Sunday, July 31, 2005

Cystic acne as survival mechanism

For those of you are fortunate enough never to have experienced cystic acne, basically it's like a normal garden-variety zit, but bigger, denser and deeper. In my experience the zit itself is generally about the size of a chickpea (plus any residual inflammation), and down so deep in the skin that it won't necessarily come to head at all. When they occur in places like earlobes or nostrils, I can't initially tell what side they're going to come out on. They're generally big enough to cause a temporary visible deformity, and painful enough that there's an omnipresent nagging pain - the pain isn't debilitating or anything, but I am always aware of it, at all times.

When I have cystic acne I can still do and focus on the activities of everyday living. Despite the pain, I can still eat, sleep, translate, read, write, study, run errands, keep house, and do anything that needs doing. However, when my mind starts wandering beyond my immediate activities, and I start thinking about big, distant, long-term concerns like the security of my pension or the long-term effects of having what is basically an employment equity system for selecting the governor general or whether if I'm caught in a subway bombing I should run away from the explosion so I have a chance of escaping or run towards the explosion so I die as quickly as possible, when I start thinking about these sort of things, my cystic acne distracts me. I don't get very far into worrying about big, distant things before my mind wanders to just how painful that zit on my ear is and how cool it would be if it popped all in one piece and how I could maybe get it to pop if I approached it from a different angle or maybe I should put a hot compress on it and then try to pop it or maybe I should just try to dry it out. Maslow's hierarchy kicks in, and any attempts to worry about Big Issues get distracted by thinking about my own pain.

I think this is a survival mechanism. I always get cystic acne when I'm stressed. Before I learned the word "cystic" I called it "stress acne". I think my body produces these deep, painful zits on purpose so that I will be physically incapable of worrying about anything non-immediate. That way I can deal only with the immediate during stressful times so I don't make myself sick worrying about things that I can't do anything about at the moment. Then when my stress level lowers, the cystic acne goes away and I can worry about Big Issues as much as I want.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Creekside Estate Cabernet

This is rather the quintessential red. It's very dark, in colour and in flavour, but it's everything a red wine should be. And you've got to love a winery that is confident enough to put "fabulous with cheeseburgers!" on their label blurb!

Opinions please

I ordered a particular dictionary second-hand from a store located in Ppoland. I did this because it's by my favourite foreign-language dictionary publisher, but Polish-English dictionaries by this publisher are not available in Canada or through Amazon. The book was advertised as being like new.

I paid relatively little for this dictionary - the shipping cost more than the book itself, and the total price was less than I earn in an hour. By Canadian standards this is very cheap for a dictionary; I don't know what dictionary prices are like in Poland.

Yesterday, I noticed that there was an error in the binding of this book. Some pages were duplicated in the wrong place, and other pages were missing. I'm missing a total of about 50 pages of information in a 950 page book. Other than the missing pages, the book is in excellent condition. The only sign that it is used is someone's name and student number written in pencil inside the front cover.

If the store is unable to exchange my copy for a properly-bound dictionary, I still want to keep it because I can't get this dictionary anywhere else and the vast majority of the book is quite helpful.

Now for the question: It occurs to me that under normal circumstances and by Canadian standards, a refund of part of the purchase price would be in order. I have no idea what Polish standards would be. However, only about 5% of the book is damaged. A 5%-of-the-purchase-price refund would be literally pocket change, an amount of money a child wouldn't be impressed with, not worth the trouble of processing a credit card refund. A refund of the entire purchase price (not including the shipping costs, which I don't want refunded because they did go through the trouble of shipping it to Canada.

So, your opinions please: if they can't exchange the book for me, should I ask for a partial refund? If so, how much? Or should I just be happy that I got 95% of an excellent dictionary that is not available in Canada for such a reasonable price?

Friday, July 29, 2005

How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization by Franklin Foer

I don't think the title is quite accurate. Rather than how soccer explains globalization, this book is more about how globalization explains soccer culture around the world. I'm not a huge soccer fan - I can certainly enjoy World Cup, but if I never saw another soccer match I wouldn't care - but I still enjoyed this book because it offered me that most elusive quarry, insight into people's motiviations for incomprehensible acts. A lot of the book deals with hooliganism, and the author explains it in a way that not only makes me understand why someone would choose to be a hooligan, but also gives insight to the motiviation of the more macro violence of which hooliganism is a microcosm. This is another one for the "Read this to feel smart" list.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The monkey and the plywood violin

Leonard Cohen's First We Take Manhattan just popped into my head, as it often does, like much of the music my parents listened to on the family stereo and in the car in my youth. As I habitually do when I'm alone and a song occurs to me, I started to sing it out.

This song feels much much different when I'm walking through every day with the assumption that the subway is going to get bombed.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Thoughts for today

1. I am very relaxed today. Also, I am wearing pants today for the first time in ages. I wonder if this is a coincidence, or if I'm just generally more relaxed when I don't have to worry about how I arrange my legs. Don't get me wrong, I love wearing skirts, but sometimes it is nice to be able to crack my hips without first looking around to make sure no one will see, or sit in lotus position on my desk chair when I need a change of pace.

2. I think in translation school they shouldn't be so quick to dismiss the use of illustrations in terminology. I often find it's much easier to understand a concept if I can see a picture of it, and then once I fully understand it I can find the most effective wording at my leisure. I also think someone should design a terminology database program that allows the user to upload graphics.

3. Dear Edda from 9 Chickweed Lane,

You know full well that that Burkhardt is a total cad. For that reason alone, he doesn't deserve your services as an accompanist. He deserves to be stranded without an accompanist! If you really miss playing the piano, you can play it by yourself for yourself, or offer your services to other dance classes, or even accompany Amos. Remember Amos? The adorable geeky cellist whom you said you'd love forever? Perhaps making music together would be a good way to work off some of that unresolved sexual tension...

4. Most workplaces have policies and measures in place to protect employees from sexual harassment by co-workers and superiors. I think there also need to be policies to protect people from sexual harassment by customers.

5. The problem with babies is sometimes they feel the need to joyously shriek "AAAAH BAA BAA BAAAA!!!!" in the middle of a place that is usually quiet, and there's not much their parents can do about it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Penascal Rosé

This wine tasted like the top and the bottom, but not the middle, of shiraz or cabernet sauvignon. It had some nice creamy undertones, almost like a chardonnay, but on top was a sort of tangy zingy raspberry-like taste. It's quite refreshing in the same way lemon-flavoured water with a touch too much lemon flavour is. It reminds me of a dessert containing raspberries that I like despite the fact that it contains raspberries.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Question for U of T people

If an outrageously small number of people enroll in a given class, like only five people or something, will U of T cancel the class? Or if it's in ROSI right now is it safe to assume that it's all go?

Blackfly Season by Gilles Blunt

This is a perfectly decent mystery. It's one of those mysteries where you find out "whodunnit" before the detective did, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It can get a bit gory in places, and the forensic scenes include descriptions of maggots, but it didn't really bother me.

I was terribly confused about the presence of some of the subplots involving the main detective's personal life, which didn't get resolved or contribute to the solving of the mystery, but it turns out that this book is part of a series - I discovered that just now when googling to confirm the spelling of the author's name.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

The real influence media has on kids' body image

I rarely agree with Margaret Wente, who is one of those people with the disarming habit of stating even the most sensible of points in a way that makes me viscerally want to argue with her, but today I think she has a point.

I think the media is a major cause of body image issues in young people, but not by showing pictures of uber-skinny models etc. like conventional wisdom dictates. I think it contributes more by constantly printing panicky articles about how SO MANY PEOPLE ARE TOO FAT AND WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE OF FAT! Kids read newspapers and watch TV even before they enter puberty - I think I started reading the newspaper beyond the comics section around the age of 8, and kids are generally more media-savvy today - and the omnipresence of articles about the so-called obesity epidemic are bound to raise concerns in young readers about whether they are doing enough to keep a healthy weight.

