Harry Potter: Read these books.

September 17th, 2004

Link: http://www.scholastic.com/harrypotter/home.asp

Though lessened, there still exists a decent amount of controversy over the books in the Harry Potter series. Are they children's books? Are they written for adults? Is it ok for adults to read them? Should I be embarrassed by reading Harry Potter? These questions, though common, are quite absurd. The beauty of these books is simply that they are written for everyone. The only thing required to enjoy Harry Potter is an open mind.

Give author J.K. Rowling a fair chance and her books will take you to another place. The now five (5) book series will transport you from your normal life to a world where humans co-exist with wizards and witches. Open your mind to a hidden society of magic people and follow the maturation of Harry Potter.

When I started reading the books, after they were first released, there was not much excitement surrounding Rowling's work, though you could feel the tide turning. As Harry Potter became a household name, the books began to carry the stigmatism of being for children only. Once this happened, many people who were new to the series knew them only as children's books and would never give them a chance. You may feel the same way. You are doing yourself a disservice if you like to "let go" every once and a while.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's StoneHarry Potter has never been the star of a Quidditch team, scoring points while riding a broom far above the ground. He knows no spells, has never helped to hatch a dragon, and has never worn a cloak of invisibility.

All he knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley — a great big swollen spoiled bully. Harry's room is a closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn't had a birthday party in eleven years.

But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to an incredible place that Harry — and anyone who reads about him — will find unforgettable.

For it's there that he finds not only friends, aerial sports, and magic in everything from classes to meals, but a great destiny that's been waiting for him... if Harry can survive the encounter.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Chamber of SecretsThe Dursleys were so mean and hideous that summer that all Harry Potter wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he's packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike.

And strike it does. For in Harry's second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor, Gilderoy Lockhart, a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girls' bathroom, and the unwanted attentions of Ron Weasley's younger sister, Ginny.

But each of these seem minor annoyances when the real trouble begins, and someone — or something — starts turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects...Harry Potter himself!

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of AzkabanFor twelve long years, the dread fortress of Azkaban held an infamous prisoner named Sirius Black. Convicted of killing thirteen people with a single curse, he was said to be the heir apparent to the Dark Lord, Voldemort. Now he has escaped, leaving only two clues as to where he might be headed: Harry Potter's defeat of You-Know-Who was Black's downfall as well. And the Azkaban guards heard Black muttering in his sleep, "He's at Hogwarts... he's at Hogwarts." Harry Potter isn't safe, not even within the walls of his magical school, surrounded by his friends. Because on top of it all, there may well be a traitor in their midst.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Goblet of FireIt's the pivotal fourth novel in the seven-part tale of Harry Potter's training as a wizard and his coming of age. Harry wants to get away from the pernicious Dursleys and go to the International Quidditch Cup with Hermione, Ron, and the Weasleys. He wants to dream about Cho Chang, his crush (and maybe do more than dream). He wants to find out about the mysterious event that's supposed to take place at Hogwarts this year, an event involving two other rival schools of magic, and a competition that hasn't happened for a hundred years. He wants to be a normal, fourteen-year-old wizard. Unfortunately for Harry Potter, he's not normal — even by wizarding standards.

And in his case, different can be deadly.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"I say to you all, once again—in the light of Lord Voldemort’s return, we are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. Lord Voldemort’s gift for spreading discord and enmity is very great. We can fight it only by showing an equally strong bond of friendship and trust."

So spoke Albus Dumbledore at the end of Harry Potter’s fourth year at Hogwarts. But as Harry enters his fifth year at wizard school, it seems those bonds have never been more sorely tested. Lord Voldemort’s rise has opened a rift in the wizarding world between those who believe the truth about his return, and those who prefer to believe it’s all madness and lies—just more trouble from Harry Potter.

Add to this a host of other worries for Harry…
• A Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher with a personality like poisoned honey
• A venomous, disgruntled house-elf
• Ron as keeper of the Gryffindor Quidditch team
• And of course, what every student dreads: end-of-term Ordinary Wizarding Level exams

…and you’d know what Harry faces during the day. But at night it’s even worse, because then he dreams of a single door in a silent corridor. And this door is somehow more terrifying than every other nightmare combined.

In the richest installment yet of J. K. Rowling's seven-part story, Harry Potter confronts the unreliability of the very government of the magical world, and the impotence of the authorities at Hogwarts.

Despite this (or perhaps because of it) Harry finds depth and strength in his friends, beyond what even he knew; boundless loyalty and unbearable sacrifice.

Though thick runs the plot (as well as the spine), readers will race through these pages, and leave Hogwarts, like Harry, wishing only for the next train back.

One thing that I would say J.K. Rowling does best in her writing is her description of the magical setting at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. She has a talent for getting both very detailed and also not crossing the line that would have her too focused on the setting. She keeps the story moving and simply mentions a place, a name, a spell, an object that is entirely made up yet perfect for it's place in the book. She makes the books very entertaining.

