I was going to write a post comparing the hype about the iPhone and the final Harry Potter book—the Globe quotes someone as saying that it'll be bigger than Dickens, and I don't think they meant in number of pages alone—but I got distracted and reread the fifth and sixth books instead. On this reading the sixth came out better, I think, and the fifth worse than I had thought previously. Harry is so annoying in book five that I was forced to skip several sections and even whole chapters to get to the good parts, something that wasn't necessary (well, almost wasn't) for Half-Blood Prince. The problem with that book, of course, is that the beginning and the end are far the weakest parts of the book, and they point to the problems with the series as a whole.
Namely, Rowling does a great job (mostly) when the action is taking place at Hogwarts, but things go south when her characters are forced to venture beyond the bounds of its august walls. The first chapter of book six, where the English Prime Minister gets a visit from his wizard counterpart, is so embarrassingly bad that I almost couldn't go on when I was reading it for the first time. I recently had a discussion with a big fan of the books about the internal consistency of the stories, which is something all the true enthusiasts talk up, but does anyone seriously believe Rowling has created anything like a convincing picture of the interaction between the wizarding world and that of the 'muggles'? When I think about it for anything more than a fleeting moment, I want to lead a muggle rebellion! What more blatant escapist fantasy is there than this, where we all identify with the essentially limitless power of the wizard characters and laugh at the pathetic attempts of the regular humans—even the Prime Minister!—to manage anything at all in their horrible humdrum existences.
I have other objections too, but I'll save them for another time, like after I've bought the seventh (not the sixth!) book on the first day it's available and read it in a single marathon session. Hey, I want to see what happens!
We have escaped our quotidian existence and are now lounging on the beach on Cape Cod, relaxing and, in Leah's case, not working on a final. Well, we're not on the beach right now, because it's night time, but you can be certain that we were earlier and we will be again tomorrow. In between beach visits we plan on doing some eating and drinking. You know, the usual vacation business. And since we brought Rascal with us, everything's about perfect. As long as we don't get bored...
1. We have to sleep in double beds here. When forced to choose who to sleep with, Rascal picked Leah for most of the night. I felt a tiny bit abandoned until I fell asleep, then I didn't mind it a bit!
(Aside: Leah's parents, with whom we're staying here, told her they were sorry about the double bed situation, but that we could puch them together if we wanted. "What?!" she thought. "Oh yeah, we're married." Unfortunately, the arrangement of the room prevented it.)
2. "Two for joy" does not apply to the same extent when the crows in question are having a spirited conversation immediately outside your window at quarter past five in the morning.
3. Rascal maintains a high level of alertness when sleeping in a strange place for the first time. Especially when the bed is next to a big picture window. And especially when there are birds making noise outside. And birds. And cars, look, ooh, a car!
The house where we stayed on the Cape was great: the cutest little vacation home you could ever want, with cozy rooms and nautical details that suggested a boat's cabin. Our first thought when we got home was, "wow, look at all the floor space!" With our house here looks enormous by comparison I can understand why Leah's parent's, accustomed as they are to their Lexington mansion, felt a little claustrophobic.
Our second thought was, "we need to lie down for the next 18 hours." Vacations are tiring work! We're resting up now.
Leah: I just heard something on the radio about how the seven-year-itch now starts after three years.
Dan: What is that, inflation?
L: I guess.
D: So now people are cheating on their spouses with blow-up dolls?
Aren't I lucky she puts up with me?
Any All-Star game is a little silly, but I suppose baseball's is the least silly of all. Certainly, it's the only one that anyone pays any attention to; only the most desperate football fans, for example, tune in for one last week of the pro game in February or whenever they get around to having that little jaunt in Hawaii. Despite the fat that baseball is such an individual game, though, it's hard to take tonight's contest entirely seriously, despite what Fox's marketing materials suggest. Sure, the players are mostly having fun out there, but the essence of sports—the sports we want to watch, at least—is competition, and due to other demands placed on players and managers during the All-Star week, competition is not always at the forefront of their minds.
But there are lots of Red Sox players in action, so I suppose I'll watch at least a few minutes. But I won't buy anything from any of Fox's advertisers!
