'arry Potter

A few thoughts and reflections:

First, it's important to remember that the books were wildly popular not just for the good stories, but also for the suspense between them - what adventures were to befall Harry in the next book, fans wondered; who is going to be in a relationship with whom? Rowling said that the "shippers," as they were called, were the most disturbing aspect of her fandom, espeically the Harry/Hermione vs Ron/Hermione contingents. I read meta stuff about this conflict, with the most interesting aspects about if people's own personal desires (the smart girl should get the hero, for example) appeal over the foreshadowing that Rowling offered as early as book 3. In any case, it was the time between books that mattered just as much as what was contained within them, and future readers won't have that experience. That might mean that the Potter books don't age well, but the missing ingredient - ignorance - can't well be put back into the box.

Second, the books were unique in that Rowling had a lot of space to work with, and had a consistent vision of Day 1. I don't know if I'm completely convinced that she had the whole series exactly worked out - she planned once, I think, for Petunia to cast a spell under desperate circumstances, which didn't happen, but the elements were there and plotted alongside Book 1, which apparently had 10 different iterations of an opening chapter. Consider these quotes: "the books do explore the misuse of power, and there's an attempt to make some sense of death" (1998), "Harry has been born to shoulder a certain burden. (1999) & "Book Seven will see him face his destiny" (1999). '99 is also the year that Rowling wrote the epilogue that ends Book Seven. Also, Dumbledore's possession of the needed cloak was revealed in the first book.

So, the point is that a person who confesses to spending hours on plot construction had seven books to consistently work towards a focal end - a final confrontation of Harry and Tom, circling each other in the Great Hall as all assembled watch in trepidation and silence.

Except  (and third), that's not what happened in the movie. Warner Brothers took a wonderful, dramatic scene of Harry's reveal and drew it out into a non-dramatic awakening, coupled with a pointless Harry/Voldemort fight juxtaposed with a needless Ron/Hermione/Nagini battle. Neville's original scene would have saved more time and been more interesting, but I'll bet the exposition at the end bored test audiences.

But fourth, there was really no reason for them not to have the Elder Wand fix Harry's original, or to spend more time on the Weasley death. The points of the movie that did hold true - especially Harry's entrance to the forest - certainly had the greatest impact on me.

Nearly Two Weeks At Work

Best Perk: Free Milk and Juice in the breakrooms.
Best Building Theme: Dungeons and Dragons.
Strangest name: "Yoda," the name of the underground parking garage (which is mighty useful in Winter)
Biggest Adjustment: Getting up earlier than I have since middle school
Coolest Policy: The Dress Code ("When there are visitors, you must wear clothes.")
Most Anticipated Event: Company Wide Staff Meeting. With all 4300 people.

What I can really tell you, though, is that you can't really understand this place until you see the sleek buildings rising from the Wisconsin fields, and the care that has obviously gone into each building's design. The company's commitment to green building is obvious:
We're committed to environmental stewardship, with a promise to leave a large majority of our property undeveloped. Epic uses sustainable materials, obtaining them from local sources whenever possible. We recycle approximately 65% of our construction waste, and the geothermal system we use to heat and cool our buildings is one of the largest in the country.
yet you have to see the solar panels (and the planned new ones) to get a sense of this company's scope. Epic's culture is one that I can align myself with, just as Williams allowed me to do the same. The difference is that Williams was my life - this is a job, and I'll need outlets and friends outside of it (to go along with the neat work friends I have as well). But so far, so good.

The Cost of a Bin Laden Vaccne Program

One of the Pakistani Taliban’s top commanders, Maulvi Faqir Mohammed, recently called on people in the northwest to avoid vaccines offered by the international community, claiming they were made with “extracts from bones and fat of an animal prohibited by God — the pig.”
“Don’t fall prey to these infidel NGOs and this U.S.-allied government and its army,” said Mohammed over the illegal radio station he transmits from his sanctuary in eastern Afghanistan.
Pakistani officials and their international partners have pushed back against these claims, but the CIA’s reported activities in the country may have made their job that much harder. “The medical mission has to be immune from manipulation for political and military purposes and health care workers generally must not be compelled to conduct activities contrary to medical ethics,” said [Michael O'Brien, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Pakistan].
Backstory: the CIA used a fake vaccination program to collect DNA. Now vaccines are much less likely to be taken, thanks to the evidence given to political opportunists. And children will die.

This is not a good week for global affairs.
Be bold, Mr. President.

The country needs leadership. Besides the radical "Tea Party," there is little faith in anyone in government - no rising stars that can suck up the media spotlight with bipartisan popularity. There is, in short, no "2005 you" in this political calculus.

You must be bold. The Republican position has been panned by the Economist and even Ben Stein - it is both grounded in foolishness and delusional in the thought that higher taxes will destroy our economy.

The economy is not weak because of taxes, and you must say so. You must have faith that the American people will listen to you - actually listen to you - when you go on TV from the Oval Office to explain the peril that this debt issue involves us in, and the lack of choice that presents itself. You must be clear about the relative size of entitlements vs the defense budget vs everything else, and you must do this in the faith that Americans are waiting for you to step up.

We are waiting for leadership.

So lead.

The End of Harry Potter

I was a few weeks from turning 10 when the first Harry Potter book was released. No one is quite sure why these books became the the particular phenomena that dominated midnight releases at bookstores and spawned such wonderous works as the Potter Puppet Pals, but I think it had something to do with a proper plan and series worked out before the author wrote book #1 - a lucky strike of lighting that was then followed with excellent followups that, with a bit of lax editing in books 4 and 5, combined drama with humor to create a very accessible world of practical magic that ignored just enough reality.

Combined with a pre-technology nostagia (Harry Potter was free of computers and cell phones), the books went on a selling rampage, teaching children that do-gooders didn't always do good - Harry is an immensely frustrating hero when he ignores the sage advice of his friends, and I think reviews were spot on in saying that Harry, alone, never really "grew" in the series, maintaining the course that would lead him to Dumbledore's defeat.

Thus the star players, the original trio, were long-characterized by their static-ism, which held until Ron's abrupt departure in book 7, and the growth had to be observed in the other trio - the group of Ginny, Neville, and Luna which also journeyed into the Ministry of Magic and carried on the vital resistance work at Hogwarts as the first trio bumbled in their Horcrux searches. Harry only destroyed one horcrux, after all: the diary in book 2, and Dumbledore only one as well, with Ron, Hermione, Neville, Voldemort, and oddly, Crabbe, rounding out the group.

I remember the day that I realized I was the equivalent of Harry's age at the end of the seventh book (this was well before its release), and I wondered how capable I would be of taking on such evil, such power. I'm much more of an operative than hero, the fellow who would have fooled Umbridge and gotten into her confidences as a spy, instead of openly defying her.

So all this is rambly and strange, but I mostly want to say: wow. Amazing things can happen on train rides.