I have just finished reading all five books in a row for the first time. I have now read each book twice, and they are still as fun as the first time I read them. I will admit that reading all five in a row was quite cumbersome as they are (especially 4 and 5) such long books.

Part of the fun is in simply trying to guess what Rowling will come up with next!

I highly recommend these books. They truly are a treat for the imagination.

The Sting

September 15th, 2004

Link: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0783225873/petespage01?dev-t=mason-wrapper%26camp=2025%26link_code=xm2

The StingWhile we're on the topic of ageless, classic movies...we were on the topic of ageless, classic movies, weren't we? Last night I popped in one of my absolute favorites. The Sting, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford (best onscreen duo ever?), is a movie that I could watch over and over. Well, I do watch it over and over.

What could be better than watching two guys down on their luck attempt to pull of the "big con?" Both Newman and Redford play the same characters for which they are known. Newman is the older, wiser mentor to a younger, foolhardy Redford.

I put this movie in last night with a buddy (Wil) who wanted to watch a movie that would keep him guessing until the very end. He likes mysteries and he likes having to figure out what is going on. He seemed to thoroughly enjoy the film and said it was an excellent choice by me. I have been impressing upon him that he needs to see this movie for sometime now and last night he told me that after seeing the movie he finally understood why I said it was so good.

Movies about the confidence game and grifting are hard to do well. You have to make sure that the audience follows along with the grift, but only to a certain extent. The Sting is my favorite movie in this design. If you like the genre, I do recommend Confidence and Matchstick Men.

Two movies with which I am not as familiar, though am told are also worth checking out, are The Grifters and Paper Moon.

If you've not seen The Sting, you really should. And if you have seen it, you should watch it again.

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NFL Week 1.

September 13th, 2004

The trash talk is at an early peak as there were some surprise performers this weekend.

First, let's congratulate our Detroit Lions for their first road win in 25 tries. December of 2000 was the last time they won a game that was not at home. Lions Mitch Albom says that, "You know you're a Lions fans if you think "the road" is some place the team must go in between victories." But that is all behind us now with the 20-16 win over the Chicago Bears.

The next big news would have to be happening a mile high. The Denver Broncos were under such scrutiny for their offseason trade sending 1,000 yard rusher Clinton Portis to the Washington Redskins for Champ Bailey (Defensive Back). Critics were silenced last night as rookie running back Quentin Griffin outshined even Priest Holmes as Denver wins 34-24. Champ Bailey appears to be quieting anyone who thought he was not worth Portis in a trade and displayed the fact that he is truly a playmaker. Another note is the excitement in getting to see Donte Hall in pads again. This guy is incredible. Hall is the WR-KR-PR-RB for the Chiefs who can set the field ablaze once he gets his tiny legs pumping.

Terrell Owens caught 8 passes
yesterday afternoon against the New York Giants, and 3 of them were for touchdowns. If anyone was wondering whether or not he would make an impact making his nest in Philadelphia, yesterday began to shed some light on the issue. Perhaps having a showcase receiver will be the lift the Eagles need to advance beyond the NFC Championship game.

Donovan McNabb did set a career high with the 4 touchdown passes yesterday (3 to T. Owens), though this was not the best of the day. Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper set the bar with his career best 5 TD passes yesterday at home in Minnesota against the Cowboys.

Carolina and Green Bay pair off tonight in Monday Night Football.

I am ashamed to admit I'll miss week 2 for a business trip to Atlanta...


September 13th, 2004

What a great weekend I had to which to look forward. So many good games scheduled. How could this college football weekend possibly let me down? Well, I'll tell you.

Miami/Florida State was played Friday night (rescheduled. hurricane.) in a game nearly completely devoid of offense. This age old rivalry due to being nearly cross-town rivals turned conference showdown was given the billing of a heavyweight match up. The game did not live up to expectations.
Miami 16 - Florida State 10.

Saturday brought renewed hope as Michigan visited Notre Dame, the team they toyed with last season 38-0. The Wolverines have not won in South Bend in the last 3-4 meetings so there was more pressure on this rival match up. Let's call Saturday's loss to the Fighting Irish a learning experience (euphemisms are beautiful). Let's highlight what the boys in blue learned.

Full story »


September 10th, 2004

*Disclaimer* I do not mean to offend anyone with this post. *Disclaimer*

Everyone loves payday. This is a fact. I would even go so far as to say there are few treats that compare to someone handing you a check when you didn't even know it was payday.

What I cannot understand is: Why do people tear up their envelopes as soon as they get it as though it is restricting their check? Will the dollar figure swell given room to breathe? You worked 80 hours this pay period. You worked 80 hours the previous pay period. Guess what, you worked 80 hours the pay period before that. You know how much money you make. You know how much that check is made out for. So WHY, I ask you, do you feel compelled to open it as soon as you get it? You've worked for at least a few years now. This is not the first pay check you've received. Yes it is real. I do not need to open each one for you to tell you the check is legitimate.

I just don't get it.

NFL = Underway!

