Bonfire 2013-14

Usually Texas A&M University’s annual bonfire is held in November just before the t.u. football game. Since the tragedy in 1999 and the move to the SEC, things have changed. This year the weather forced a delay to January. Student Bonfire now a completely separate event without official University sanction. This was evident by the absence of the band. The Bonfire was much smaller but the spirit remains. The essence of Bonfire has been preserved.

BonfireOnce key difference is the architecture of the stack. It is no longer a layer cake of multiple stacks of trees layered but a single bundle of tress. The layer cake design is preserved by using shorter trees on the outer rings. All tree are touching the ground. Inside the stack there are four poles attached with steel to form a strong rigging. Once doused in jet fuel this stack will burn all night.

The t.u. frat house (outhouse) on the center pole still features an Austin City limits sign but it has been spray painted with the word “Columbia”. Below the sign hangs a stuffed Tiger. These seem to be a reference to Mizzou that is there new November game opponent.

I have not been to a bonfire since 1991. By that standard this was merely a campfire. The result is a much more sane scaled event. Safety precautions we evident everywhere but did not change the feel. Even though the fire was not on campus I was still impressed with the atmosphere. I did not see drunken frat boys. I saw a very family friendly event. There were multiple generations of Aggies all coming together for a Yell Practice. The t-shirt and barbecue vendors helped with the feeling of small town community. There was a genuine sense of pride in our school. I’m glad that Bonfire has endured.

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Silver Spurs: Hijack

Mansfield Legacy High School Silver Spurs Drill Team performance of Hijack at Broncos vs Lake Ridge Basketball Game halftime. Choreography by Mikey Trasoras

Sherlock: His Last Vow

The third episode of the third series of Sherlock is full of twists and redirection. We learn much about Mrs. Watson, the Holmes’ parents, and Sherlock’s dog while weaving in and out of a very twisted plot. There are plenty of references to pop culture including calling Sherlock a blunt instrument in reference to James Bond. Just when you think you know what’s coming the show takes a left turn. Right in the middle of the story we find ourselves at the Holmes home for Christmas. Be sure to stick around for the tease for next season at the end. My only real complaint with the episode was the lack of actual detective work. This ends this series and it will probably be a couple of years before we get the next triplet of episodes. I hope they keep them coming.

His Last Vow

Sherlock: The Sign of Three

Yet another brilliant episode. Sherlock must give the best man’s toast at Watson’s wedding. The episode is intertwined with small mysteries culminating in a big reveal or three at the end. Sherlock’s manic nature is on full display. There’s a touching moment at the end and where the show continues to dance around Sherlock’s sexual preference, orientation, or lack there of. Sherlock even manages to give a great toast. I loved the bit with the eyeball. And you really have to listen to the dialog when one man calls Sherlock a psychopath. Sherlock agreeably corrects the gentleman to use the correct word, sociopath. Watson’s bachelor’s party is hysterical, especially when Sherlock’s drink is spiked. Finally, the cinematography is a character unto itself featuring lensbaby, text overlays, and bullet-time all in one episode.

Wedding Toast

Sherlock: The Empty Hearse

I caught the first of the three Sherlock episodes on the BBC iPlayer. The episode is called The Empty Hearse and it refers to the fact that Sherlock faked his death at the end of the last season. The episode is full of speculation as to how he’d done it picking up right where the teaser webisode left off. You should be sure to watch that first.

The episode had the return as its main thread while the subplot had to do with a major terrorist attack on Parliament. Be sure to pay attention and you’ll get to see a bit more of the Holmes family. Overall it was a fun episode. You get to see how the characters have (tried to) moved on in the wake of Sherlock’s departure.

Episode 2 aired tonight and the final episode will air next Sunday. I’ve already downloaded the second episode but I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to watch it.


It’s 2014, Where’s my AppleTV?

I’m actually really happy with my AppleTV. I have one in each room. They work with a shared iTunes library to deliver movies, TV shows and occasionally music around my house. I like the addition of new channels even though some are still tied to old school cable service if you want to actually use them. The addition of a Home Movie section of the movies area has been great. The interface is better than the competition. Simple touches like the way you navigate episodes in the Netflix are winners. I’m still frustrated by some of the unfinished rough edges. I have three complaints at the top of my list.

The first complaint is the unfathomable absence of iTunes Extras from the experience. This was a feature of the first generation but is missing from all subsequent versions. I know you can play iTunes extras on your computer but that does not work if your monitor like mine does not support HDCP. Then you have to rely on AirPlay, tying up two “computers” with the menus on one screen and the video content on the other. This is not a good experience if the two devices are in different rooms. I’m sure bandwidth is an issue. The original AppleTV had a hard drive. The Extras content was downloaded in a package. I have pathetic AT&T DSL service so there’s nothing instant about the instant download of a movie. I typically know that I need to download a movie overnight the day before I want to watch it. The result is that my AppleTVs are primarily slave to a computer running iTunes. Even with the extras content already downloaded, the AppleTV cannot see them. The Extras package has a very simple design. It is for the most part an HTML page. It seems designed and destined to be a hosted experience. I keep expecting that to come in the next version.

My second complaint is about the movie browsing experience for the “Computer” or iTunes library. It is a linear search. The more movies you have in your library, the longer you have to scroll. The experience is ridiculous. At least the version 1 of the AppleTV grouped items by “Show” so you could reduce “Star Wars” to a single item in the list by making them all part of the same show. There is no search. There is now way to jump to the first letter of the title without using the iPhone Remote app. And there is no leveraging of the movie meta data beyond the genre organization. The data is there. Why can’t a user find all the Peter Jackson movies at once by just clicking on his name?

I’m looking forward to the next generation of AppleTV. These complaints should not require a hardware update. We’ll see this summer.