I don't know how the media saturation of obesity concerns now compares with my childhood - it could have been the same in my childhood, it could have been less, people who remember the 1980s from an adult perspective are welcome to weigh in on this - but I had picked up enough from the ether to know by the age of 9 that one should have an eye on one's weight, one should be making an effort to ensure that one eats right and gets enough exercise. I had the notion that this was more of a concern for adult bodies, but I was worried then, at the age of 9, by the fact that I didn't know how to go about systematically creating a diet and exercise plan to ensure that I didn't get fat when I was a grownup. (I needn't have worried - I learned the basics of designing a fitness regimine in middle school health class, and I hadn't anticipated the internet.) I also remember around that age reading about why specifically salt was bad for you, and deciding to stop adding salt to my food (a vow that lasted until puberty kicked in, a phenomenon which, in addition to the usual changes, planted some kind of monster in my taste receptors that sometimes screams out "GRRRRRRROOWWL!!! GIVE ME SALT!!!!"). I also remember thinking that perhaps I was getting overweight because my belly sticks out. While my belly does stick out even more when I'm heavy, I think it will always stick out, because physical examination suggests that even if there were no fat and no muscle, my internal organs alone would be making it stick out. But I digress.

My point is that young readers are likely to come away from articles about obesity feelings like they ought to be taking action to make sure that they don't become obese, and I think this is an overlooked way that the media is contributing to negative body image.

Estrogen vs. Testosterone

The BBC has this fascinating test to determine what sex your brain is. My overall score ended up being exactly the average score for all women, but on the individual sub-tests I scored either excessively feminine or excessively masculine.

One of the sub-tests showed me two slightly different pictures of the same man, and I had to pick which one I found more attractive. (There is also the option to be shown pictures of women, but you had to pick gender or the other so I picked men.) When I got my results for this sub-test, it explained that one of each set of photos had been altered to make the man in the picture either appear more masculine (i.e. having physical features that suggest a higher testosterone level) or more feminine (i.e. having physical features that suggest a lower testosterone level). It turned out that in every case, I picked the picture that suggested a lower testosterone level.

According to the information on the BBC website, women tend to be attracted to more masculine features while ovulating. This would explain my reaction; I have been taking chemical measures to prevent ovulation for years, and, unless someone went terribly wrong without my noticing, I have not ovulated once during my entire adult life.

This all got me thinking. In general, I consciously tend to find physical features that suggest high levels of testosterone unattractive. I also tend to find behaviour, attitudes, etc. that suggest high levels of testosterone unattractive. And by "unattractive" in this paragraph, I don't mean just sexually unattractive, but generally unpleasant and something to be avoided if at all possible. Would I find it more attractive (or at least less unattractive) if I were ovulating? Who knows? I'm certainly not going to risk ovulating to find out!

Then it occurred to me that they should do a study on this. I don't know where they'd get enough willing volunteers, but if they could they'd need to find women who would be willing to spend several months with a normal, fertile menstrual cycle, and several months without ovulating at all by taking estrogen every day. Then they should test their reactions to high-testosterone images or situations during every week of their fertile cycles, and during every week of their infertile cycles. Obviously, if the information provided by the BBC is corret, we'd expect the attractiveness of testosterone to peak at ovulation. But how would the attractiveness of testosterone compare at an infertile time in an unregulated cycle, and during an estrogen-regulated cycle?

But then there's also the fact that birth control pills (which are essentially estrogen) work by making the body think that it has already ovulated. I don't actually know whether this gives your brain the same hormonal level as peak fertility or the same hormonal level as low fertility. Peak fertility might make sense because if you've already ovulated and haven't menstruated yet, you've got an egg floating around in there, so the part of your brain that's driven by a primal reproductive urge would want you to seek out providers of sperm, which, according to the BBC, your brain manifests as high-testosterone men. But low fertility would also make sense, because the purpose of birth control is to make you infertile. So if it's low fertility, that would explain my dislike of testosterone. If it's peak fertility, I guess that means I'm just not into testosterone, and perhaps my brain is hard-wired not to breed, which would be convenient.

Further research is required.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Dear J.K. Rowling, I have a plan for you

In an interview, JKR said that no one else at all knows how HP is going to end.

I think this is too big of a risk. What if something happens to her? Therefore, I propse the following contingency plan. JKR should:

1. Write down everything she knows has to happen
2. Encrypt or encode it
3. Take the coded summary, and put it in a safe deposit box in a high-security vault in the safest bank in the world.
4. Put the code/encryption key in a sfe deposit box in a high-security vault in the second-safest bank in the world.
5. Get four next-most trustworthy lawyers in the world, and divide among them the names of the two banks and the two safe deposit box numbers, with instructions that they are to disclose this information to the single most trustworthy lawyer in the world if and only if a) JKR has been killed or incapacitated, and b) they are expressly instructed to do so by said lawyer.
6. Get the single-most trustworthy lawyer in the world to execute the entire thing as part of JKR's will, and distribute the information to the public.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

The silly things I worry about

It was mentioned in an interview that JK Rowling expects the next Harry Potter book to take about two years.

In my real-life job, one of the things I'm doing is helping to prepare material for a conference that will take place in about two years. Nothing is certain yet, but it has been mentioned that I may be required to attend the conference.

So the first thing that popped into my head with the two-year timeline was "OMG, what if I'm off at a conference when this comes out?"

A challenge for those with musical training

Try singing the words do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do, in that order, to a melody that is not an ascending major scale. Bonus points for choosing a melody that is not a song either. Try a descending major scale, or a minor scale, or broken/melodic triad and inversion. It's HARD! Maybe it's easier for other people, but I keep straying from the melody and back into the ascending major scale.

Polskie Ogórki

Bick's Polskie Ogórki have changed their serving size on the nutritional information panel from 3/4 of a pickle (which was just a stupid serving size) to 2 pickles. The strange thing is I don't think the amounts of each nutrient have changed, although I don't have an old jar to compare. Apparently there are only 3 calories in 2 pickles, which makes the idea of a 3/4 pickles serving size even stranger.

After HBP (spoiler-free)

After I finished HBP, I was wandering around in kind of a stunned trance. I went to the fan sites, posted my thoughts, read other people's thoughts, and went to bed. HP characters wandered around in my dreams (which involved the Order of the Phoenix playing Magical Ultimate Frisbee against Death Eaters on the campus of McMaster University), woke up, had a shower, developed further thoughts on HP, and went online again to deal with those. All in all, I was completely immersed in the Potterverse for about 27 straight hours.

Then I went out to buy groceries. There were people walking around in shorts carrying shopping bags, people sitting on patios, people buying salad dressing and toilet paper and coffee filters, and an adorable German Shepherd puppy that did that puppy thing where they jump up with their front paws on your legs.

It was very strange to see real life going on as usual after everything that just happened in the Potterverse.


This is a post-dated post. If the date and time indicated for this post have not yet passed, there may be new material below. New: I am continually bumping this post up whenever I have Potter-related thoughts that I want to post. I was planning to keep my theorizing to SQ for the time being, but SQ seems to have exploded.

Warning: all posts below this and above the July 15th post entitled "End of Harry Potter spoilers" contain spoilers for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

If you wish to avoid Harry Potter spoilers, use the search function in your browser to skip direct to July 15th. If your browser is not finding July 15th, you may need to go to the July 2005 archive to display all posts made in July.

As I read through the book, I am going to be posting my impressions chapter by chapter. This is not a full summary or a proper review, but I am not going to be censoring myself when it comes to spoilers. You have been warned!

Update: I have now finished the book. All spoilers are below this post


Thoughts on the ending, after sleep

Harry is wrong.

He seems to be under the impression that he's going to wander the world solo and hunt down the Horcruxes all by himself.

He's not going to do this. He can't do this. He doesn't have what it takes to do this.

And by "doesn't have what it takes" I don't mean intestinal fortitude and magical abilities. I mean intelligence (in the spy sense of the word, not the brain sense of the word) and research skills. Harry has no idea whatsoever where the Horcruxes are located and didn't logic out the location of any of the previous ones. In fact, he still has rather limited knowledge of the wizarding world.

The next book is probably going to start with someone talking some sense into him and him teaming up with the Order.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Chapter 30: The White Tower (and the book as a whole)

And now I'm even more upset about the idea that Harry might CHOOSE not to come back to Hogwarts.  That's just not right. 
The book was very good, but I don't like how the world changed.  This is very upsetting. 