In order to save money, Dan and i have decided to paint our house ourselves this summer. Well, just one wall of the house actually, the wall on which the paint is peeling due to the handywork a rogue steam pipe. The rest of the house we are going to leave for a few years until we are a bit richer and can pay some other people to risk their lives hanging from ladders all over our property. People who don't speak too much english. You know, so the fear of them dying of a fall from great heights is not so strong.
Turns out scraping even one side of your house completely is not an easy task. After fifteen minutes the points on both our scrapers wore down, and by our demenor one could tell that both Dan and I blamed the other for this. Now Dan is off to Home Depot buying a heat gun and better scraping blades. Two days and $120 and counting. This is just like one of those home-improvement shows. Except without the montage. What i wouldn't give for a montage right about now.
kid 1: You know when you see a planet in the sky that's gold? That's God.
kid 2: Yeah, I know.
I was working up here in the office, when gradually a tremendous din impressed itself upon my ears. What could it be?! Why, it was the kids out in the yard, mentioned by Leah in her last post. Only now it wasn't just two of them, it was more like thirty or forty... or at least eight. They were playing football. I didn't know that until I went to the window on the other side of the house and opened it to look out, at which point I also realized that just about all the windows and doors were shut and still the noise was strong enough to rouse me from my contemplation of InDesign. So I watched the game for a while, from the comfort of my bedroom.
As I observed I couldn't help but notice that, rather than following any of the traditional rules of football, the neighbor children and their friends and relatives were operating under the timeless kid rule that whoever is bigger, or alternatively whines louder, gets to make the rules. Also they were playing tackle so nearly every play resulted in a touchdown. Especially because they were allowing unlimited forward passes.
Sadly, too soon after I started watching the game was over, its end marked with angry tears: "Why do you guys always have to quit when we're playing?!" Oh the pathos.
You know you've forfeited any chance at all at hipness when your Saturday night involves getting together with a couple friends for a barbecue and a few beers... and then singing hymns until almost midnight. In four-part harmony, natch!
Who cares about messages posted in an internet "chat room" (I think message board is more likely)? The real controversy is the prices Whole Foods charges for their produce! I mean, if I can get tomatoes at the Farmers Market for $2.79/lb, what justification does Whole Foods have for charging $2.99? And that's $2.99 on sale; the regular price is $3.99. That's for the local tomatoes (hydroponic, product of Hopkinton MA)—you can also choose international tomatoes from Holland at $4.99. Why? And the same pattern is repeated across all the other produce as well.
It is my contention—and this is only a suggestion, until I do some research on the subject—that Whole Foods essentially charges a laziness fee, or perhaps one based on snobbery. It is no longer a hippy store (if it ever was one), nor even a "natural foods store" (whatever that is); no, clearly it is now a luxury food emporium and should only be frequented by shoppers with more money than sense. Or at least money to spare. Unfortunately it's also the closest market to us here, so despite my noble efforts they're going to continue to get a few of our lazy dollars from time to time. But I'm on to you now, Whole Foods, so you better watch it!
Leah spent some time today reading the hottest new sensation on the internet, the *ahem* "pre-release" copy of the last Harry Potter book. She wants to get a head start so she can talk about it with me during my marathon all-day reading session on Saturday. If you haven't heard about it, it's nothing more than a series of photos of each of the book's pages that an individual took with his digital camera, and uploaded to the internet as .jpgs, so it's just like reading the actual book on your computer screen! Is this at last the ebook revolution we've been hearing about for so long?
The die-hard fans are still protesting that the leaked book is a fake, either an elaborate fan-fic hoax or a clever plot by the publisher designed to... um... give people willing to download a leaked copy of their book a free "alternate ending" to the Harry Potter saga? Folks are also claiming the whole thing as a "spoiler", but that doesn't make much sense: how can a whole book be a spoiler for itself? Like, will it somehow be a magical reading experience on Saturday but something less than that before then? Clearly attempting to rationalize Ms. Rowling's plot devices have addled their logical faculties!
