want the ability to download ebooks from the comfort of my living room to replace the bookstore experience.

According to an article I read recently, “Amazon reported sales of digital books were much stronger this quarter than old-fashioned books, with 143 ebooks selling for every 100 hardcovers.”

From what I’ve read, Barnes & Noble gives NOOK owners incentive to visit their brick and mortar store by offering them in-store discounts, e-coupons, etc. This is a great idea – one I’d love to see catch on at other bookstores.

But it can be sort of complicated – maybe too complicated.

The Kindle has a proprietary aspect so it is exclusive to Amazon.com and best I can tell, they don’t have any established relationship with brick and mortar stores. Barnes & Noble has its aforementioned Nook. Borders has the Kobo.

So what happens when a Kobo owner meets a Nook owner for coffee on a Saturday evening at Barnes & Noble and wants to give Barnes & Noble some money to download the in-store ebook special but he can’t do it because he doesn’t have the correct e-reader?

I understand the proprietary aspect and I love the fact that Amazon.com warehouses all of my downloads so that if my Kindle is lost or stolen then every ebook I’ve ever purchased from them will be easily replaced, but at the same time, I want the freedom to purchase ebooks from anywhere.

But I guess that’s like asking Microsoft and Apple to play nice. Come to think of it, I don’t own any Mac computers, but I do have an iPod and Mac, rather smartly, has figured out a way to make iTunes available to PC users.

For the good of the book publishing industry, I hope the powers that be can sort out all of the compatibility issues.

The funny thing is, here I am ten years down the road from my first experience with online shopping and the process is still going through a transition. I still love the convenience enough to deal with the transition. And besides, there is very little in life that isn’t experiencing transition.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday Musings

Sharing a long meal with friends, without ever looking at the clock, is one of the most satisfying things I know. Had the pleasure of doing just that over the weekend.

Speaking of eating, I went to see Eat Pray Love over the weekend. I expected more. I just didn’t like the protagonist much. I didn’t sense any real internal struggle and her motives didn’t seem believable – two deal killers for me.

So the veterinarian I use gave me a package of “snacks” for my 11-month-old cat, Latte, who can be a bit spastic at times. The snack is supposed to calm her nerves. After giving it to her for a couple of days, I returned home one night to find that she had attacked the package. Talk about irony.

Fall is coming. I can feel it. I’m so ready. Milder temperatures, football, the US Open tennis tournament – it’s my favorite season.

Video games have a Hall of Fame now? Who knew? I guess it’s fitting that Pac-Man was the first game to enter the hall. If you are over 40 like me, this video will probably bring back memories and crack you up at the same time:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Man Bails Out on Foul Ball to Girlfriend’s Peril

As someone who attends a ton of baseball games, more so as a writer than a fan, foul balls come my way on occasion. Just last week, a ball came straight back into the press box while I was sitting in there with my laptop open. The ball struck the wall of the section just below me. No harm, no foul.

I have no desire to try to catch a ball in the press box. It’s just not in my mindset. I’m always thinking, protect the computer, don’t lose a finger trying to catch a line drive. The ball is going to hit a wall any way, so I can just pick it up after it is done rattling around.

When I sit in the stands, I have a different mindset. Barring a blistering line drive, I try to catch it. A few years ago, I had a foul ball come my way while I was in the stands with a friend. I’m a terrible judge of where the ball is going – that’s why I always played the infield when I was younger – but I could see that this ball was headed right for us.

Ironically, the game was being televised and the person I was talking to on the phone saw us coming into the shot on his TV. With my phone in one hand, I leaped and stretched out my free hand. The ball landed in the row behind us and the friend I was attending the game with reached back and grabbed it. At least I gave it a shot.

Have you seen the video on YouTube yet of the couple who had a foul ball come their way in Houston on Monday? If not, you have to see it. I don’t know how this guy is ever going to live this down.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

On being an uncle

Baby Boy
Photo credit: melbia
As a single guy, I love that fact that I’m an uncle. I became one again yesterday when one of my sister’s and her husband had a 7.1 pound boy. Mother and baby are doing well.