Also, I think Snape will die of Sectumsempra

Chapter 29: The Phoenix Lament

Surprisingly, I'm more upset about the idea that Fawkes would leave Hogwarts than Dumbledore's passing.  I was going to write that I still don't like R/T, but that doesn't seem to matter of Fawkes is leaving.
What if they close Hogwarts...might that be why the age of majority needs to be 17?  So Harry can live alone after Hogwarts closes?

Chapter 28: The Flight of the Prince

I called it.  I called lots of other things too, but I called it.
I can't for the life of me figure out who R.A.B. is though.  Unless it's Regulus Black?  Or one of the two guys who own the dark objects store?  (Borgin and Birks?)

Chapter 27: The Lightning-Struck Tower

It happened.  Full exposition.  In my desire not to see it happen, I didn't quite put the pieces together properly.  Must keep reading.
Snape for HBP, unless it's Eileen.

Chapter 26: The Cave

Can't stop, mid-action, Inferi showed up, expecting the worse, what was that liquid, what was up with the water, how will we find out how it all happened??????

Chapter 25: The Seer Overheard

We're in mid-action now so I don't have much to say.  I think it's going to happen though.  And I'd think Harry was mistaken about Malfoy if it weren't for Chapter 2, although we still don't know Malfoy's mission.


I propose that Hephzibah (sp?) Smith, from whom Voldie steals the Hufflepuff and Slytherin objects, is related to Zacharias Smith.

Chapter 24: Sectumsempra

Damn.  SQ must be happy, but Harry/anyone just doesn't do it for me.  JKR handles it well - Harry isn't over-aware of his own feelings and we don't see a lot of snogging, but meh. 
So we know that the HBP knows some terrible evil dark spells, which, once again, points me to Voldie.  UNLESS UNLESS UNLESS the book contains another Horcrux.  Harry is being stupid again by not turning in this book!
We don't know what Draco's doing, we know he'll fail at it.  I hope this means that either Draco or Snape will die.  I have this terrible mental image of Harry and Dumbledore going out Horcrux hunting and only Harry coming back because he took some Felix Felicis.
Unless Draco's mission is to find the HBP's book, and now Harry has put it right into his hands by leaving it in the Room of Requirement.

Chapter 23: Horcruxes

Answers.  So so many answers.  The little thing the Chamber of Secrets.  The glimmer of triumph.  "In essence divide."  Harry leaves this chapter prepared to kill.
And there are still over 100 pages left.
I'm scared for Dumbledore.  Harry isn't usually this informed when there's 100 pages left, and the Big Battle always takes place in the last 100 pages.
Also, because I forgot to blog it when I read it, "Sectumsempra".  The curse indicated in the Half-Blood Prince's book as "for enemies"  (the more I read this, the more the back of my mind keeps thinking the HBP is Voldemort).  We don't know what it does, unless Harry's Latin is better than mine.  When I read that, I felt ominous.  I think Harry is going to try the spell and hurt someone unintentionally.  it is the title of the next chapter, so let's see.

Chapter 22: After the Burial

The burial is Aragog's burial.  I had to skim a couple of pages, but I think this chapter is arachnophobic safe.  Just start skimming if you get uncomfortable - it's not too graphic.  Thank you JKR!
So I'm glad Harry put the Felix Felicis to good use, I still feel sorry for Lavender, and now that Harry has the memory I want to get back to reading so I can find out about it!

Chapter 21: The Unknowable Room

1.  Yes, hints of R/T again
2.  Perhaps Tonks is Imperiused or otherwise under the influence of something
3.  Perhaps Tonks is under the influence of her aunts
4.  Perhaps the Trio are wrong about their Draco/Crabbe&Goyle/Polyjuice/Room of Requirement theory
5.  Perhaps Dumbledore was bitten by a werewolf, and that's what's wrong with his hand
Is the fact that Harry  has not yet been trained in legilimency/occlumency important?  Perhaps he'll ask for occlumency lessons from Slughorn then "accidentally" invade his memory like he did Snape?

Chapter 20: Lord Voldemort's Request

This is so interesting!  So it's quite possible that Voldie cursed the DADA position!  Which means Snape might die because of the Unbreakable Vow!  And Voldie wanted to teach!  Why?  Because of something that is at Hogwarts?  Horcruxes?  So how is Harry going to get this information out of Slughorn, and why does it have to be Harry to do it? 

Chapter 19: Elf tails

Don't worry, Ron's not dead, just temporarily poisoned. 
I now think that Malfoy's mission is to take out Slughorn.  Except that wouldn't explain the two girls UNLESS he was trying to get them to poison Harry through Imperius!
I LOVE LOVE LOVE that Kreacher is there for a reason!  I thought there might be a purpose, but forgot to blog that.  EXCELLENT JKR!  And very resourceful use of house-elves Harry!
I feel sorry for Lavender Brown though.  Poor girl, she doesn't deserve to be used like that :(  I do enjoy that the adolescent attempts at romance are awkward because that is so realistic, but they do have feelings too :(
We're more than 2/3 of the way through, and Katie Bell is still out.  Perhaps she is the death?  Actually, there could be plural deaths, now that I think about it.  We've already had several peripheral deaths (all women, did you notice?)  I was just basing my assumption that there is A Big Death on Jim Dale's statement "I know who dies."  But "who" can quite easily be plural!  And Mrs. Weasley's joy at the fact that Harry has saved three Weasleys lives is rather ominous, especially considering the way the Burrow was described just as he Flooed away from it...almost as if it would be the last time he saw it...

Chapter 18: Birthday surprises

Rapid-fire theorizing because I HAVE TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!!
1.  OMG, Ron is dead! (maybe?  We don't know yet, but that was my first thought)
2.  Slughorn tried to poison Ron
3.  Slughorn tried to poison Harry and Ron got it instead
4.  Someone is tricking and/or Imperiusing Romilda Vance into poisoning Harry, and Ron got it by accident
5.  Someone gave Romilda love potion that is really poison
6.  Romila Vane is evil
7.  Slughorn has fake Beozars
Back to reading!
PS:  What if the Half-Blood Prince is Lily?

Chapter 17: A Sluggish Memory

Another Pensieve chapter with lots of good answers!  And a wee mission for Harry!  YAY!  I do find myself wondering if Dumbledore understand Parseltongue though, and if so, why? 
My theory about how Dumbledore got the ring has been negated, however.
I know this is a short entry.  I assume everything here has deeper purpose, I just can't guess what it is so I'm not even going to try at this point.

Chapter 16: A Very Frosty Christmas

Well, that was strange.  It should also mess up any bets anyone might have about Percy - home for xmas, but not entirely eagerly?
I see a few R/T hints here.  I hope I'm misinterpreting that.
What if Greyback is the Half-Blood Prince?  Wasn't the name Greyback mentioned earlier?  I'd check the Lexicon, but it's full of spoilers and I don't want to be spoiled for anything I haven't read yet.
It also occurs to me that Snape could be The Big Death, via the Unbreakable Vow.  That would nicely open the way for a new DADA teacher next year, no?

Chapter 15: The Unbreakable Vow

Dun dun DUN!  The plot thickens!  I'm surprised JKR put gropey teenage boys in the book, although, again, it is age-appropriate.  I am rather glad to see the kids acting so immature about relationships, and I've noticed that Harry's asking-out skills have improved significantly since GOF.  Really though, I'd rather have more Pensieve action.


The thought did cross my mind that perhaps Draco's mission is not to do anything specifically, but rather to distract people by making people think he IS doing something evil, so they pay attention to him and not to whatever Voldie's real plan is.

Chapter 14: Felix Felicis

Well, the shippers should enjoy this one.  I'm glad to see some of the characters are being dorks about this at least.  I realize I'm not the target audience, but adolescent romance doesn't appeal to me and I find it one of the drawbacks of the books, although I have to admit it is quite age-appropriate.  At least there was some Quidditch! 
I've noticed Romilda Vane's name has been mentioned a lot.


1.  It occurs to me that the Prefects' bathroom might be important.
2.  And why, exactly, isn't Malfoy a Prefect?  I can think of several reasons - which is the actual reason?
3.  What if Katie Bell is the Big Death?  I can't help thinking that wouldn't be so bad...which is probably a good reason why she won't be.

Chapter 13: The Secret Riddle

I love these Pensieve chapters!  I wonder what Dumbledore wrote on the paper that he showed to the lady in charge of the orphanage?  I love how overly polite about everything Dumbledore is.  I want to be like that!
Also, because Phineas said that Mundungus is half-blood, I'm going to guess that Mundungus is the Half-Blood Prince.

