Saturday, August 25, 2007

Harry Potter & The Sub-Prime Mortgage

Suffice it to say, there's going to be spoilers in this post.

I finished reading the final Harry Potter book recently and, though I believe it was about as good a send-off as we could hope for, there are a few discussion points to be had IMHO.

First - Death
For a book that takes its title from a mythical group of three items that together make the wearer the "master of death", there sure is a lot of dying in this book. And a lot of seemingly random, needless, senseless dying.

Sure, it's a product of our times, but there are a few "rules" out there, especially in Hollywood, such as "The Dog Never Dies". Show me a movie other than Old Yeller (or any other movie where an animal is the lead character) where a dog bites it. Even that lame Stallone movie where everyone's trapped in the tunnel under the east river... that darn dog lives.

But what character is the first to go? Hedwig the Owl. C'mon. Cute white snowy owl that we've come to know and love over the course of 6 books as Harry's trusty messenger and only summer friend... BAM hit by a killing curse and then unceremoniously blown up BY HARRY in a falling motorcycle side-car.

Beyond that, there's the death of a minor, death of parents resulting in the orphaning of a child, extraction of trophies from the dead... you get the picture.

Second - Deus Ex Machina
Something I've always loved about Rowling's writing was that she'd sneak something into a story that seemed trivial, yet proved to be a useful bit of information a book or two later.

Sorcerer's Stone opens with Harry speaking to a snake, a trait that seems merely magical to us unknowing muggles, yet this plays a very important role in Chamber of Secrets and future books that delve into the connection between Harry and Voldemort.

Later in the same book, it's revealed that Fred & George Weasley seem to know their way around the school better than anyone else but it's not until much later in Prisoner of Azkaban, that it is revealed they've been using the Marauder's Map to find their way around and learn about all the secret passages in and out of Hogwarts.

The twins' joke shop, the Room of Requirement, the list goes on of items and themes alluded to and later revealed.

So was I the only one that was competely broadsided by the Hallows?

With the possible exception of Harry's Cloak, there's really no mention of them at all throughout the entire series. Maybe I just need to read it over again from start to finish. Yeah, that's what I'll do. (evil laugh)

Finally - "19 Years Later"
For a guy who evolved from "the boy who lived" to the boy who killed Voldemort, you'd expect he'd be a bit more celebrated and swarmed by fans. Further, you'd expect that any evil or crazy wizard out there looking to make a name for themselves would be itching to challenge him to prove they are more powerful.

Not that I'd want him to be eternally haunted by his past or paranoid in the epilogue, but it just feels a bit too suburban the way she's written it. It's almost as if he's settled into a happy, safe muggle-like lifestyle with 3 kids and a mortgage.

But I really did like it...
Besides all that, I really liked the book and thoroughly enjoyed the series. Frankly, I can't wait to see this particular book on the big screen. The battles at the end should be quite a treat to see with all the giants, acromantulas, wizards, thestrals, centaurs and furniture in the mix. With any luck, they'll leave enough time over to do justice to the rest of the story.

So what did you think of the book and series?

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Pregnant Wife & The Kidney Stone

No that's not the name of a recently unearthed chapter in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, it's unfortunately been the story of our lives for the past week.

Monday night, my wife woke up with a terrible pain in her side. She thought that she had pulled a muscle while flipping in bed but the pain didn't respond to massage or a heating pad and after 2 hours of agony, we decided to take her to the local Urgent Care.

Trouble is, they were closed at 1:30 in the morning. Actually, they closed at 8pm the previous evening. BUT THEIR *HUGE* RED "URGENT CARE" SIGN WAS STILL LIT UP BRIGHT AS DAY. Genius, eh?

So we continued on to the Emergency Room in Pineville and they admitted us to the Maternity Center because she was pregnant. Apparently we were supposed to have called before coming in so our OB could be ready for us. Again, would have been good to know earlier.

Initially, they thought that she had a kidney infection but she didn't have a fever and her labs came back negative. Still, they started pumping her full of antibiotics and kept a fetal monitor on her to track our baby's heart rate and my wife's contractions. 16 hours and 1 ultrasound later, they diagnosed her with a kidney stone.

