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, March 25, 2011

Liberty Creek Merlot

Latte continues to change poses with the bottles of
wine I photograph, as if she were a kitty supermodel
I gave Liberty Creek merlot a shot recently. I’m learning I can drink merlot from almost any vineyard. Liberty Creek was no exception.

I tasted more cherry in this particular wine than in other merlots I’ve tried. Since I love cherry, this made for a tasty bottle of wine. It is smooth, not overpowering and it is easy to drink. For $6.98, that’s hard to beat.

The only real complaint I have is – and this really isn’t a complaint as much as it is an observation – the bottle is larger than most other bottles of wine and it went bad before I could finish it over the course of three nights. I’m not advocating a smaller bottle though.

Having someone to share it with would nice. Or maybe I just need to research ways to keep wine fresh for longer periods of time.

I’m headed to St. Louis this morning to visit family. If I can get out of here early enough, I’m going to stop at a winery called Stone Hill that isn’t far from where my sister lives and see if I can find a new wine to try. I also finally found a bottle of Liberty Creek sweet red wine that I’ll write about soon.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

E-mail Becomes Email

I had to update my copy of the AP Stylebook,
but I wasn't happy about it.
The AP Stylebook recently made a change and I’m not very happy about it. They changed “e-mail” to “email,” dropping the hyphen, while keeping the hyphen in other terms such as “e-book,” “e-card” and “e-catalog.”

Anybody else find this wildly inconsistent?

I don’t like exceptions. They are hard to remember – so much so that we have to come up with rhymes like, “I before E except after C.”

Here’s the problem with that, as Wikipedia points out, there are even exceptions to the rhyme, such as: species, science, sufficient, conscience, ancient and efficient. When the exceptions have exceptions, you have chaos. When you have chaos, you have writers referring to style guides on a far too regular basis, which might be the real reason behind the change to email. More style guide sales.

Call my cynical if you like.

Here’s the Stylebook’s reasoning for dropping the hyphen in email: “The Stylebook’s change to email reflects the reality of usage. Other e- terms are clearer with the hyphen.”

So, since people violate the rule and use “email” rather than “e-mail,” the AP Stylebook just threw up their hands and said, “Enough! We must conform” thus violating the point of having a style guide in the first place.

Language changes. Terms change. I get that. But be consistent. If we are sick of hyphens when it comes to electronic commerce, then drop all of them – not just one.

I’m a Chicago Manual of Style person. Most book publishers use it and that’s the style guide I’m accustomed to following. But when I started writing for newspapers I had to learn the AP Stylebook and I attempt to follow it when writing here, even though it drives me crazy.

The AP Stylebook is against the serial comma, which deserves its own post. It advocates ellipses that look like this ... rather than this . . . and it demands that we use quotation marks around book and movie titles rather than italics (I rebel against both the AP Stylebook and CMS here at Little Nuances in this case – maybe I can start a revolution that will change the reality of usage.)

Now that the Stylebook has killed “e-mail,” I can’t help but wonder what perfectly good rule or word it will change in the 2012 edition.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

5 Favorite Comic Strip Characters

This Luann comic strip comes from May 23, 2003. I love the give and take between Luann and
her brother Brad here. She is trying to give Brad advice about a woman named Toni. I clipped
this out and put it on my refrigerator, where it has yellowed with age.
It's not easy coming up with a list of favorite comic strip characters. I find it easier to make a list of favorite comic strips in general, but having to come up with characters made me think a little and that's never a bad thing.

Here are my 5:

1. Charlie Brown. Snoopy seems to be the star of the Peanuts strip, and I like him, but not as much as Charlie Brown. Charlie should have a complex given the number of times Lucy has pulled the football away from him every time he tries to kick it and the way he gets his clothes knocked off every time he takes the pitcher’s mound. His friends even chide him for picking the sickly looking Christmas tree. But he stays true to what he believes and he never gives up.

