Nov. 25, 2006

Holiday Inn Thunderdome, Liberal Penguins, and Fondon't

In true Thanksgiving holiday fashion, my trip home to the Midwest (Kansas/Nebraska) was not without its bizarre moments. Living in San Francisco for 10 years makes me a bit different than the rest of my Midwest clan, but I was a bit of a fish out of water when I grew up in the Midwest, so that's okay. Granted, my family has quite a few characters in it besides me. We have a rodeo star (and Uncle Rex looks it), a minister, a horse vet, and the usual run of salesmen, doctors and such. My step-grandma is a hoot. She even brought her own balloons to show everyone how to make balloon animals!

Here's the Thanksgiving highlight reel:

* On the plane ride there, all I had was a crappy cassette walkman that the kid next to me asked what kind of iPod it was. I felt ancient and yet rather eccentric at the same time for showing my Radio Shack cred circa 1991.

* My mom was really happy to see me (it's been 2 years), as were my other relatives which was cool.

* My 2-year old niece calls me "Bonty." And my 6-year-old nephews think it's rad my boss is Chewbacca. I didn't bother to correct them.

* For the Kansas leg of the trip, my stepmother and all her relatives rented out one of those old-school Holiday Inns (Holidomes) where there's a huge activity center in the middle of the hotel complete with an indoor pool and hot tub, miniature golf, arcade games and ping pong. I call it the Holiday Inn Thunderdome the way all those kids ricocheted off the walls thanks to sugar and soda. I was chasing after kids so they didn't fall in the pool, brain themselves on the corner of the ping pong tables or get burns from falling on the fake astroturf which carpeted the place. And I had a blast.

Best part: playing late night cards with my dad.
Worst/Weirdest part: Spotting a strange variety of see-through beige cockroaches sharing the hotel room with me.

* My Republican brother took my neice and nephew to see Happy Feet only to return upset about the "liberal agenda" all throughout a movie that I had thought was just about dancing penguins.

* Watched endless Discovery Channel TV marathons on sharks and survival stories of people who shouldn't be alive. Thanks to the toddlers in the house I saw Ice Age 1 and 2, and Cars twice. And that may have been in 2 days.

* Ate the usual Midwest diet of meat, cheese, potatoes, rum cake, choclate-covered pretzels and Diet Coke.

* Played a lot of late-night card games with my brother and his wife. I forgot how much my family likes to play Hearts, Pitch and Cut-throat.

* My stepmom had me bring home my Xmas presents instead of her sending them to me. So I shoved a bunch of wrapped gifts in my baggage and checked it. Since it wasn't in the carry-on bag, I figured that was fine. Turns out my stepmom gave me a brand-new fondue kit that came with a pack of GEL FUEL. The plane authorities were not amused. Definitely a fondon't.

Nov. 15, 2006

Omne ignotum pro magnifico.

Meet my latest unhealthy obsession: Sherlock Holmes. I can't quite explain what resparked my interest in the consulting detective -- perhaps my unexplainable crush on the legendary actor Jeremy Brett, or maybe I finally appreciate a well-written mystery. Either way I'm hooked.

Here's a selection of remarks from old Holmes that make me wish I gave a little more thought to my high school yearbook quote.

"My mind rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram, most intricate analysis, and I am in my proper atmosphere. Then I can dispense with artificial stimulants. I crave mental exultation. That is why I have chosen my profession, or rather created it, for I am the only one in the world; the only unofficial consulting detective. I don't want credit in my cases. The work itself, the pleasure of finding a field for my particular powers is my highest reward."

"You know, I begin to think that my reputation, such as it is, will suffer shipwreck if I am so candid. Omne ignotum pro magnifico."

"You know, sometimes I think my whole life is spent in one long effort to escape from the common place of existence."

"Detection is, or ought to be an exact science -- observation, deduction, a cold and unemotional subject. You (Watson) have attempted to tinge it with romanticism, which has much, to say, advantage, if you worked on a love story or an elopement into the 5th proposition of Euclid."

"My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people don't know."

"I think that there are certain crimes which the law cannot touch, and which therefore, to some extent, justify private revenge."

"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains however improbable, must be the truth."

"It is fortunate for this community that I am not a criminal."

"There are no crimes and no criminals in these days. What is the use of having brains in our profession? I know well that I have it in me to make my name famous. No man lives or has ever lived who has brought the same amount of study and of natural talent to the detection of crime which I have done. And what is the result? There is no crime to detect, or, at most, some bungling villainy with a motive so transparent that even a Scotland Yard official can see through it."

"It is stupidity rather than courage to refuse to recognize danger when it is close upon you."

"What you do in this world is a matter of no consequence. The question is, what can you make people believe that you have done?"

"It's quite a three-pipe problem and I beg that you won't speak to me for fifty minutes."

"The same old Watson! You never learn that the gravest issues may depend upon the smallest things."

"You have a grand gift of silence, Watson. It makes you quite invaluable as a companion."

"It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but you are a conductor of light. Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it."

"I am getting into your involved habit, Watson, of telling a story backward."

"You are developing a certain unexpected vein of pawky humor, Watson, against which I must learn to guard myself."

"The observer, who has thoroughly understood one link in a series of incidents, should be able accurately to state all the other ones, both before and after."

"If the art of the detective began and ended in reasoning from an armchair, my brother would be the greatest criminal agent that ever lived."

"I am an omnivorous reader with a strangely retentive memory for trifles."

"A man with so large a head must have something in it!"

"There is nothing more stimulating than a case where everything goes against you."

"It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts."

"In solving a problem of this sort, the grand thing is to be able to reason backwards. That is a very useful accomplishment, and a very easy one, but people do not practice it much. In the everyday affairs of life it is more useful to reason forward, and so the other comes to be neglected. There are fifty who can reason synthetically for one who can reason analytically. Improbable as it is, all other explanations are more improbable still."

"I cannot agree with those who rank modesty among the virtues. To the logician all things should be seen exactly as they are, and to underestimate one's self is as much a departure from truth as to exaggerate one's own powers."

"There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact."

"Crime is common. Logic is rare. Therefore it is upon the logic rather than upon the crime that you should dwell."

"It is of the highest importance in the art of detection to be able to recognize out of a number of facts which are incidental and which vital. Otherwise your energy and attention must be dissipated instead of being concentrated."

"I never make exceptions. An exception disproves the rule."

"You see, but you do not observe."

"There are some trees, Watson, which grow to a certain height and then suddenly develop some unsightly eccentricity. You will see it often in humans. I have a theory that the individual represents in his development the whole procession of his ancestors, and that such a sudden turn to good or evil stands for some strong influence which came into the line of his pedigree. The person becomes, as it were, the epitome of the history of his own family."

"It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside."

"Mrs. Hudson, you're dreadfully underfoot!"

"Danger is a part of my trade."

"I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it -- there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones. A man should keep his little brain attic stocked with all the furniture that he is likely to use, and the rest he can put away in the lumber-room of his library where he can get it if he wants it."


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