I searched for a good uncle quote to include in this post, and frankly, I didn’t find many. I found plenty of quotes about crazy uncles, drunk uncles, embarrassing uncles, and the like. None compare to the quote about being an uncle found in 1 Chronicles 27.

Before I give it to you, let me set the stage.

King David is nearing the end of his life. He has just made his son Solomon the king of Israel. In doing so, he gathers all of the princes, priests, captains, porters, rulers over the twelve tribes of Israel, and the people who were responsible for his vineyards, storehouses and herds. Among all those people, David’s uncle is listed: “Also Jonathan David’s uncle was a counsellor, a wise man, and a scribe” (1 Chron. 27:32).

Bible commentator Matthew Henry says this about David’s uncle, “His uncle, who was a wise man and a scribe, not only well skilled in politics, but well read in the scriptures, was his counsellor.”

If my nephew who was born today, or either of my two nieces, ever comes to know me as a wise man who is well read in the scriptures and therefore allows me the privilege of being a counselor as he or she navigates the difficulties of life, then I’ll be an extremely happy man.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Driving without Reverse

On a recommendation, I recently downloaded The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler to my Kindle. I’m only three chapters into the book, so I don’t have much to say about it yet, but I did come across this passage that totally brought back some long buried memories:
Macon often recalled that director. Jim, his name was, Jim Robinson or maybe Robertson – a burly, white-whiskered man with a crew cut, wearing a suit coat, as if in respect, over a Redskins T-shirt. He’d seemed uncomfortable with silence and did his best to fill it with abrupt little fragments of chitchat. Macon hadn’t listened, or he’d thought he hadn’t; but now all the fragments came back to him. How Jim’s mother had been a Baltimorean herself, born the year Babe Ruth was playing for the Orioles. How Jim’s tomato plants had been acting queerly, producing only tiny green marbles that fell off the vines before they ripened. How Jim’s wife was terrified of driving in reverse and avoided any situation that required it. Macon gave a lot of thought to that now, lying in his bed at night. Could you really drive a car without reversing? What about at intersections, where a bus driver pokes his head out his window and asks you to roll on back a few yards so he can turn? Would she refuse? Macon imagined her, staunch and defiant, glaring straight in front of her and pretending not to notice.
In the late 1980s, my dad let me use a car he owned after my car died. It was an orange, boxy looking Fiat (it looked a lot like the one in the photo below, except I think it was a 4-four door – photo used under Creative Commons license. Credit: Stuart Caie).


It had a stick shift and that was okay. I had already owned a car with a stick, so I didn’t have any problems driving another. Except, this car didn’t have reverse. The gear was broken and I didn’t have the money to get it fixed.

So I improvised. I did everything Macon imagined and more. I pulled into parking lots, always looking for either (1) a slight incline I could park on so the car would roll backwards automatically when I put it in neutral or (2) a parking spot that wasn’t boxed in by another spot in front of me.

If I visited a friend, I couldn’t pull into his or her driveway unless the driveway was inclined toward the street. If I parked on the street with a hill, I had to make sure I parked facing down hill. And I had to make sure I parked somewhere that another car couldn’t box me in.

It led to some rather comical parking situations. A couple of times I didn’t think all of my options through, so I had to put the car in neutral and push it backward just so I could get out.

So, to answer Macon’s questions – yes, you really can drive a car without reversing. I did it for more than a year. And I never encountered a bus driver who needed me to back up at an intersection, but I could have pulled it off if necessary by simply putting the car in neutral, opening the door, and pushing it back a few feet – unless of course I was at an intersection that was facing uphill. I guess the bus driver would have been out of luck in that situation.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Meeting Rebecca St. James

Last Thursday, I interviewed Contemporary Christian Music artist Rebecca St. James on the phone for a newspaper feature I’m writing about her. She was coming to Omaha for a concert for faith and family night at Rosenblatt Stadium.

Since I also cover the Omaha Royals for Examiner.com, the Omaha Royals staff was nice enough to include me in the meet-and-greet before the concert. The team photographer snapped this photo of Rebecca St. James and me (if they ever re-release Beauty and the Beast on DVD, this will be the perfect cover):


Interviewing and meeting Rebecca made me think a lot about my early days as a Christian.