2. Garfield. He takes laziness to a new level – even for cats. Be he’s not always consistent in his laziness or eating habits. He befriends mice rather than eats them, but if a spider gets anywhere near him, he smacks it dead with a newspaper. Garfield acts like a human. He walks on his hind legs, he eats people food (pizza and lasagna seem to be his favorites) and he even gives his owner a hard time about his lack of dating success. He’s a caricature of the way we treat our pets – like humans, and I say that without any judgment.

3. Jeremy from Zits. His big shoes crack me up. So do his friends – one of whom is named Pierce (presumably because he has his eyebrows, ears, nose and lip pierced). Jeremy is a typical teenage boy – he’s in a band, he speaks a different language than his parents, he’s wrapped up in technology and he complains about everything. But he’s likable and he’s funny.

4. Brad from Luann. I like Brad for a number of reasons. First, I love his banter with his sister, Luann (see the strip above). Second, he became a firefighter because of the events of 911 and it changed him from a guy who was a slouch to a hardworking professional. Third, I enjoyed the way he fumbled for words after he met Toni, a female firefighter, and attempted to make her his girlfriend. I think every guy can relate to that.

5. Cathy. I haven’t seen this strip in a while. I’m not even sure if my local paper still carries it, but the way she stresses over every relational aspect of her life makes her relatable.

Who are your 5 favorite comic strip characters?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Suggestion for Paul McDonald

Paul McDonald (Photo: Shonebc)
The first time I heard Paul McDonald's voice on American Idol, I thought about another singer. No, not Rod Stewart. I'm talking about Jonathan Gray, who goes by the name of Spike. He's the lead singer of The Quireboys. For a while, they were called The London Quireboys. They had limited success in the 80s, but Gray's voice should have garnered more success for them.

Yes he sounds like Rod Stewart and The Quireboys have always had to deal with that. But Gray's voice has some subtle differences. It's softer and has a bit more rasp. That's why McDonald's voice reminds so much of Gray rather than Stewart. Which leads to me a suggestion for McDonald. At some point in the competition, he should sing a song from The Quireboys called "I Don't Love You Anymore." I think people would go crazy over his version.

Here's a couple of videos. The first one is of McDonald singing "Maggie May" by Stewart. The second is of The Quireboys performing "I Don't Love You Anymore." Tell me what you think -- would McDonald steal the show if he sang this tune?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Goodbye Mt. Gayler Tower & Gift Shop

Photo: Clinton Steeds
Progress always comes with a price. Something dies so something else can be made new.

The price for constructing I-540 in northwest Arkansas that now bypasses parts of Highway 71 and its treacherous, winding roads was the death of Mt. Gayler Tower & Gift Shop – a multi-generational business that once flourished as weary travelers stopped to pick up a souvenir or make a trek to the top of the tower behind the shop to marvel at God’s creation.

Ruby Jo Bellis still lives there. She’s alone now. Her father was killed in 1985 on Highway 71, less than a mile from the shop. Her grandmother, whom Ruby Jo ran the business with after her grandfather died, is gone now too. And her son died in 2009.

She says she’ll stay there as long as she can pay the taxes and pull the weeds.

“The tower has steps that need repaired so I don’t dare let anyone climb it,” Ruby told the Washington County Observer last October. “I can’t afford to keep the electricity on in the shop when no one stops anymore, but this is my home.”

The newspaper points out the irony of her statement, given that the Bellis family bought the first generator that brought electricity to the mountain top.

I remember the days when people did stop in her gift shop. When I was a teenager, my grandparents used to take my sister and me on road trips to Arkansas during the summer to visit family. The Mt. Gayler Tower & Gift Shop was a guaranteed stop on our journey. By the time we got there my grandfather needed a break after an extended white-knuckle driving experience through the mountains.

My sister and I had a curiosity about the lookout tower. If my memory is correctly, we chickened out once and we made it to the top the next time. It was windy the day we made it to the top, causing the tower to sway slightly. I was a little freaked out by the cable that ran from the top of the tower to the ground – presumably for support.