September 10th, 2004

After months of nothing on SportsCenter but baseball highlights (and I use the term "highlights" losely) The NFL kicked off it's regular season last night and it did so in style.

A rematch of last season's AFC Championship pitted the Indianapolis Colts against the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots.

The game, for all intents and purposes, was on par with a Super Bowl as it featured many musical acts (spanning different genres) as a precurser to the game. This was not the first game of the year. This was truly an event. This was breaking ground on yet another year of professional football. The world's fantasy football obsessed sat down to their televisions and set their beverage next to their laptop computer which coincedentally displayed their fantasy teams. To those of you who can relate to this, you know Christmas comes early every year the Thursday prior to Week 1.

Business as usual was halted yesterday afternoon as preseason predictions needed to be prophecized to coworkers young and old. Tales of fantasy seasons gone by echoed through the halls. Friendly wagers may have been placed by the fans and fanatics alike.

Full story »

WoW Stress Test Extended

September 9th, 2004

Yesterday it became official that Blizzard has extended the Stress Test for World of Warcraft. What was originally scheduled to close on Friday, the Stress Test now ends on Sunday. This means two things.

1) I get to play more before my beautiful Night Elf Hunter is deleted as though he means nothing to anyone.
2) All of those things that I had planned on doing last weekend that didn't get done and were rescheduled for this coming weekend will now be pushed back yet another weekend.

We are extending the stress test beta to this Sunday and adding thousands of additional testers from the group of gamers that are currently on the closed-beta waiting list. Invitation emails have started going out to the new testers already. The stress test beta contest will continue on until the end of the stress test beta, at which time all stress test accounts will expire. -WorldofWarcraft.com

That explains why I got a second e-mail saying I can sign up since they never cross-referenced their list of those closed-beta wait listed and current stress testers.

US Open

September 9th, 2004

Link: http://www.usopen.org/en_US/index.html

Agassi v. Federer

I anxiously await the dramatic conclusion to this match (rain delay). Talk about two giants in the sport of tennis.

The match started out with the two of them hitting the ball as though they had something to prove. Neither player was going to be out hit in this match. Neither player was going to be pushed around in this match. On serve until 2-2 in the first set when all of a sudden Roger Federer rattles off three games in a row. Agassi tries to hang on, but cannot. 6-3 Federer. This apparently did not sit well with Andre as he started the second set as a man possessed.
6-2 Agassi. The way Federer was playing was simply not enough in this second set.

That, however is why Roger Federer is so good. I hate to admit it, since I am not a fan of his, but he is an incredible player. What makes him SO good is his ability to do what so few other players can do, and that is adapt his game to his opponent. He can hit so many shots. He can play so many styles. He is so quick on the court. He is a champion. 7-5 Federer.

R. Federer  6 2 7
A. Agassi   3 6 5

So here we are. The fourth set had just begun when the rain that had almost prevented this match from happening last night returned.

Andre Agassi is, as he has always been, poetry in motion on the court. Roger Federer is the new school player who is already being talked about as one of the best players to ever hold a racket. This match up is fantastic. Unfortunately I will not be able to watch the end of this match as it takes place this afternoon and I will not be near a television until 9pm or so.

I guess I can fill you in on the rest of the scores in case you've not seen them. Lindsay Davenport made quick work of Shinobu Asagoe (6-1 6-1). Svetlana Kuznetsova topped Nadia Petrova (7-6(4) 6-3). The other men's quarterfinal match being played last night was Britain's Tim Henman and Dominik Hrbaty which also had play stopped due to rain as Henman leads
(6-1 7-5 4-5).

Matches tonight are Tommy Haas v. Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick v. Joachim Johansson. The women's semis start Friday when Lindsay Davenport faces Svetlana Kuznetsova and Jennifer Capriati plays Russian Elena Dementieva.

Anyone seen my self-esteem?

September 7th, 2004

So I happened to check my Amazon recommendations today as I had a brief moment. The SystemWhat I didn't know is that my reputation preceeds me, even on the internet. It was just a normal day seeing mostly the same DVDs that I won't clear out of there as I plan on using them as a rental guide sometime in the future until I happened upon a book in which someone at Amazon thinks I would be interested.

It is safe to say that when I review my recommendations I do NOT expect to see books like, "How to Get Laid Today! The System"

What I want to know now is, Does everyone know? Am I that open of a book that even Amazon can read me? I know I am not good with the ladies, but do I need the internet to rub it in? No.

And I have reached a new low...

Back to work...

September 7th, 2004

I didn't have too hard of a time getting out of bed this morning. Not nearly as bad I as I had imagined at least. The first morning back after vacation, no matter how short, is always a difficult one.

Hope everyone had an exciting holiday weekend. Though I was completely unable to get any of the things done that I had planned on getting done with the weekend, I still had a great time. Is it against some code of ethics not to bbq on Labor Day weekend?

And for the record: no, the irony was not lost on me this morning as I ironed my new wrinkle-free shirt.