What, son? … It’s Elementary!

Where to start? Birthday, art, beer … books and Sherlocks galore … just another exciting week. Can there ever be anything else around here?

Drew - 14th birthday largeOur youngest son Drew turned 14 on Wednesday. Just the night before, he was standing next to me in the kitchen and I experienced an optical illusion of my peripheral vision: he seemed to be taller than me!

Okay…it wasn’t an illusion…he really had grown about two inches in the last month. So I am now officially shorter than all of my sons. But you know what? I can still… [say it with me boys…] … take them!

You see, I fully expected oh so long ago that all of my sons would be bigger, faster, stronger, taller, smarter (or some combination of the above) than me. So I prepared for just such an eventuality.

In the old days, circuses would tie a baby elephant’s leg to a stake in the ground (for the record, I dislike the use of animals in circuses, but for the sake of an oft-told story…) That poor baby would strain and strain and never be able to pull the stake out. Later, when he was a much bigger adult, he could probably quite easily pull the stake out, but he never did…because he thought he couldn’t.

Now, when Brandon, Colin, Dylan and Drew were all tiny babies, I would whisper subliminally over and over as they slept, “I can still take you…I can still take you.” And when they were teens, full of testosterone, strength and a need to show the old man that strength if they got mad at me, they would haul back and …

…think, “Nah. He can still take me!”

{None of my sons have ever “hauled back”…that’s just part of the story.}

Anyway, Drew had a great birthday with a bunch of friends at JumpStreet (trampolines), a nice dinner with his family at the restaurant of his choice (Cheddar’s), a Reese’s Fudge cake made with love by Momma, all capped with the awesome movie “The Princess Bride“.

And …

…I didn’t have to “take him”!

More Arts

Andrea’s CityArtCal had a one day show in partnership with SkippingStoneStudio Friday night. The show, titled Gallery Night for GRACE, benefited the GRACE charity in Grapevine and featured works from ten wonderful CityArtCal artists. Check out the webpage to see who was there.

And Andrea has established another partnership in her quest to open up opportunities for artists. Slate at II Creeks Plaza in Richardson has venues for weddings and corporate events and has created a gallery in which CityArtCal artists will be represented.  This is an exciting on-going opportunity and I can’t wait for the grand opening in May (more as we approach it.)

And, Andrea is whirling with creative sparks as she works through how to bring to life her latest vision. Taking something similar to “Reverie in Green” into three dimensions is posing quite a conundrum. (Check out the link…there’s a cool video of the fish in motion). Meanwhile, she got her big batch of milagros in. Those will become part of another piece…a huge piece… she’s also working on. She and the boys have had fun going through the hundreds of little votives.

Holmes, Holmes, and Holmes

Daniel Smith observed in his introduction to How to Think Like Sherlock that Sherlock Holmes has had quite a revival of late. For visual entertainment, we have Robert Downey, Jr.’s trip on the big screen with Jude Law as Watson, Benedict Cumberbatch (how cool a name is that!?) pairing with the hobbit Martin Freeman in BBC’s modern version “Sherlock“, Johnny Lee Lewis in CBS television’s (also) modern version “Elementary”.  On the book side, in addition to Smith’s attempt, Maria Konnikova  has a much better book titled Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, in which she deftly covers the neuroscience and techniques, cast against actual Holmes stories. Smith tossed out a couple of Holmes quizzes and some other twaddle and didn’t come close to his title, but Konnikova did.

Elementary

Now…the tie in to today’s awfully punny blog post title…

After reading the two books I mentioned, I started watching the television show “Elementary”. I really like the writing and Johnny Lee Miller is superb. Lucy Lui serves nicely as a foil in an interesting twist as a female Watson accompanying Holmes in New York.

Dylan saw me watching the show one night two weeks ago when Andrea went on a retreat and ended up watched five of of the episodes in succession to catch up with me (yes, I re-watched them with him). Drew was babysitting and missed the marathon, but he’s watched a few since then. Both really like the show and we’ve got the bulk of the season still to watch, but we’ll get there.

SherlockWe’ve also watched two episodes (of only six produced so far) of the BBC version “Sherlock.” Equally excellent in a different way, it seems to follow the tone of the original stories. In a British way, of course. Quite serious. And like Elementary, it is set in current times, though in London vice New York.

In between so many other readings, I’m also slowly making my way through “A Study in Scarlet”. I find the Conan Doyle character quite unlikable so far and the story not quite living up to the legend, but there’s a lot more to read in the complete set. I’ll withhold judgment for a while.

Homemade video jukebox

I’ve been adding a number of selected DVDs we re-watch to our net drive in hopes that somebody will come out with a way to play native VIDEO_TS folders or VOB files directly through the Roku. That doesn’t seem to be likely any time soon and while I think there are some higher end Blu-Ray players that might have the capability of pulling content from a folder on a network drive, we don’t want to buy one right now.