Our grandparents stayed down on the ground and watched us. Once we made it to the top we could see lakes nestled between mountains that were miles away and hidden to anybody except us and people traveling by air. Trees showed off their red, orange and yellow leaves. Vehicles passed by on Highway 71, oblivious to the beauty they couldn’t see.

I don’t think I took any photos, which sort of bums out. But in October of 1993, my grandmother and I made that same drive. Of course, we stopped at the gift shop and I climbed to the top of the tower with my camera and took these photos:

Progress always comes with a price.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

#74 Neighbors

Photo: Sonja Lovas
Continuing with the 100 life-enriching little nuances series …

I live in one of those old, established neighborhoods where you know everybody’s name if they are the type of person who wants to be known. And since I live in the same house I grew up in, I can tell you it has been this way since the mid-1970s.

Thinking back to those days, I can recall most of my neighbors names: Alice and her daughter Pam, Bisco and Sadie, a retired war veteran named Kaj, a widow named Germaine, Dennis and his family, a kid named Mike and his family, a man named Kazmir and his sibblings, a couple of kids named Tommy and Lori and their mother, Stan and Bernice, and Tom, Karen and their children. We had a few other houses on the block that multiple families lived in.

Thirty-five years later, some of those same neighbors live in the same houses. Some have moved, and sadly, some have passed away. But I’ll always remember little things about each of them. Today I want to tell you about Bisco and Sadie. Maybe it’ll prompt memories you have of a couple like this in your neighborhood growing up. If it does, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section.

Bisco worked in a packing house and he was a fun-loving guy who loved to tease my sister and I. Sadie was demonstrative when she spoke, often drawing out her words, as if she were in a perpetual state of surprise (Noooooooo. Reeeeeeeeeeally?!), and she gasped between sentences. She was also as sweet as they come.

My mom and my sister and I moved into the neighborhood after my parents divorced. I was eight and my sister was five. Mom had to go back to work so she needed a babysitter. Sadie came to the rescue. During the school year she walked across the street to make sure my sister and I got off to school in time. During the summer, we stayed at her house, which was always interesting.

Bisco and Sadie were Polish and once in a while Sadie would speak Polish. I always suspected she did that when she wanted to cuss, but I was never able to confirm my suspicions. Bisco was much less tactful. He actually taught me a few Polish cuss words.

Bisco brought home some of the craziest things to eat from the packing house – including pickled pigs feet, cow hearts and various other animal parts that should never be consumed in my opinion. Hearing me say, “Ewwww” just gave him more ammo for teasing me.

I don’t know how Mom ever afforded to pay Sadie, but I can remember Sadie denying money from Mom on multiple occasions because that’s just the type of neighbor she was. Even after my sister and I no longer needed a babysitter, we would go to Sadie's to visit her, or she would come across the street to visit with all of us – especially after Bisco died. She passed away quite a few years later.

I drive by Bisco and Sadie’s former house every day and in my mind I can still see Bisco out on the front porch reading his newspaper and Sadie sitting on the front steps with an iced tea in her hand, chatting with neighbors. And in the words of every Nicholas Sparks novel, replaying that scene in my mind makes everything seem right with the world.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Ramen Girl

Brittany Murphy plays Abby
(Photo: Daniel Case)
A couple of nights ago, as I was browsing Netflix for a lighthearted movie to watch before I fell asleep, I ran across a movie called The Ramen Girl. It was billed as lighthearted, set in Japan, and starred Brittany Murphy.

So much has changed since this movie was released in 2008. Murphy died a year later. And Japan – well you know what Japan is experiencing right now. This perfectly preserved bit of art, in which time is frozen, seemed to be just what I was looking for.

Murphy plays an American named Abby who travels to Tokyo to be with her boyfriend, Ethan. He leaves her early in the movie. The logical thing for her to do would be to return to America, but something is drawing her to stay in Tokyo.

She spots a quaint neighborhood ramen noodle house near where she is staying and she drops in one night during a rainstorm. The place is closed but the owner, a man named Maezumi signals for her to sit down. As she does, the realization that she is directionless in life overwhelms her and she begins to sob.