Chapter 12: Silver and Opals

Ron's getting rather cocky, isn't he?  Confiscating stuff from 2nd years and then using it himself, kicking 1st-years out of chairs...
I notice Harry noticing Ginny.  I like the way JKR is doing it, without going into great depth about what he's thinking and feeling while noticing Ginny (unlike certain fanfic authors...)
Now I think Snape is the Half-Blood Prince.  I also think it's significant that Harry's possessions didn't get searched when he arrived at Hogwarts.  Was this to keep the cloak and map secret, or for more nefarious reasons?
I'm going to take about an hour off, so the next chapter won't be posted until about 6:30.

Chapter 11: Hermione's Helping Hand

I didn't know Hermione had it in her.  Although, as some people have suggested, this may be setting her up for a fall. 
I'm glad Aragog is dying, but I don't like the idea of his tribe getting restless.  That implies that we might see them, and obviously I don't want that.
I like the Ron/Lavender hints, because that's what Harry/Hermione fans ship so they can get Ron out of the way.  I don't ship Harry/Hermione (well, I don't ship anything) but I can imagine some people are getting very worked up about this.

Chapter 10: The House of Gaunt

Oooh!  So Harry's lessons with Dumbledore are going to be historical exposition!  Even better!  I was actually right about the Pensieve and how Harry and Dumbledore were visiting that house in the Pensieve.  The house on the book cover is not actually Snape's house, it is the House of Gaunt.  Hard to tell, isn't it.  UNLESS UNLESS UNLESS THEY ARE ONE AND THE SAME!  I didn't pay enough attention to the layout of the houses, but that could be cool!  I also see another mention of love potions.  Interesting that JKR would put a passing reference to a woman getting pregnant before marriage into a children's book.
Theory:  One of the members of the House of Gaunt was turned into an Infernius, and Dumbledore acquired the ring and injured his hand in fighting with that particular Infernius.

Chapter 9: The Half-Blood Prince

Well, one of my many guesses was right: the Half-Blood Prince is somewhat historical, and a mystery to be solved.  I've noticed love potions have been mentioned several times, which is strange.  UNLESS UNLESS UNLESS!  Voldemort can't comprehend love and it might even be lethal to him!!!!!  Oooh, that would be cool!  But why are the standard potions books incorrect?

Chapter 8: Snape Victorious

Well, fandom called it - Snape is now teaching DADA, conveniently allowing Harry into Potions. 
I like this depressed Tonks.  Not because I like Tonks being depressed, but because it's so different from anything that fandom ever came up with.  I'm rather disappointed that the Patronus question was answered in the book, because I voted for it in the with the assumption that it's the least likely to be answered in the book.  So...Tonks has a new four-legged Patronus.  Shippers will say it's a werewolf, but I'll say it's Padfoot. 
I also noticed a lot of weight was put on the fact that they aren't taking Care of Magical Creatures.
This book feels different from the others, somehow.
Next up:  The Half-Blood Prince!

Chapter 7: The Slug Club

This is getting uncomfortable.  Stop being stupid Harry!
If this weren't a children's book, I'd be extremely worried about Slughorn's reasons for inviting Ginny.  But that can't happen in a children's book, can it?
I think the things Draco was selling to that Knockturn Alley guy (Borgin?) were hidden in the trap door mentioned in the Polyjuice scene in COS.

Interim thoughts

1.  Why is Harry Quidditch captain et non pas whichever of Alicia and Katie is still in school?
2.  I think Harry's extra lessons with Dumbledore will include NEWT level potions


And why, exactly, are people who aren't Harry (Bill here, Mrs. Weasley in previous books) allowed to withdraw money from Harry's vault?

Chapter 6: Draco's Detour

Oh, Harry Harry Harry, stop doing stupid running-off things and picking fights with Death Eaters and their mothers.  Even when it is necessary for the plot. 
I do like Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes though.  I expect to see Verity and at least some of their inventions (including the punching telescope and/or that debruising stuff) later on in the book.

Chapter 5: An Excess of Phlegm

Well, at least Mrs. Weasley agrees with me that Fleur and Bill are rushing things, and her kids agree with fandom that Tonks would make a good addition to the family.  Quite a few interesting characterisation twists here!  I noticed that Harry's marks were a bit better than fandom generally guessed.  Also ANOTHER clock - the Weasley clock, which we already know about.  Interesting way to make it irrelevant though.  And I love love LOVE how JKR broke the tension of Harry telling R&H about the prophesy (which my edition of the book spells prophecy - I had no idea it could be spelled like that!  That's what I get for ordering the US version of OOTP, although I didn't know the versions were different at the time and buying it from pushed a bit of money mi cielito's way.  One thing I wondered in rereading though - in the US version of OOTP, Neville mangles "Sorcerer's Stone" to "Sorcerous Stone".  What did they do in the UK version?  "Phosphorous Stone?"

Chapter 4: Horace Slughorn

Well, thank you JKR for depriving us of the opportunity to guess the DADA teacher :p  So now I'm afraid I have no choice but to say Horace Slughorn for Half-Blood Prince!  I noticed the broken clock in Slughorn's house and immediately thought of the clock at Privet Drive that Harry fixed, so I was rather disappointed to see it quickly fixed by magic.
The way Harry is a) not depressed and b) going to be taking private lessons from Dumbledore would smell like Harry Stu if this were a fanfic, but I'm happy with his attitude so far.  I have to admit, the story so far is comfortable.  I like comfortable, although I tend to get too wary of it in fanfic.
In other news, we now have answers about double apparation and why people don't just apparate into other people's houses!  It's also interesting that Voldemort is using what is essentially a zombie army.  That idea was briefly and laughing toyed with in SQ, thinking it would use people who had their souls sucked by Dementors.  But that gets me thinking:  whom do we know who is dead and still has their body?  Bones, Vance, Quirrell, Cedric, and Harry's parents.  (Am I missing anyone?) I wonder if we'll see any of these people become Inferni?

Chapter 3: Will and Won't

Excellent chapter title!  Fandom as a whole anticipated almost everything in this chapter (right down to the way Dumbledore made the Dursleys sit down on the couch), although JKR carried it off in a much cooler manner.  The parallelism of Dumbledore's arrival now and Dumbledore's arrival in the first book, combined with his sheer coolness, makes me think he won't survive this book :(  But since two people we have met have already died, I still maintain he doesn't strictly HAVE to die, right?  right? right?
Unless it has been mentioned in passing before and I missed it, I think the fact that Harry repaired the clock is going to come up again, since it seems a very random thing to mention.
I also think Miss Manners would disapprove of drinking glasses that attack you if you don't take a drink.

Chapter 2: Spinner's End

JKR wins again!  Snape fans must love this chapter! I don't think anyone guessed that Spinner's End was Snape's house, although I think some people guessed that the house on the deluxe cover was Spinner's End, and no one would ever have guessed what the two hands were!  I see JKR is departing from her usual Harry POV.  I don't know how I feel about that. 
What I really love about this chapter is it sets up the idea that Snape could be on either side.  I forgot to blog it or mention it on SQ, but I noticed in OOTP that some people seem to be trusting Snape too much, because of all the times when they thought he was going to kill Harry and he didn't.  The huge emphasis on how Snape could be trusted made me think that perhaps he can't.
And, for the record, I am going to guess that Draco's mission is to kill Harry, the Unbreakable Vow will result in Snape having to try to kill Harry, and he won't succeed and will die in the process because of the prophesy.

Chapter 1: The Other Minister

J.K. Rowling wins!  Everyone thought this chapter would be a flashback to the night Harry's parents died, but instead we get to see the new Minister for Magic interact with the Muggle P.M!   (I have seen a couple of fics to this effect, but not staged in 6th year).  This was a very effective way to catch us all up on the war and show us what happened to certain key order members.  I'm sad that Emmeline Vance  and Amelia Bones died, because I wanted to learn more about them.  I think the Muggle P.M. picturing "Sirius'" name as "Serious" was a shoutout to fandom.  And I don't think anyone anticipated that the new Min. of Magic would be Lion Man!  I guess this destroys the Crookshanks = Lion Man theory.