Needless to say, we will be purchasing our copy of the book as planned, but considering the whole thing seems like a race to see who can finish the book first after getting it at a minute past midnight on Saturday, a little bit of a jump on the reading will not be taken amiss.
So some people are really whining about this leaked book. Actually, Leah is whining about it too, but her whines are more like "wah, I wish I was finished with this stupid book already!" She almost is. The true believers, on the other hand, are upset that anyone has gotten a chance to see the book before they did; apparently they were looking forward to the communal experience of all human life grinding to a halt on Saturday, as everyone raced to finish the book before their friends could beat them too it and tell them the ending. Or something.
Even the publisher buys in to the ridiculous idea that everyone should be reading the book at the same time, and that, yes, a book can be a spoiler for itself. Some 1,200 folks have apparently now gotten their copies of the actual, printed, book, and Scholastic is imploring them to not open the books, or even the packages: in fact, they say, it would be best if customers followed the lead of the distributors and "keep the packages hidden". Man, I wish the leak and the early release of a few copies and whatever could really somehow "destroy the magic". Then I wouldn't have to waste my entire Saturday reading the stupid book!
I finally finished the book last night (TAKE THAT SCOLASTIC!UP YOUR BUTT!!!) read 100% on my computer (TAKE THAT PAPER!!!).
While i won't spoil it for the two people who read our site, i will vent my two strongest impressions:
1) Continuity errors!!!!! Oh the pain!
2) Manichaen heresy people! It's a heresy.
For the latter point, the reason that i take issue with the eternal battle between light and darkeness in this book rather than in the previous ones is that the idea is much more pronounced in the final battle, and consequently draws on more neo-religious-mythology than any of the other books. And in doing so reveals the author's fuzzy sense of a moral cosmos in which love and sacrifice are important only if they come in conjunction with solid ass-kicking skills. In other words, made to be a movie. The jews in hollywood are already twirling their horns. What? i didn't say that!
Today I guess all the Harry Potter fans were busy reading the book, leaving the internets to folks who felt the need to ostentatiously ask what all the fuss is about. "Aren't these books for children?" they ask, each typed character dripping with scorn. Yeah, I'm sure you wouldn't want to divert your reading effort from your perusals of Flaubert. That being said, I have to admit I was a little embarrassed to walk into the bookstore this morning and be greeted by the cheery voice of an employee stationed by the door asking, "are you folks here for Harry Potter?" Well yes, we were... but maybe we could browse a little in the philosophy section first? Poetry? I own two volumes of Seamus Heaney, you know! But we could not deny the day's middle-brow demands, and made our way to the counter to buy the requisite volume. At least we weren't getting more than one, so we could laugh when the clerk asked us how many we wanted.
After all that, it was a tolerably good book, and a good end to the series. I finished it in about six hours, which is pretty respectable if you ask me. And I'll read it again someday, too.
So, AT&T or Cingular or whoever they are now were holding me hostage, threatening to shut off service to my phone because it's too old or something. Like, they were happy enough for me to keep paying through all those years of terrible service, but when they decide there aren't enough TDMA subscribers to make running the network worth their while they just chucked me right out. Where's the justice in that?! So I had to get a new phone, and it's hard to get a new phone these days without getting the phone that everyone is talking about. So I got an iPhone. Leah practically made me, it wasn't my fault at all! Anyways, it's pretty cool, and the kids sure like it. (As an aside, how come even eight-year-old immediately recognize the iPhone? Go Apple marketing.)
I composed this entire post on the phone, which is why I won't go into greater depth about its featres. I believe you can find a modicum of information about it on the internet, if you're interested. In short, though, it sure has alot of non-phone features, which is just perfect for someone like me who doesn't really like phones.
My first reflexion is, I'd never manage to compose a title like that on that little tiny screen.
Looking over my previous post in the harsh light of the next day (though still on my iPhone screen, which is now my exclusive source for web browsing thanks to the sheer novelty of seeing the internets on that little tiny screen, and also being able to flick through them with my finger) I noticed that my word choice was far more repetitive than is usual for me. I attribute that to two factors. First, the small screen prevented me from seeing more than one quarter of the width of two lines of text in this fairly capacious text box the SBS gives me for the composing of blog posts; and second, when you're typing one letter at a time things are significantly slower than when you can bring your full complement of fingers to the table, as it were. So when I was typing on the little pretend iPhone keyboard I didn't notice that I wrote "service" in two consecutive sentences and "phone" in about all of them.