Maezumi is busy making her a bowl of ramen noodles when his wife, Reiko, sees Abby. Since neither Maezumi or Reiko can speak English and since Abby cannot speak Japanese, Reiko can only wonder what’s wrong with Abby.

“What happened?” Reiko says to Maezumi. “What’s wrong?” [Subtitles are in use.]

“Who the hell knows?” Maezumi says. “I guess she’s hungry.”

“Is she hurt?” Reiko says. “Do you think she needs to go to the hospital?”

“Maybe if she eats, she’ll get out of here,” Maezumi says.

Abby continues to sob at her table while Maezumi prepares her bowl of ramen noodles.

“Do foreigners eat spring onion?” Maezumi says to Reiko. “They must eat spinach.” He drops some into the bowl with the noodles. “Popeye loves spinach.”

Reiko adds what looks to be a piece of pork and Maezumi walks the bowl over to Abby.

“I don’t know what I’m doing with my life,” Abby says to a confused Maezumi. “I’m a complete mess. My cousin, Heather, just got her Ph.D. Here I am, four years out of college – Phi Beta Kappa – and I’ve got nothing to show for it. Not one single thing. And I thought I was so brave coming to Tokyo, but Ethan ... just ... left me .. and I’m, I’m ... so alone.”

“Eat,” Maezumi says. “Girlie. Eat. Eat.”

“What?” Abby says.

“What did she say?” Reiko says to Maezumi.

“No idea,” Maezumi says. “She’s a lunatic.” He hands Abby some chopsticks. “Eat, please.”

“Thank you,” Abby says.

“She’s nuts,” Maezumi says to Reiko.

“Eat,” Reiko says to Abby.

“Thank you.”

Maezumi and Reiko begin to clean up the place while Abby eats her noodles. As she finishes, her countenance is difference. She’s even able to smile. Maezumi and Reiko refuse to take any money from her for the food. She hugs Reiko and before she can leave, Maezumi stops her to give her an umbrella, which she takes.

Two simple acts of kindness – a bowl of ramen noodles and an umbrella – help her begin to pick up the pieces of her life. Maybe that’s why we do luncheons after funerals in America. Maybe that’s why friends, family members, and neighbors bring each other casseroles after a tragedy strikes. And maybe that’s why friends who have lost touch share a bottle of wine on a Sunday afternoon.

The irony of all this is that so many people in Japan at this very moment have been without food and water since the earthquake and tsunami hit. In the spirit of The Ramen Girl, maybe we could all find a way to donate a few bucks to a relief effort that will provide much needed food and water for people in desperate need.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What’s Wrong with a Little Drakkar Noir?

I can’t tell you how many times my niece said that when she climbed into my car over the years. Drakkar Noir was my thing – so much so that she thought it was “my” smell. And how could she not? It was the only cologne I wore for years.

Back in the 80s, when I first became away of the fragrance, I was often accused of wearing too much of it, but the fact was, one squirt was powerful enough to make people believe I loaded up on the stuff. I had one friend who said he could get the benefit of the wearing the fragrance just by the leftover mist that didn’t wind up on my shirt. All I had to do was point the bottle at friends after pulling up somewhere and they would flee the vehicle.

Drakkar Noir seemed popular with my married female friends. After they smelled it on me, they wanted to buy some for their husbands. I can’t say I ever really got compliments from single women though. That fact, combined with a rather hefty price tag and an ever increasing awareness that a lot of people are allergic to cologne, eventually led me to stop wearing cologne altogether.

Not long ago, I heard a snarky remark by a 20-something-year-old character on a TV show about Drakkar Noir and I realized it must be the new Old Spice. I always pictured the generation of men before me wearing Old Spice and now the generation after me made the connection between middle age and Drakkar Noir.

With all that in mind, I came across an internet bulletin board yesterday discussing this question: Is DRAKKAR NOIR still popular with the UNDER 30 crowd?