I got it!!!

It came with a bag of air, which is hilarious!  AND it's a good size to fit in my purse!  Thank you Raincoast for reasonable book size!  And away we go....


I'm still waiting for my book to arrive and hiding from spoilers.  I'm just feeling moderately down, because I know as soon as I open this book my mental image of the Potterverse is going to change, and I'm anticipating that it will change for the worse in at least one way.

Friday, July 15, 2005

End of Harry Potter spoilers

This is a post-dated post. If the date and time indicated for this post have not yet passed, there may be new material underneath.

There are no Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince spoilers below this post. There is speculation, including speculation based on the book covers and However, all material below this post was written before I'd read HBP.

Fun with Polish

The Polish masculine noun for homosexual (homosexualista) declines in the feminine.

I would love to see someone write a paper on that!

Parents and children, please read this first

If you are underage, especially if you are under 13:

Even though I write about Harry Potter a lot, I am an adult. I am writing for other adults, not for children. This means that some of the things I write might be boring, or might upset you, or might upset your parents.

If you are not sure whether it is okay for you to read my blog, please get one of your parents to look at it first. They'll probably say yes, and trust you more because you chose to go to them.

If you are a parent:

This disclaimer is here because some children seem to be finding my blog by searching for Harry Potter.

I am an adult and am writing without consideration for the fact that children might read my blog. I don't have children of my own and don't know anything about child development, but if I had to guess I'd say this blog is just as appropriate for children as your average daily broadsheet newspaper, although probably more partisan and of less educational value. Please feel free to have a look around and peruse my archives, and use your own judgement to decide whether it is appropriate for your child to read my blog.

Click here to return to the main page

Final pre-HBP Harry Potter roundup

1. On the deluxe edition cover, I think the house is Godric's Hollow.

2. I think that Harry and Dumbledore on the deluxe edition cover are in a Pensieve memory - the same Pensieve that is on the cover of the green version

3. I think we will see Norbert the dragon again.

4. I think Cho Chang gets a short shrift in fandom. There is nothing wrong with her, it's just she and Harry had different needs. She wants a dashing knight in shining armour who can hold her hand and dry her tears, and she sees the knight in shining armour potential in the brave and heroic Harry. Harry is attracted to her because she's pretty, and has this abstract idea that a girlfriend is "fun", and doesn't understand why she's sad and lacks the ability to empathize with her. The impression I get of Cho's character is that she's still in mourning for Cedric, but people are encouraging her to "move on" or "get on with your life" or whatever platitudes people like to spout, so she pursues Harry because of physical attraction and/or because of the knight in shining armour potential and/or because he has expressed interest in her in the past. Just because Harry has disdain for her tears doesn't mean that her tears are deserving of disdain. She's grieving and confused, and just because Harry is so insensitive so as not to see that doesn't mean that we as readers need be.

5. A lot of people make mistakes and bad choices in OOTP. I, even as an adult, learned a few things about how to generally make better choices from watching the mistakes of these characters. This makes me wonder if kids closer to Harry's age can also learn from this book about the benefits of being open and transparent and going to the appropriate authorities when you have problems.

6. I think we will hear more about Unspeakables.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

What kinds of losersaurus steals a laundry hamper?

I was doing laundry, and someone stole my hamper out of the laundry room! WTF??? The ridiculous application procedures to get into this building, all the hoops I had to jump through, and they can't even keep out people who steal laundry hampers??? I am not impressed.

Not dead yet

Yes, there was a bomb scare at Sheppard station

No, there was not a bomb

No, I did not die, or suffer anything worse than a 20-minute inconvenience, because there was no bomb

Yes, I may be incommunicado (or should that be incommunicada?) for parts of today, but that's because I'm doing laundry, not because I'm dead

Thank you

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Harry Potter fanfic patterns

I've noticed that when religion is introduced into HP fanfic, almost always the author is male. I've also noticed that whenever I read a fic that has religion, it also has a rather bizarre sense of machismo. Of course, I have read male authors that don't use religion and I have read machismo that doesn't use religion, but when there is religion I'd say 95% of the time you're going to have a male author and a macho Harry.

Nuviana Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot

This wine is very interesting, because it's tannic but still easy to drink. I can't explain why or how this happens, but it's good to know. This is a wine for if you're a vegetarian sharing a bottle with someone who's eating a steak dinner.

Monday, July 11, 2005

The purpose of the Triwizard Tournament

I just realized that the Triwizard Tournament has an important purpose in the overall narrative: because Harry is a contestant in the tournament, he learns all kinds of Defence skills that he never would have learned otherwise! This allows him to run the DA in book 5, and will doubtless help him eventually defeat Voldemort!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Hagrid for Half-Blood Prince!

I just noticed in GOF (at least according to a Rita Skeeter article, which, of course, may be way off) that Hagrid's mother's "whereabouts are unknown." That certainly leaves a nice little blank to fill in!

Brilliant Ideas that will Never Work: Ask a bad guy

Imagine if they came up with a way where you could have a civil, rational and honest conversation with a "bad guy" to find out what they are thinking. A "bad guy" could be a thief, murderer, rapist, bully, terrorist, torturer - any kind of person who does things that average people don't understand. Actually, they could have the reverse too - a "good guy" could be asked questions by a "bad guy" and they could share points of view.

I have absolutely no idea how this could be carried off logisitcally and how you would get the participants to be honest (I could make it work using the technology available in the Potterverse, but that's neither here nor there).

I can think of all kinds of questions I'd like to ask all kinds of people. Ask a bully: "What were you hoping to achieve? Did you realize that other people are human beings with thoughts and feelings? How did you pick your victims?" Ask the people I've heard of that stick their hands up girls' skirts in the subway: "How do you pick your victims? Why do you think you're entitled to do this?" Ask homophobics: "What specific negative effects do you think same-sex marriage is going to have on opposite-sex marriage, and why?" Ask religious fanatics of all stripes: "What specific aspects of my everyday behaviour do you think are harmful to you and your loved ones and why?"

The point of this is not to debate or convert, it's simply to understand what the other person is thinking. You don't have to agree with them, the goal is just to see how their mind works. I haven't the slightest idea how this could be successfully carried off, but it would be brilliant if it could.

Chuck Cadman died!

Chuck Cadman died yesterday of skin cancer.

Harry Potter recurring items

I've noticed that Harry's broomstick servicing kit (which Hermione bought him for his 13th birthday) has been mention quite a few times.

Hoya de Cadenas Reserva Tempranillo

I like this one. It's very fruity. There are bits of smokey undertones and I'm usually not that fond of smokey flavours, but I do like it as a whole. It's also quite reasonably priced considering the vintage - the 1999 costs what you'd usually pay for a 2003.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

And while we're on the subject of terrorism...

Another thing I don't understand is the attitude I've seen from some corners where they don't care at all what the terrorists' motivation is. Some people are acting like even inquiring into what the motivation might be is like saying the terrorists are right. I can't understand this - not just because understanding the motive seems to be a good first step in preventing the crime from reoccurring in the future, but also because I'm always fascinated by learning the motives of people who do things that I would never do or that it would never occur to me to do. I'm interested in why terrorists choose to be terrorists for the same reason I'm interested in why people become rapists or murderers or bullies, or why a person would not want to be an organ donor, or why a person would got terribly sick and puking and miserable for days from having 17 drinks last weekend would have 17 drinks again this weekend.

"They hate our freedom"

With the recent London bombings, I'm hearing phrases like "They hate our freedom" being bandied about once again as explanations for why terrorists are bombing things.

I'll be the first to admit that I haven't read extensively on terrorist motivation, but I can't help thinking that "They hate our freedom" reminds me of the useless platitudes that grownups would say about bullies when I was a kid. "They're just trying to get attention, just ignore them." "They just want you to react. Don't react and they'll go away." "They're just jealous of you." "They just have low self-esteem." Just as I cannot imagine someone thinking "I want attention. I think I will call the girl behind me names that imply that she engages in degrading sex acts that she hasn't even heard of yet" or "I am going to put spiders in the hair of the class arachnophobic because I want to see her react," I cannot imagine someone thinking "Those people are free. I hate that. I shall bomb them." (Particularly since anyone who can organize a terror campaign must have at least as much personal freedom as I do.)