It would be really cool to have the full DVD features available on a sort of video jukebox, ready for the playing. Instead, I’ve decided to rip streamable .mkv files (with subtitles) to folders on the net drive and set up sections through our Plex Media Server that does quite well as a substitute jukebox. Plex can serve movies, audio, television shows, and even pull from the iTunes library, but it can’t feed those native DVD files.

One annoying limitation of Plex is the limited selection of icons for its pred-determined sections (a movie clapboard, dark television screen, LP disc for albums). Never fear, a hack is near! Thanks to this page, I found a multi-step kludge, but I’ve changed the icons for our Disney, Great Courses (audio lectures) and Bugs Bunny favorite shorts folders so far. For those interested, I use GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) to create a new 300 x 300 pixel PNG image – Paint can’t handle transparency, but GIMP can – to use as the icon. Then, I use the nice SQLite Manager plug-in for Firefox to edit the Plex com.plexapp.plugins.library.db database and point the user thumbnail at my custom image. Just make sure the server isn’t running when you mess with the database.

Handbrake is a pretty good free app that can convert video to either mp4 or mkv formats for iDevices. I’ve used it to convert files to take with me on my iPad … I have to have my favorite Bugs Bunny episodes with me – Rabbit Seasoning (pronoun trouble!), A Lad in His Lamp, Rabbit of Seville…and more. It works rather well. Now I’m using it to convert movies and television shows from DVDs to mkv format, because…

…the killer find of the week is Plex’s Mobile for iOS. I bought it last night when I found out that it can play non-Apple files on my iPad/iPhone. I just point it at our server and even if the file is in something that the iPad can’t handle, it converts on the fly so it is playable on my device. With our server running, voilà, access anytime to our library (subject to data plan limitations, of course.) Now, that was a welcome find.

The Beer of the Week

Before I reveal the winner, A Tale of Two Pale Ales…

I finally got a bottle of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale to try (courtesy of Charles Brabham of SkippingStoneStudio and last night’s art show). I don’t wake up thinking “Gee…I’m in a mood for a pale ale (or IPA) today…”, but I will drink them when in a variety pack I buy. I’ve seen the Sierra Nevadas on the shelf plenty of times and now have one under the belt, so to speak. I thought it a bit weak at first, but the “pale” grew with the drinking…a nice bitter finish. Compared to the Blue Moon Belgian Pale Ale, I’d say it tended toward a manly character, while Blue Moon’s seems to have been brewed for Laura Ingalls Wilder. You know… a little girl on a prairie. Neither are an India Pale, but then they weren’t calling themselves such.

Anyway, Andrea and Colin popped off the highway in Plano on Thursday on their way back from setting up the GRACE show in Southlake and I got a couple of calls from them as they went adventuring at Trader Joe’s. Andrea asked if I wanted any of the Two Buck Chuck – really…it’s not bad, though three bucks here in Texas. The answer was yes. They drink like they cost four times as much, which is in the usual max range I’m willing to shell out for casual wine drinking.

Stockyard Oatmeal Stout

Then Colin called to ask if I was interested in a “dark ale” or something called Stockyard Oatmeal Stout. I interrupted his description of the stout before he even started to say “yes”.

(He also asked me if I wanted any of my “stinky cheese”…the blues I like so much with my heartier brews or deeper red wines. “Yes” to that, too.)

So, the Beer of the Week is that Stockyard Oatmeal Stout. The head poured a beautiful latte cream color, but it didn’t last. Dark, dark, almost black, brown in color, the aromas of coffee and hints of chocolate were inviting.

A swirl of coffee malts, slight charcoal tastes and a mix of bitter hops towards the ends, this is a good stout.  And a good price. $6 for a craft six pack? Not bad.

A laugher of a book and a winner of a comedian

I only finished one book this week and it was a doozy. Eben Alexander’s Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife spent time atop the NY Times Bestseller’s list… on the non-fiction list. “Proof”? Love it. I would have thought a neurosurgeon might have come across some critical thinking exposure in his life. Anecdotal stories do not a proof make. But whatever. I occasionally read these nutcase things (like…cringe… Glenn Beck’s drivel, or 50 Shades of written ipecac) to see what makes the lists. I’m usually worse off for it, but I am informed.

Contrasting Alexander’s obviously unintentional humor is the incomparable Eddie Izzard in his 1999 stand up show Dress to Kill. Of all of his shows we’ve seen, that is by far the best and we watched it again this week. “Do you have a flag?”

Recommended… if you can handle a cross-dressing highly intelligent comedian who does drop the very frequent language bombs. I still laugh and I’ve seen it probably eight or nine times. I think I’ll add it to our video jukebox.

Yep. I don’t want to face the difficult choice of cake or death. Watch him and you’ll get what I mean. Trust me.

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One response to “What, son? … It’s Elementary!

  1. Pingback: The Quality of the Day | Random (and not) Musings

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