Here was one man’s answer:

“My black concert t-shirts were saturated with it at fifteen (many years ago), but after smelling it on a few people in the last few years there’s no way I’d subject people to it. But like most fougeres, it’s an energizing smell. I spray it up in the air every once in awhile and walk through it. I have no idea if it’s popular with people under thirty, but it’s a good bet that if it is there are more of them in the South where NASCAR (among other things) is most popular. One thing’s for sure, the stuff isn’t chic. :) But it’s definitely satisfying if you’re into it.”

First off, I have no idea what fougeres is. Second off, I have no idea what geography has to do with the discussion, but for the record, I live in the Midwest. Third off, well, he’s probably right about it not being chic any more. Fourth off, how the guy can try to equate a certain fragrance with NASCAR is beyond me…wait a minute, I just remembered that my mom bought me Halston Z-14, Jeff Gordon cologne for Christmas a few years ago. Fifth off, hmm, maybe his comments are fairly accurate.

I guess it’s time to stop defending Drakkar Noir because its time has come and gone. But one of these days, I might just give it another shot. I’d love to see the look on my niece’s face if she got a fresh whiff of the stuff.

Monday, March 14, 2011

5 Famous Kevins

Kevin Appier
The best part of doing a Name 5 series on my blog is that I’m not subject to the suspect judging I normally have to encounter when my answers get a little creative.

I'm still holding a grudge over one of my answers being disallowed a couple of years ago when playing Scattergories. The card said to list something you’d find in a souvenir shop that starts with the letter “p.” That’s easy: pickles. The judges didn’t allow it. Since then I have found several places online that prove I was right.

Let’s see how creative my answers would be if I were to pull the “5 famous Kevins” card in the Name 5 game:

1. Kevin Costner. He’s been in a ton of baseball movies and chick flicks, so he has to be at or near the top of my famous Kevins list. Loved his roles in Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, Tin Cup, Message in a Bottle, For Love of the Game and The Upside of Anger.

2. Kevin Appier. I might get a few arguments on this one, but the former pitcher for the Kansas City Royals is the Royals’ all-time strikeout leader (1,458), won more than 100 games, finished third in the 1993 Cy Young Award vote with an 18-8 record and a 2.56 ERA. More than anything, he was one of the few bright spots on my favorite team that did nothing but lose during the 1990s. By the way, you can vote for him to make it into the Royals Hall of Fame this week.

3. Kevin Eubanks. I don't think the Tonight Show has been the same since he left. He was funny and he’s a great guitar player. I loved his work on this version of Leno theme song in 2009.

4. Kevin James. He was hilarious on The King of Queens, and I liked his roles in 50 First Dates, Hitch and Paul Blart: Mall Cop.

5. Kevin Seitzer. Here’s where I would get the argument from the board game police. “Kevin Seitzer was never famous,” they would say. “He was famous in my household,” would be my response, “and he should have been famous in yours.” The former Royals’ third baseman was the ninth AL player with 200 or more hits in his rookie season. He was on the 1987 All-Star team. And he was a career .294 hitter. Oh, and he’s on the Royals Hall of Fame ballot too.

How about you? Can you name 5 famous Kevins.

Friday, March 11, 2011

New Businesses in Old Buildings

I drive by an old Taco Bell building often that has been converted into a State Farm insurance agent’s office. I always have a desire to go through the drive-thru to order a nacho supreme and a life insurance policy.

But I don’t do it because they probably disabled the drive-thru and because I’m a follow the rules kind of guy and I’m pretty sure that would violate somebody’s rule.

An Old Dunkin’ Donuts building sits next to the old Taco Bell. It’s a Subway now. I stop there for lunch a few times a month, but it’ll never really be a Subway. It’s a Duncan Donuts that just so happens to serve foot long oven roasted chicken sandwiches on Italian. 

On that same street, about a block away, an old Big Boy restaurant has been converted into a Pizza Hut. I’ll never see it as a Pizza Hut. The vision of the Big Boy statue that used to sit out front is still too vivid, even though it’s been gone for 25 years or more.

If I could have things my way, I’d adopt the philosophy of Stars Hollow – the fictional town from the Gilmore Girls (no asking how I know about such things).