Based on the limited reading I have done so far plus applying simple logic and reasoning to my knowledge of the global socio-political situation, I'd assume that this terrorism is more in response to certain elements of foreign policy that the terrorists construe as military occupation of their holy lands or attacks on their religious values and/or way of life. I've read that they're unhappy with the Israel/Palestine situation and the fact that the US (and maybe some of its allies? I don't know offhand) has a military presence in Saudi Arabia and perhaps some other Arab countries, and this makes more sense to me as a motivation for terrorism than hating the freedom in some distant country.

I wonder what the terrorist think of being told that they hate our freedom?


There's a newspaper ad for Blue Cross that depicts a little baby on the beach, being held up in a standing position by his hand by an adult, so that he can play at walking. I can't tell you numerically how old the baby would be, but he's too young to walk by himself, but old enough to walk in a walker or when held up by a grownup. He's just a bit taller than up to his parent's knees. The photo is taken from the back, so we see the back of the baby framed by his parent's legs, and the slogan says "Protection doesn't get any better than this," with a blurb on the side about Blue Cross. The ad is on the bottom of page A22 of today's Toronto Star, if you want to see it.

I've seen this ad before. When I saw it before, the baby was naked. Today, the baby has a blue bathing suit rather obviously edited on. It's rather funny, because if the bathing suit were real it wouldn't leave any room for a diaper, and I seriously doubt anyone would take a baby that age out in clothing without a diaper.

I'm kind of surprised that people would complain. In retrospect I can see their point, because the nudity was completely gratuitous and I'd assume this would be the sort of thing that would titillate a pedophile, but it would never have occurred to me upon seeing the original ad that someone might complain.


I haven't written about London yet because I'm not feeling anything about it. I realize this sounds cold and callous and reflects poorly on me. I certainly realize it's a tragedy and sympathy is called for etc. But my strong emotional reactions to tragedies tend to come from empathy with the victims and their families. I imagine "OMG! What if that was me?" and then I picture myself in that situation and fret about whatever would I do.

The thing about London though, is between Sept. 11 and the blackout in 2003, I've already fretted about everything that the London bombings would normally cause me to fret about. I've already played over dozens of worst-case scenarios in my head and subconsciously come up with action plans for each of them. I've already been through the drastic emotional reaction, and it just doesn't seem to be happening again. I've left appropriate wishes and condoleances in appropriate places, read the newspaper coverage thoroughly, checked to see if they could use donations of anything, nodded solemnly at the half-mast flag and given a grateful smile to the transit cops who are suddenly showing up everywhere. But I just don't think the tears are going to happen.

It is possible that I've lost all fear of terrorism. When I think about the possibility of my getting caught in a bombing, I'm surprisingly zen about it. If I die, I die. My death is inevitable anyway, it's just a question of when. If I am maimed, I am maimed. I have disability insurance, a particularly good computer that would certainly be willing to take on any necessary adaptations to accommodate disabilities, and a job that I could do from home. If someone important to me dies, that would upset me more, but, given my genetics and my strange habit of befriending people who happen to have health issues, in the back of my mind I've always assumed I'll outlive everyone I know anyway. Que sera sera.

Potterverse science

If a Parselmouth becomes an Animagus, but their Animagus form is not a snake, can they still speak Parseltongue?

On rereading Goblet of Fire

My first few times through, I thought the plot of Goblet of Fire was a bit silly. Why not just solve every task with Accio? Why didn't Crouch!Moody just make something into a portkey and hand it to Harry? But upon a close rereading I find I'm really enjoying it. The first hundred or so pages have nothing to do with the rest of the plot (just chez Weasley and Quidditch Cup) but I'm immensely enjoying reading through them because I get to see joyous daily life in the wizarding world, which is really one of my favourite things about the books. Plus there's all these tiny little clues that you can see when you know how it's going to turn out. Perhaps clues isn't the correct word because the reader (or Harry) could never have put them together to figure out the entire nefarious plot (that's why the last few chapters are always essentially a debriefing). But as I reread, I see that Winky the House Elf is struggling as though an invisible person is holding onto her, which he is, but we don't know this yet! And I see how Crouch Sr. is reacting, and it all makes sense given what we know at the end! It really makes me appreciate the craft, and perhaps it will give me a better idea of how to derive clues from HBP.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Doggies in elevators

Sometimes people in my apartment building are taking a doggie in or out of the building, and sometimes the doggie gets to ride in the elevator.

One thing I've noticed with all the doggies I've ever seen is the moment the elevator doors start to open, the doggie enthusiastically charges through, ending up on the other side before the doors have even finished opening. They're all waggy and SO EXCITED that they get to get on or off the elevator!

I love doggies.


If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Thoughts from the first chapter of GOF

1. Who's the rich absentee owner of the Riddle House? Might it be Malfoy or his ilk?
2. What's up with Nagini? Where did she come from, and why is she with Voldemort? Did he just ask her to come along, or is there something in it for her? Is the a Fantastic Beast? Did Voldie name her or is that her own name?
3. Voldemort says that Wormtail can do him a favour that most of his followers would give their right hands for. Nice! I never noticed this line before!
4. How did Wormtail know where to look for Voldemort?
5. A skilled wizard can undo a memory charm. I expect this to turn up again later.
6. What on earth does a "high, cold voice" sound like?

Things that will not happen in HBP (but tend to happen in fanfiction)

1. Harry will not find religion of any sort
2. Harry will not become a superhero over the summer (although I can't rule out the idea that he might become a superhero by the end of book 7).
3. Harry will not decide "I need a girlfriend" and then proceed methodically to acquire a girlfriend.
4. None of the grownups will find romance.
5. None of the students we know will be in a steady longterm relationship by September.
6. Harry will not get over the death of Sirius and become bright and cheerful and optimistic over the summer.
7. Harry will not be treated excessively differently from other students. He may have one or two extra lessons in the evenings, but he won't be a TA or a specially-appointed prefect or DADA instructor.
8. Harry will not see eye-to-eye with Snape or Malfoy or anyone else who might have previously been interpreted as an enemy before June.

Tai Chi

The exercise ladies on TV had me doing Tai Chi this morning. Apparently along with all the movements, you are also manipulating energy. As with most spiritual things, I can go through the motions, but I can't actually feel the energy. This makes me wonder if you can manipulate energy inadvertently by moving your body certain ways. Like if I flail my arms to avoid slipping and falling or to shoo away a fly, might I accidentally disturb my Chi or throw a load of negative energy at some innocent passer-by?

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Prisoner of Azkaban thoughts

This is without a doubt my favourite Harry Potter book! It has the best Quidditch, and the last hundred pages or so are so action-packed that I was on the edge of my seat, reading them all in one go the first time I read it. Even upon numerous re-readings, knowing full well what happens, I still don't want to put the book down. (I just noticed, it's the best book, and it's also the only one with no Voldemort. Coincidence?)


- Penelope Clearwater is mentioned quite frequently, and always described as "Percy's girlfriend". That's probably because that's how Harry perceives her, but still she's mentioned a lot. Penelope Clearwater for Half-Blood Prince!

- I wonder if it's important that Pigwidgeon is a ridiculously tiny owl?

- I wonder why J.K. Rowling chose to tell us Sirius's vault number?

- I predict another prophesy from Trelawney by the end of the series.

OMG! Canadians can't remember politics from their early childhood or before they were born! Whatever shall we do?

Since last weekend was Canada Day, it was time for the annual "OMG! Canadains don't know ANYTHING about Canadian history! Whatever shall we do?" quiz. (The quiz itself starts on page 10.)

The problem with some of these questions is that they cover events that they expect the quiz-taker to have memory of. The questions are about things that people would remember but might not make it into history class (or might only be mentioned in passing). The problem is that while the quiz is for people age 18 and up, questions requiring memory focus more on the boomer era. The average 18-year-old was born in 1987, so they wouldn't really remember political or historical events from before the mid-90s. (Aside: have you ever noticed that some grownups seem to have the implicit attitude that "Young people are stupid because they don't remember stuff we remember!")

So, for general amusement, here are the questions I could and could not answer:

1. I would have said "Gold Rush" because it wouldn't have occurred to me to specify which gold rush in a Canadian quiz. So if the word Klondike was necessary I would have gotten it wrong.