After a consultation with a urologist, we agreed to have them implant a stent in her kidney to provide some pain relief and then come back in next week to have it removed and zap the stone with a laser. The pain relief after the implant was instantaneous and it was great to see my wife's eyes smiling again after 2 days of pain.

With the pain gone and the baby well, they discharged us on Thursday morning and we've been home ever since. My work gives us the option to work from home with permission so I've been taking advantage of that opportunity to be here in case I'm needed.

Apparently, we're now living in the "Stone Belt" and Kidney and Gall Stones are pretty common here due to the diet and minerals in the water. Yeah, I'm soooo drinking nothing but bottled water from now on. And sticking with my weirdo California diet (though that mostly consisted of McDonald's & Chili's).

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Surprisingly, Stardust didn't suck...

We went to see Stardust last night with some friends and, honestly, I had no idea what to expect. I really hadn't heard much, but based on the star-studded cast and the number of ads on TV, the hopes weren't high that this would be a good flick. Don't blame me, I said, I wanted to see Superbad or Rush Hour 3 (though based on ratings I've seen since, my choices might have been worse).

The movie begins with a voice over by Gandalf... er, Ian McKellan, who serves as the Narrator to bookend the movie. We're then treated to a young boy who discovers a magical new world and loses his virginity... which to any teenage boy losing his virginity is really one and the same.

If you're thinking that this might not be a fairy tale for young kids, the unceremonious delivery of a baby 9 months later to the doorstep of this hapless youth should cement that opinion. And I haven't even gotten to the part with Robert De Niro in drag. Yes. I'm still trying to unburn *that* image from my retina.

Anyway, the movie picks up pace and quickly becomes interesting, involving and quite humorous.

A cameo by Peter O'Toole as a ruthless king on his deathbed sets the story in full motion and establishes a rather amusing theme of fratricidal inheritance and beyond-the-grave sideline commentary.

Michelle Pfeiffer plays a witch in search of the fallen star to regain her youth and magical power. I must say, she's really showing her age, but they did a great job using prosthetics and CG to make her beautiful again. Oh wait, scratch that, reverse it. Prosthetics ugly, catwoman beautiful.

Robert De Niro does indeed get dolled up in women's clothing during a true train wreck of a scene that you can't watch yet can't tear your eyes from while laughing hysterically. I really won't tell you more because he plays a great character that needs to be unveiled and not explained.

In all, the movie was surprisingly fun to watch in a Princess Bride tradition of a modern fairy tale. Though I wouldn't call it equal in story and execution, it certainly comes in a close second.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

1 month on the job

So I've now been at my new job for a month and wow do they expect you to hit the ground running. I've already been assigned 2 major projects and at least a dozen different audits and special projects for my Manager and Director. It's good to be working again, though I'm hoping the sprint I'm in currently in will slow to a nice marathon pace... still tough, but not burnout tough.

Trouble is, my Manager gave notice last Friday and is moving back to Chicago where she was transferred from. While not unexpected (she apparently made this plan known in January but was waiting until she had a job in Chicago before giving notice) I had been hoping that I would have been on board a while longer before she left. I'm interested in applying for her position and I think having more experience on the job would have given me more of an edge. Regardless, things are what they are and we now we learn to make lemonade.

Another potential obstacle is the fact that I don't have a Bachelor's degree. My company has a degree requirement for new hires and has recently extended that to in house transfers and promotions. They had to pull a few strings to get me in, and now that I'm there it's looking like I'm in that spot until I get my degree.

The only light at the end of this tunnel is that there are a lot of other people in the company that are in my particular predicament and the upper management in my area is looking into how these requirements will impact our group. I'll still apply for the Manager position though since you can't succeed if you don't try.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Bonnie & Clyde Turn 1

Today was Bonnie & Clyde's first birthday. We picked them up some new toys. A birthday cake that plays "Happy Birthday". Loudly. Twice. And a parrot that sings s song that sounds a lot like a certain dancing hamster.

They went nuts for both of them, chewing away happily. Growling because they wanted the toy that the other was chewing on. Chasing all around the house with "Happy Birthday" playing from room to room (complete with an amusing doppler-like effect). And eventually forgetting about them completely to go and play with a toy they haven't looked twice at for over a month. At least it wasn't a cardboard box.

(Bonnie's version of "CHEESE!")