Luke owns and operates a cafe in the same building his dad used to own a hardware store he called Williams Hardware. In one of the first season episodes, the camera pans away from Luke's cafe and you can still see the Williams Hardware sign. Nobody seemed to mind. They knew they could enter Williams Hardware to order a cheeseburger.

Another store owner has a restaurant called Al’s Pancake World. It doesn’t serve pancakes. He started by serving pancakes but switched to international cuisine shortly thereafter. He didn’t change the name because he printed too many napkins with the original name. The town isn’t in an uproar over the non-name change.

Star’s Hollow respects tradition. I like that.

I’m in favor of passing an ordinance in my own home town that says once a building is named, it can never be renamed. How fun would it be to watch someone from out of town go through a Taco Bell drive-thru and be greeted by an insurance agent who says, Welcome to State Farm. We have discount rates available on car insurance today. Would you like that in a combo with renter's insurance?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

# 75 Home Cooked Meals

Photo: Food & Spirits Magazine
Continuing with the 100 life-enriching little nuances series …

As my relatives got caught up at the kitchen table, I walked by the stove. The smell was killing me – in a good way. I’d heard we were having pork chops and since my grandmother and I had traveled to the south to visit family, I fully expected the pork chops to be done southern style, but I wasn’t prepared for what I was about to see, or not see.

The flame on the stove licked the underside of the black cast iron skillet while the pork chops simmered in so much lard that I couldn’t even see the meat. How in the world had so many of these people lived past 80? Probably because they worked so hard when they weren’t eating pork chops immersed in lard. They worked hard and they played hard. Sounds like a good way to live.

My grandmother brought that same philosophy with her when she and my grandfather moved from Arkansas in the late 1940s. In her later years, she had my sister, my niece and I over for dinner every Thursday night. When she was feeling good, she made home cooked meals for us.

She made the best pot roast known to man. I would stick my fork into a piece of it and it would gently fall to my plate. And the smell ... I think you could get full just by smelling it. Many people have tried to duplicate her pot roast efforts and all have failed. Throw in her mashed potatoes, green beans and the occasional batch of cornbread, and I would put her cooking up against the best chefs in the country.

But for her, it was about more than the food. The food was the vehicle for conversation and laughter. When we paused from shoveling in the food, we told each other about our lives from our assigned seats. It wasn’t always roses and sunshine. Sometimes we fought. But mostly we did what families used to do. We made time for home cooked meals.

And while my grandmother had a television in her kitchen, she usually left it off during this time. We certainly never ate our meals in the living room on TV trays while watching a sitcom. 

I think Grandma was on to something.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

It's a Celebration

“If you stacked all the Bibles sitting in American homes, the tower would rise 29 million feet, nearly 1,000 times the height of Mount Everest. More than 90 percent of American households own a Bible, and the average family owns three, according to pollsters at the Barna Group.” –from an article on Crosswalk.com

I can’t wrap my mind around the numbers in the first sentence, but the numbers in the second sentence sound about right. I own more than three Bibles. In fact, I own more than three translations of the Bible.

I’ve read through the Bible in the NKJV translation, the NIV translation, and the ESV translation. I’m currently working my way through it again in the ESV, but my scriptural appetite isn’t always what it should be, so I needed to see this video (hat tip to Amy at Permission to Peruse) – maybe you do too:

The Kimyal People Receive the New Testament from UFM Worldwide on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Foodisms: Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

Photo: Simon Doggett
Fat-free always means healthy. The worst time of the day to eat is right before bed. Frequent, smaller meals are better than three square meals.

These foodisms seem like they should be true, partially because they seem logical and partially because we repeat these things to each other so often and if they weren't true, somebody would have stopped the cycle by now.

But according to Heather Mangieri, a registered dietitian and nutrition expert for the American Dietetic Association, and Lynn Grieger, a registered dietitian and personal fitness coach, none of these things are necessarily true.