2. AGEIST: Requires memory of the 1970s.

3. **cough cough** product placement.

4. I knew this one.

5. I didn't know this one.

6. I knew this one.

7. I knew this one.

8. I knew this one.

9. I knew this one.

10. I could not have given the correct answer, but if they had asked me "What was the Pacific Scandal," I could have described it reasonably well.

11. AGEIST: Requires memory of the 1970s.

12. I would have guess this one correctly.

13. AGEIST: I knew this one, but it requires memory of 1987.

14. AGEIST: Requires memory of the Trudeau era.

15. I know I was taught this in grade 10 history, but I don't know whether I would have answered correctly or not. I do have the word "reciprocity" mentally linked to "Laurier", but I don't know whether I would have remembered what it is.

16. I knew this one.

17. I knew this one.

18. I knew this one.

19. I knew this one.

20. I would have guessed this one correctly.

Total for all questions: 13/20 = 65%
Number where I knew the fact in question but could not have answered the question as posed: 15/20=75%
Total for all non-ageist questions: 12/16 = 75%
Total for all non-ageist questions where I knew the fact in question but could not have answered the question as posed: 14/16 = 87.5%

So we're left with the following facts:

- I don't know details of politics that occurred shortly before I was born and hadn't made it to the history books by the time I was in school.

- I don't know what percentage of Canadian goods were exported to the US in 1900, which is normal for me because I suck at remember percentages in general.

- Sometimes I can't recall every detail of what I was taught in history class ten years ago, but if presented with the full facts can remember being taught it.

- I can sometimes make good guesses using logic and conventional wisdom.

- I suck at recognizing product placement opportunities.

Karla Homolka roundup

1. Lorna Dueck asks "Can we forgive Karla?" I propose that we cannot because we are not qualified to do so. The only people who are qualified to forgive her are three dead girls and one Jane Doe. The families of the victims have a secondary claim to forgiving her, and perhaps, by some standards, the many potential victims living in terror in the golden horseshoe area have a distant tertiary claim. (I count myself among these potential victims, but I don't claim any right to forgive her). It would be terribly presumptuous for anyone else to go around forgiving her. If I were one of the victims, I would begrudge it greatly indeed if random people started forgiving her when I was not prepared to do so.

2. Karla Homolka still looks like Belinda Stronach.

3. She also looks like someone who has been to prison.

4. My professional assessment of her French, based solely on transcripts (because I don't care to hear her voice). It is certainly sufficient. She has a broad enough vocabulary (although she forgot the word for the trunk of a car (c'est generalement "coffre", mais ca peut varier)), but her structure is still blatently English. It isn't wrong, per se, but it is quite obvious that she thinks in English, and it would be obvious to any Quebecois that any text she might write was written by an anglophone. Ordinarily, this would be a hinderance in Quebec to any job that might involve writing, or that might involve diplomacy in the broadest sense of the term (customer complaints department, sales at higher-end stores, psychotherapist, hostage negotiation, etc.) However, I don't know if any language issues could me much more of a hinderance than "rapist and murderer".

Bad science of the day

I'm surprised the Toronto Star printed such a flawed study:
Some people are attracted to women; some are attracted to men. And some, if Sigmund Freud, Dr. Alfred Kinsey and millions of self-described bisexuals are to be believed, are drawn to both sexes.

But a new study casts doubt on whether true bisexuality exists, at least in men.

The study, by a team of psychologists in Chicago and Toronto, lends support to those who have long been skeptical that bisexuality is a distinct and stable sexual orientation.


In the new study, a team of psychologists directly measured genital arousal patterns in response to images of men and women.

The psychologists found that men who identified themselves as bisexual were in fact exclusively aroused by either one sex or the other, usually by other men

The main problem is that they're doing a study based on physical arousal from photos. As we all know, physical arousal or lack thereof is not a 100% reliable indicator of physical attraction or lack thereof, and physical attraction (which I assume they're going for since they're using photos) does not always equal sexual attraction And even if physical attraction were an accurate measure, different people are attracted to different kinds of people. Did the study take into account that some people like hairless muscley blond men and other people like big fat hairy men?

This also makes me seriously wonder what they hoped to achieve from this study. Why would you question a people's self-identification anyway instead of granting them the basic human respect of taking them at their word for who they say they are? That would be like doing a study to prove or disprove the existence of a particular phobia or food preference - especially doing a study of a small sample group and then extrapolating to the general population. Imagine:

"I like peaches."
"No you don't."
"Yes I do!"
"Studies show that people who say they like peaches really don't salivate sufficiently when they see peaches. Therefore you don't really like peaches. I think you should stop deluding yourself and get some psychiatric help."

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Metamorphmagus question

Suppose a child Metamorphmagus decides to turn into a member of the opposite sex. However, being a sheltered child, our Metamorphmagus has an incorrect idea of what the genitals of the opposite sex look like. Would they end up having genitals that do not resemble anything that exists in humanity? If so, would they still be able to urinate and defecate? If so, does that mean that they can simply change how their internal organs work? If so, does that mean they can heal their own injuries? The possibilities are endless!

The real reason why we should be worried about a future oil shortage

We know that the world's supply of oil is finite.

We know that plastics are made from oil.

We know that parts of computers are made of plastic - not just cases, but insulation for cables and probably some other components whose composition I don't know anything about.

So the big, important question, the issue on which scientists should be focusing: can modern, mass-produceable computers be made without using any oil by-products whatsoever?

If not, someone should come up with a solution!

Aunt Marge for Half-Blood Prince!

I'm rereading the chapters about Aunt Marge in POA. She seems excessively disapproving of Harry for someone who's not in on the fact that he's special in any way. This makes me think that there might be more to her than meets the eye. On the other hand, she does fulfill her role as a plot device in POA by getting blown up, thus causing Harry to flee the Dursleys' and go to Diagon Alley. And she does need to be worse than the Dursleys to get Harry that angry, since he's used to the Dursleys.

But why do we need Harry to flee the Dursleys and go to Diagon Alley? Hmmm...brainstorming:

1. To introduce the Knight Bus. We've seen the Knight Bus several times, but why do we need it?
2. Because it's on the Knight Bus that Harry learns Sirius Black is a wizard. But he would have learned that soon enough in Diagon Alley.
3. So he can see, and be frightened by, Sirius' Animagus form. This is necessary, it shows that Sirius is checking up on Harry and presents the idea of the Grim. But he gets frightened by the Grim in other places. Is this one truly necessary?
4. To show that the Ministry is being more lenient with Harry this year. So how does this contribute to the overall plot?
5. To introduce various denizens of Diagon Alley. The people at the Leaky Cauldron. Florean Fortescu. To introduce the idea that the entire magical world is looking out for Harry (perhaps to contrast with OOTP?)

Is this all leading to something, or is it just an incidental subplot whose only purpose is to be interesting and make this book different from the others? Who knows? We must read on...

Saturday, July 02, 2005

The problem with blogging Harry Potter

When I started my pre-HBP read-through, my intention was to blog everything that I thought was interesting or noteworthy or might come up later. Little details, like how on the train home at the end of COS, they're practicing disarming each other, and it's casually mentioned that Harry is quite good at it (foreshadowing his Defence expertise), or all the places where 20/20 hindsight shows us Snape's and Dumbledore's Legilimency skills.

The problem is that the books are so engrossing that I don't want to put them down to blog. And this is the one's I've already read! So then I forget what exactly I was going to say by the time I next find myself blogging.

I had planned to do a chapter-by-chapter blog of HBP as I read it, but I'm not sure whether I will do this now. In my reread I've noticed that chapters tend to end in cliffhangers, and I don't know if I can manage to put down the book at a cliffhanger and blog what I've just read.

On the other hand, doing so might cause me to slow down and savour the story rather than rushing ahead.

Oh, another thing I intended to blog: when Dumbledore intercepts Harry by the Mirror of Erised, he mentions that he has ways to make himself invisible.

The need to fact-check reader mail

I've been meaning to blog for a while about one of my latest pet peeves: media (especially print media) who don't fact-check letters to the editor and other reader mail. Sometimes I see letters on the letters to the editor page where the reader has a nice bundle of outrage based on something that is just plain wrong. I don't mean the reader's opinion is wrong, I mean the facts on which the outrage is based are incorrect. For example, the reader might take their total tax burden (which includes income tax, sales tax, capital gains tax, and some other taxes I don't know about) but call it their income tax burden. Or they might be outraged about something based on a misconception of, say, how the senate works, when the thing that they're outraged about doesn't actually exist because the senate doesn't work that way. Or they might be complaining about a law that is no longer in effect.