On the other hand, this old-fashioned keyboard with a very solid and distinct present here in the physical realm does not automatically correct my mistypings, as the iPhone pretend keyboard does. For example, if I had typed "teh" for "the" in the preceding sentence on the iPhone as I did in actual reality on this computer here, it would have magically and silently corrected my error. It's kind of spooky, and it would be even more spooky if it worked better and more consistently, and also magically corrected my numerous misspellings. At least this computer underlines them with red dotted lines.
Leah and I were really enjoying the Tour de France, watching every morning and rooting (at least I was) for Michael Rasmussen, even before he started winning stages. Now they had to go and ruin the whole thing, and I'm mad. My complaint isn't with the riders who may or may not have resorted to "blood doping"—something that, from what I know about it, shouldn't remotely be discussed in the same terms as steroid use or whatever—but with the team leaders and race organizers who are wrecking up the race by dragging out all the good riders. And even worse is the media, who are trying with cycling to whip up the same storm of moralizing frenzy that they're pushing for Major League Baseball. An NPR commentator even suggested that the crowds turning out to see the Tour might only be curious to see who's caught doping next: utterly ridiculous. All those folks are there to watch a great tradition and some great racing, which unfortunately is no longer nearly as great as it was before.
But they can't stop me. I'm going to become an Astana supporter (if they manage to keep the team going) and I'm going to keep rooting for Rasmussen and whatever team he joins too. So there! I'd boycott Rabobank if, er, I even knew where in the world the company operates so I could avoid it. Or what they do. I presume provide some sort of banking services...
I have nothing of interest to report this evening, so I will use this space to point to an amusing episode in the history of the internets: the following ridiculous segment on a FOX affiliate somewhere. Some background knowledge is probably required to appreciate it fully, but even when viewed in a state of innocence it provides a revealing commentary on the truly pathetic state of the television "news" in this country. As one individual from the "secret website" says in the comments, "we would never blow up trucks, just laugh at the guy inside it." After all, they are only in it for the lulz (a corruption of L. 0. L.), and blowing up a van isn't funny... unless it's on the tv news attributed to hackers on steroids, of course!
We went to the water park yesterday, and I have two observations. First, the iPhone has already proved its worth: we four adults set off for the day knowing no more than that the park was in or near Portsmouth, NH (and not even everyone in the car knew that), and only the mighty powers of Safari and AT&T's EDGE network enabled us to locate the place, with only one minor wrong turn. That one wrong turn we can chalk up to the slow loading of pages on EDGE and the difficulty of precisely targeting links on the iPhone's small screen, especially in high-pressure situations. "Do we want Rt. 1 North or South? Quick! Well, we're going North." It turns out South would have been the better choice, but it was a matter of moments to get ourselves turned around and headed in the right direction again.
Once we got to the park, it was clear we had made an inspired decision in our choice of day to attend. And despite my modesty, I must take some credit in our good fortune, since I was the one to insist most vigorously that we go ahead with the trip, despite slightly threatening skies. 30% chance of thunderstorms is 70% too little to deter me, even when it's coupled with low clouds and fog. In the event, the weather at the park was very pleasant indeed: the cloud cover only served to prevent too much sunburn, and except for a few breezy moments the air temperature was just what you would have wished for. More importantly, the cloud cover and the threat (is it even worth calling it a threat?!) of thunder kept most other folks away, so not only did we get to park mere feet from the entrance, we also enjoyed a near-complete absence of lines the whole day.
That of course means we really got our money's worth, which in turn means that we were very tired all day today. I noticed it most in my neck: to get the most impressive results from each of my 57 runs down the solo waterslide required adopting a luge-derived posture which put considerable strain on my cervical vertebrae. Is that what the ones in your neck are called? I should ask Leah, but she's already been asleep for a couple hours. Outings are tiring work!