A few months ago, they addressed the above mentioned foodisms and more in a story that is apparently syndicated (my local paper just ran it yesterday). Other foodisms addressed: eating salsa burns fat (fact) and blotting pizza removes most of the fat (fiction).

As somebody who is trying to log laps on a local walking track and doing what I can to make healthier food choices, the article makes for interesting reading and it’s a good reminder to not always believe what you hear or read about nutrition (or anything, for that matter).

Monday, March 07, 2011

Double Dog Dare Sweet Red Wine

In what has become a ritual whenever I photograph a
bottle of wine, Latte insists on being in the picture, no
matter how tired she is – probably even more so in this
case since the wine is called Double Dog Dare instead
of Double Cat Dare. She just wanted equal time.
How could a $2.99 bottle of wine taste good? I had my doubts. But I loved the name – Double Dog Dare – and the fact that it was sweet red wine, so I gave it a shot.

Apparently, the wine is so low budget that Double Dog Dare doesn’t even have a website (that I can find). I did find several comments about Double Dog Dare Merlot on a website and they all agreed with the conclusion I came to about the sweet red blend – it is better than most $6-$10 bottle of wines.

Imagine letting your kids make a batch of cherry Kool-Aid and when you weren’t looking they added one more scoop of sugar than you told them to. That’s how Double Dog Dare Sweet Red wine tastes and I say that in the most favorable way possible, which means this wine has slipped past Sutter Home Sweet Red wine at the top of my list of favorite red wines.

I’d still really like to try Liberty Creek Sweet Red wine, as one of you suggested, but I can’t find it here locally. I did find a store that carries Liberty Creek Merlot and I’ll write about that next week after I’ve tried it. As always, wine suggestions are always appreciated in the comment section.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Paperboys Are Fading into a Bygone Era

A boy on a bicycle with a Toronto Star
newspaper carrier bag. Whitby, Ontario.
February 6, 1940 (Photo: Public Domain)
Ding dong.

“Mom, it’s the paperboy – he’s here to collect.”

“You know where the envelope is, go ahead and give him the money.”

My sister or I would open the door, hand him the money we owed along with the punch card. He would punch our card and then his (remember how paperboys used to have their punch cards bound at the top with three rings?). As he handed it back, he would say, “See ya next week.”

I can’t say I ever took the time to get to know our paperboys very well, but everybody in our neighborhood seemed to know their names. And I remember my mom giving the current paperboy a Christmas bonus every year, which couldn’t have been easy for her to pull off given that she was a single mom with two kids.

Paperboys were an established part of neighborhood life. That’s why I was bummed to read this at Time.com: “With physical newspapers making their way to an ever shrinking number of customers, paperboys (and girls) have become an endangered species. In 2008 they made up just 13% of newspaper deliverers, down from nearly 70% in 1990.”

The article lists several reasons for the demise of the paperboy. Newspapers have shifted to large distribution centers so carriers had to deliver bigger bundles to large areas, which led to adults with cars applying for and receiving the positions, causing the term “paperboy” to become obsolete in favor of “independent delivery contractor.” Could there be a more sterile title? The article also cites stranger danger as a reason kids no longer deliver the paper on foot.

We live in an ever-changing world and all of the clich├ęs apply, including the only thing constant in life is change. I get that. But losing interaction with other humans, even when it is just routine business-like interaction, isn’t a good thing. We just need to keep looking for new ways to connect. I once had a pastor who encouraged us to stop using our debit cards at the gas pump so we could go inside and interact with the clerk. I don’t do that often enough. Do you?

Thursday, March 03, 2011

#76 Dance, Dance, Dance

Photo: Aline Gomes
Continuing with the 100 life-enriching little nuances series …

I’m glad smart phones weren’t around in the 1980s. Surely somebody would have snapped a photo – or worse, shot a video – of me moving my feet while swaying back and forth to the music of a live group on a lighted, checkerboard style dance floor in a night club called Fat Jak’s. During one stretch in the late 80s, one band played at Fat Jak’s 15 straight nights and me, my long hair, and my fake black leather coat found our way to the dance floor 14 of those nights.