This is problematic, because people are inclined to take what they read in the newspaper as fact. Even when the piece of writing in question is an opinion, readers are likely to accept the facts on which it is based, even if they are incorrect. It's also a disservice to the reader who sent in the letter with the incorrect facts, because it makes them look stupid in public.

Here is a minor example, not as serious as some of the other misinformed reader letters I've seen, but demonstrates the point. A couple of weeks ago, Globe and Mail columnist Karen von Hahn wrote a column about customer service, and readers replied with emails bitching about or defending customer service representatives.
Virginia, who thanked me for my "affirming" column about the "daily charade of service," wrote of her recent encounter at a Loblaws checkout counter. The young cashier held up an item of produce and asked, "What's this?" "Now I admit that there are numerous fruits and vegetables in today's supermarkets that I cannot name," she wrote, "but imagine my surprise that I have to answer 'lettuce.'"
The problem here, of course, is that there are several kinds of lettuce available, and the cashier needed to know which kind it was so that she could type in the correct code. Perhaps Virginia didn't know this, but by printing her comments without mentioning anywhere that there are different kinds of lettuce, the newspaper is validating what she's saying and implying that there's nothing wrong with it. So now people are going to be running around thinking Loblaws cashiers can't even recognize lettuce, when in actual fact they couldn't identify a specific variety of lettuce when they didn't have the other kinds of lettuce to compare it to.

I'm not saying newspapers should make their readers look stupid by printing letters and then refuting them, but perhaps they should make an effort to print only those letters that are factually correct, or arrange it so that misconceptions in reader letters are refuted by other reader letters in the same column. The only possible good that can come of printing a factually-incorrect reader letter is that it will fill up column space, but there's no point in filling up column space if it is only going to spread misconceptions.


In Thursday's For Better or For Worse, John makes a comment rather denigrating the validity of an eighth-grade graduation. Reminds me of something my father would say, although I'm a bit surprised to hear it from John. Some of the posters in rec.arts.comics.strips also seemed a bit derogratory towards the idea of an 8th grade graduation, kind of sneeringly implying that the kids haven't really accomplished anything yet, so they don't deserve a graduation.

Yes, grade eight is not a big deal in the adult scheme of things. A grown adult would not be at all feted for having an eighth-grade education. However, these are not grown adults, they are 13-year-olds, and graduating from grade eight is a perfectly valid accomplishment for a 13-year-old.

One of the things I've learned in my professional life is that the most important ingredient for being able to achieve great things is having experience, and experience is the one thing I cannot expedite. I just have to sit there, do your work, learn as you go, apply what you learn, and accept the fact that I'm not going to be nearly as good as my co-worker with 30 years' experience any time soon. But that doesn't matter, no one expects me to. I just have to be good for an employee with two years' experience, and when I get stuck draw on the vast experience of the senior memebers of my team.

Similarly, you can't hold a 13-year-old to accomplishments by adult standarda, and sneering at them for celebrating age-appropriate accomplishments would be like a senior co-worker sneering at me because I feel proud of having successfully translated a new genre of text that the senior co-worker has translated in hundreds of times. Now that I think about it, the adults who disapprove of graduations for "minor" milestones sound almost insecure in their adulthood, like they feel sub-consciously driven to be competitive with and show that they're better than mere adolescents.

Friday, July 01, 2005

The amazing disappearing cotton ball

A while ago, I opened a new bottle of Advil, and noticed that there was no giant wad of cotton at the top. I commented that this was strange, took my Advil, and forgot about it.

Today I discovered that the cotton had sunk down about halfway into the bottle of pills. I had to dump about half the pills out to get to it. It's a great big wad, the size of one of the larger cotton balls used for makeup (or like two of the smaller, store-brand ones). It is significantly fatter than the neck of the bottle. I'd assume they usually put the cotton in after they fill the bottle with pills, so I wonder how this one managed to sink halfway down?

Sins of the father

Tom Tomorrow comments on the tendancy from certain corners to say "He says he supports the war, but I don't see him or his children in combat".

However, neither Tom Tomorrow or the people he linked to mentioned what I find to be the most wrong-headed and illogical aspect of this sort of reasoning. Saying "I don't see him" in combat is one thing, saying "I don't see his children in combat" is quite another.

Whether or not you believe it that a person who supports a war should be involved in military activities themselves, it is completely inappropriate to say that if a person supports a war, they should send their (young adult) children into the military. This is because the children are their own people! They are human beings, with thoughts and feelings and their own political opinions and the basic human right to self-determination. They might not even support a war that their parents support! They are not chattels, they are not vassals, they are not Borg, they are not corporate representatives. Their actions and life choices should not be interpreted as having to reflect their parents' politics because that denies the children's very humanity - their right to self-determination!

I'm sure it's difficult to have your child be in a war and devastating to have your child killed in a war, but it is always more difficult for the child, who is actually in the war! It is simply incorrect to say that war-mongerers should "make the sacrifice" of having their own children be in the military, simply because it's not the parents' sacrifice to make! Ultimately it is the soldiers themselves who are making the sacrifice, and to imply that it is the parents' sacrifice completely trivializes what the soldiers are going through.

It is especially strange that this is happening in the US, which traditionally sets great store by self-determination. You'd think the American public would be the first to acknowledge that even if the parent is a hawk, the child still has every right to be a dove, or a chicken, or any other bird metaphor you can come up with, and should not be forced into a particular life course because of who their parents are.

If this isn't convincing, try wrapping your brain around it another way: think about your parents. Think about your parents' opinions about things. Think about your parents' opinions on political policy, on how a person should live their life, on what makes an appropriate romantic partner, on what music a person should listen to, on what job a person should have, where a person should live, how a person should dress, what a person's family situation should be, what a person should do in their spare time. Think of everything your parents have ever expressed an opinion on. Now imagine that you were required to live your life in precise accordance with your parents' opinions about everything. How would that make you feel?

Now I can't even figure out character motivation in the COMICS

So...9 Chickweed Lane.

Just last Saturday, Edda tells Amos, "I know I'll always want you, I'm just not ready to have you yet." This says to me that she intends to have a romantic relationship with him in the future, and that she loves him romantically, just doesn't feel grown-up enough to deal with that yet.

Today, she seems to be on a date with some anonymous guy. (Yes, she fell asleep in the middle of it, but she's still on a date, and went through all the trouble of making/accepting a date and putting on a dress and wearing her hair differently, all while she was really tired from dancing and working out all day.) And this is the second or third time she's been on a date with an anonymous guy since moving to New York (although the first one before she told us that she is definitely going to want to be with Amos in the indefinite future.

So why is she going on dates with people who aren't Amos? She knows she's going to want to be with Amos eventually. So if this date does work out and lead to a relationship, she's going to have to end the relationship when the time comes for her to be with Amos. Why would she go through all the trouble of attempting to build a relationship when she knows she's going to have to end it eventually? Why would she do something so cruel as to date someone when she's can say to herself with certainty, "I am going to have to leave him when..."

We know Edda isn't stupid. We know she's a bit clueless, but she certainly isn't cruel, she has a definite sense of the long-term consequences of hurting someone in a relationship as a result of her father leaving her mother, and she has the good sense to reject the biggest cads outright.

So what's she doing dating when she already knows who she is in love with for the long-term? If she needs an escort to an event or for appearances or to avoid being hit on, either Amos or Seth or, I'm sure, one of her other male co-workers who is as harmless as Seth would be willing to help her out. If she needs a good snog, I'm sure Amos would be more than willing to help her out there. If she's just socializing, surely she can do that without the expectations of eventual romance. So does she not love Amos as much as she says/thinks she does? But why would she do that to her best friend? Does she have this random idea that "People date. That's what we do. Therefore I have to go on dates with people."? If so, why not go on dates with Amos? Is she going to run around repeatedly breaking Amos' heart until she's ready for a nice safe husband? But why would she emulate her father like that? Or has she just been reading Dear Ellie?