A few years after becoming a follower of Christ, I happened across her album, called God, and it quickly became one of my favorites. It still is. Then I picked up a devotional book she wrote called 40 Days with God. One of the questions she posed in the book had a profound impact on me: “What parts of my life do I have to admit I do for ‘my name,’ ‘my glory’ and ‘for me?’” She based her question on 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Her question dogged me for quite some time. It caused me to sit down, make a list, and then re-prioritize my life. I discontinued the things I believed I was doing for my own glory and, as I did, I began to sense I was supposed to be writing. I had no publishing credits at the time and I really couldn’t explain the sense of urgency I felt, but I knew God was in it somehow. 

I attended my first writer’s conference shortly thereafter and the calling was confirmed. I met an editor there from Decision magazine (Billy Graham’s publication). Soon thereafter I submitted an article to him about the process God brought me through after wrestling through the Bible verse and question Rebecca shared in her devotional.

To my amazement, Decision decided to publish the article and it appeared in their February 2000 issue. It was called “For My His Glory” and it included the Bible verse and question Rebecca shared in her devotional.

After receiving my copies of the magazine, I was both surprised and not surprised to see that Rebecca St. James also wrote an article in the same issue. It was called “Adjusting Our Vision.” It was about keeping our eyes on Christ. I’m not one who often feels certain when it comes to hearing from God, but this sure felt like one of those times. So, I kept writing. And I haven’t stopped.

And yes, I have often wondered if Rebecca happened to flip through her copies of Decision and saw my article—the one inspired by her. I didn’t think to ask her that question on Thursday or Saturday. But if I ever get another chance to talk to her, I’ll ask her if she remembers.

The story doesn’t end there though.

My dad was a writer in his younger days. He wrote some short stories and a few articles. He never pursued writing as a profession as far as I know, but he had the writing bug and, as is usually the case for writers, he loved to read. He seemed quite happy when I told him I was pursuing publication.

Sadly, he died in April of 2000, but not before I handed him the February 2000 issue of Decision magazine with my first published article in it.

After he died, my siblings and I began the emotion task of sorting through his stuff. My eyes were drawn to his bookshelf. I pulled a few books down from the shelves and flipped through them looking for any sort of notes he may have written in them or underlined passages. Not long after I began the process, I came across his copy of Decision I’d given to him.

Yes, I cried.

All of these events can be traced back to the day I read Rebecca St. James’ devotional book. So, to have a chance to meet her some 14 years later was quite an experience. And quite a trip down memory lane for me.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Google searches

I love looking at the key words people google to end up here. Here are a few of the recent searches:

Google “willie’s shins glow in the dark” – I had no recollection of writing such a phrase, so I googled it and found that indeed I did blog about it back in 2007 as part of my “Alf quotes” series. Anybody who googles Alf quotes in a friend of mine.

“identifying loneliness in a novel” – I write about loneliness and novels quite a bit here, so I’m pleased to see a kindred stopping by.

“tips for writing a message in a bottle” – I’m intrigued. Would love to know who is planning to write such a message and I’m even more interested in knowing what he or she has to say in such a message.

“twitter for writers” – I did write a post about that here a while back and I recently updated it for the A Write Start Communications website. Twitter is a powerful tool for writers.

“moleskine sermon” – A moleskine notebook is the perfect place to jot down sermon notes.

“how many days till fall” – I feel your pain. In the past week my grill has been taken over by hornets and my face has been bitten twice by mosquitoes while I was sitting in my living room. Death to all bugs.

“Big 80's combs in back pocket” – Oh yeah. I wrote about big combs a while back. And what exactly was wrong with carrying a huge chunk of plastic in your back pocket? We had to use something to rake our long, feathered hair back, didn’t we?

“the incredible new shmoo cartoon picture” – There have been four such searchers recently who have found Little Nuances looking for more info about Shmoo. And why not. Shmoo was the the bomb.

“lee warren, God” – Surely the person who googled this phrase was looking for articles I’ve written about God. That’s both humbling and cool to see.


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