After I wrote that paragraph, I was paranoid enough to check Facebook and YouTube, and guess what? Somebody started a Fat Jak’s page on Facebook even though the place hasn’t been in existence for 20 years and there’s actually a video of the band I danced to playing at Fat Jak’s during that time period on YouTube. I watched in horror, wondering if I would see myself on the dance floor. Thankfully, I didn’t. And no, I'm not going to link to it here.

I went to my high school dances and to my girlfriend’s high school dances in the early 80s and that’s probably when I realized how much I enjoyed dancing, even though I was never really good at it. It had more to do with somebody else wanting to join me on the dance floor than anything. As somebody who was always shy and overweight, it felt good knowing I wasn’t a leper. Once I got on the dance floor with someone, I just tried to blend it. There would be no twirls, splits or crazy hand motions for me.

Since my Fat Jak’s days, I haven’t spent a lot of time on a dance floor, with the exception of a wedding or two, but that doesn’t mean I won’t hop on the dance floor again one of these days because dancing is one of life’s simple pleasures and I miss it. Besides, Solomon said for everything there is a season – a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. Who am I to argue?

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Old Stuff Day, Part 2

On March 2 last year, I wrote about Old Stuff Day – a day that, according to the Holiday Insights website, is a day set aside to “recognize the boring nature of your daily routine, and make some exciting changes.” It goes on to suggest finding new activities, projects, and hobbies.

As I thought about how much has changed since last March 2, it seems as if I don’t even need to actively search for newness – it just finds me.

I lost my beloved cat of 20 years and rescued a different one from a shelter. The publishing industry is shifting from print to online and e-books at rocket-like speed. I was flirting with the idea of buying a Kindle 2 last March 2 and now I have a Kindle 3, on which I buy 90% of the books I read. I had a different car than I do now. I stopped buying DVDs for the most part because Netflix allows me to watch anything I want for one low monthly price.

Makes me wonder what will change the next time Old Stuff Day rolls around.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

5 Characteristics of Someone Who is Wise

Photo: Jo Jakeman
I take on this topic in the spirit in which it was intended in the Name 5 game, for which this series is based. The question assumes everybody should be able to name 5 characteristics of someone who is wise – it doesn’t automatically assume the person answering the question is wise.

My answers come from observations of people like my grandfather and one of my former teachers, whom I perceive to be wise.

What exactly is wisdom?

To possess wisdom, you must have knowledge, but possessing knowledge does not necessarily lead to wisdom. Wisdom is knowing how to apply knowledge to a specific situation. Wisdom is knowledge plus experience plus intuition (not in a mystical sort of way, but in a practical sort of way – like a wise grandfather who offers to match every dollar his grandson saves toward a car, knowing his grandson will learn the value of saving). 

On to the 5 characteristics of someone who is wise ...

1. Well rounded. He isn’t dependent on one source or one point of view because he knows human nature is to shade the truth when it doesn’t line up with an agenda. After hearing all sides, he lives out what he has learned and is able to make corrections and adjustments as he goes.

2. Slow to speak, quick to listen. A wise person doesn't care about looking wise. He just wants to help. I once had a Sunday school teacher listen to all of my theological concerns while sitting on his living room couch before he gave me any input. When I finished speaking, his input was short, it spoke specifically to my situation and it changed everything for me.

3. Patience. A wise person is not in a rush unless a true crisis warrants him to be in one, and even then, he usually makes the right choice because has practiced enough patience in the past to know what to do when the pressure is on.

4. Mindful of his tone. My grandfather rarely raised his voice with people who needed his advice whether they knew it or not. Instead, he sat down at a table with them and listened. He asked questions. Not accusatory questions, but gentle questions that disarmed people. In so doing, he gently led people to the right answer for their exact predicament.

5. Humility. A wise person doesn’t talk down to people because he understands the bent of human nature and that bent includes him. Instead, he puts his arm around someone and says, “I’ve been there. Here’s what finally worked for me.”

Add to the list in the comment section ...


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