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Inspirational Reads

Ten Bold Predictions: Number Five

June 26, 2007

Okay, so I started the day out with a happy post about beer and running.

Then I went a little frightening and sad with the near...bad news...of my son.

So...I'm a few hours away from leaving on "vacation" (it's in South Bend, IN, thus the quote marks around vacation) and I'm a little behind on the whole prediction front. So, let's go a bit more light-hearted tonight and do a little Harry Potter action. Oh, look, it's about pieces of souls and death! How happy!

Harry is the last horcrux!

I know. I know. Impossible, you say. I've taken a lot of heat for this in various on-line forums, but this is the only possible solution that makes sense to me. And I'm an

We know from HBP that Voldemort was looking to make himself invincible by splitting his soul into seven pieces, which is the magic number in wizarding circles. We also know that Dumbledore was aware of Voldie's plans, and we also know that Voldemort feared only one wizard in the whole world, and that was Albus Dumbledore. Okay, let's back up to predition number 10 for a moment. That is Dumbledore, since he's still alive.

With that in mind, let's review the horcruxes: the diary (gone), the ring (gone), the locket (in the Black House), the cup (with the Smith family), Nagini (the snake with Voldemort) and then something of Ravenclaw's and something of Gryffendor's.

As for the Ravenclaw potential...I'm not sure. However, there are thoughts that Harry is a descendant of Godric Gryffendor. The importance of this is that Voldemort was looking for objects from the most powerful wizards in history (the founders of Hogwarts), thus showing that he was above the greatest of the wizards ever to live. The problem is, Gryffendor did not leave many things behind, except his legacy and his blood, which might live on in Harry's veins. The opening scenes of Book 7 are to take place in Godric's Hollow, where Harry's parents lived and where Voldemort and...well...I'll leave that for later...went to kill James and Lily Potter and to horcruxify Harry.

Now, I am full aware that Dumbledore told Harry that it is difficult to make a horcrux out of a living creature. He could do it to Nagini because she was like a pet. My argument is that Harry was an infant, defenseless and innocent. If you are going to strike a living creature and insert a tiny piece of your soul into that creature, you'd think that you'd do it to the very young. I could go into a whole scientific explanation about how it would be easier for a baby to absorb a transplant and grow up with it and the body thinking that the transplant belongs there. I won't, but think about that.

Also, one of the arguments is that Harry saw a flash of green light, and the only spell that we know of that uses green is avada kedavra (the killing curse). To that I respond with the green magic that protected the locket in the cave was, well, green, and Slytherin's colors are green, so it seems that the color green is a symbol of evil in the books. Making a horcrux is a very, very dark, evil spell. What color should it be? Probably green.

But, the most important thing is that Voldemort went right after Harry as soon as he heard the prophecy. So, he knew that Harry (or chose, according to Dumbledore) was a threat and prophesied to be the one to bring about Voldemort's ultimate downfall. So, this is how it goes down: Voldemort is going around placing little pieces of his soul around the world in order to ensure that he's immortal. He knows that a baby boy has been prophesied to destroy him, so why not hide a piece of your soul in the boy that you are supposed to fight. It's like the ultimate safety net. If Harry and Voldemort square off, and Voldemort wins, well, he's just sacrificed a little piece of himself--no big deal, there's seven more where those came from.

If Harry wins, well, then there's still a piece of Voldemort left in the world so that he can regenerate. When Harry gets lax, is fired up with his victory, Voldemort shows up, kills Harry and wins the day. This is the beauty of Voldemort's plan: either way, he wins.

The only thing he didn't count on was Dumbledore seeing through his plans to the horcrux making. So Voldemort doesn't count on the slow destruction of his other souls. I'm not sure how Voldemort doesn't feel his soul pieces being destroyed; you'd think that would be something that would repercuss across the soul left in your body. Being as I haven't made any horcruxes, I wouldn't know. Sorry.

So, there it is. Voldemort, being the crafty old snake, built himself a safety net by placing the last horcrux in Harry's forehead. How to get that out without hurting Harry? Well...I guess we can think on that until I get back from vacation.

A Tale of True Heroism

I've been childless for something like three weeks now. At the beginning of June, on my daughter's last day of school, we took them up to Marietta, OH and met my mother-in-law there for dinner (at the Marietta Brewing Company, by the way) where she took the kids and we headed back down the road to North By God Carolina. Mother-in-law and children went north and west, ending up in South Bend eventually, where they hung out for a couple of weeks. While there, my children had some swimming lessons where my daughter (who will be six on Friday) learned how to swim underwater, without floatation devices, how to dive, all that good stuff. My son, who will be three in July, learned how to not be afraid of the water. I suspect he was easily coaxed into the water by Miss Abby, his swim instructor.

Anyway, for the past few days, my children have been in Oklahoma, visiting their great-grandparents (my wife's grandparents through her mom's side). The great-grandparents have a pool, which is one of the main reasons why the kids went through swim lessons, so that they could swim safely in the pool.

This sets the scene. And now for the action.

I came home on Friday and sat in my chair, and my wife came over and sat near me. If you've ever seen Knute Rockne: All American (and if you haven't, I only ask, why haven't you subjected yourself to this fine piece of American film???) there's a scene at the end where Knute's wife has a chill about the same time that Knute's plane goes down in a Kansas farmer's field. That's kind of the look my wife had as she approached me. She worried that the little boy would fall into the pool and no one would know and then we'd have no more little boy. I told my wife not to worry as our daughter would watch over him, and she asked what she could do, and I told her that she could scream for help.

I think you see where this is going. But I'll finish the story.

We call the kids later that night, and my wife talks to my daughter and nothing big happens. Then she talks to the little boy and he says "Sissy saved me." To which my wife responded "What?" And he follows up with "My life. Sissy saved my life."

At this point, my wife says, "That's nice honey...could you please put Grandmommy on the phone?"

My mother-in-law quickly starts to explain.

Apparently, after dinner, people weren't really paying attention to the little boy and he decided he wanted to go swimming, so he just walked down the steps and into the pool. Without floatation devices. A few seconds later, my mother-in-law hears my daughter yelling "Grandmommy, help me. I need help. Help me." My mother-in-law looks over and sees my daughter in the pool with my son. She has her arm wrapped around her chest and is holding his head above water so that he can breathe, and she is back kicking toward the side so that they can get out.


The only thing I could take from this was that I could tell my wife that I was right. Fortunately, my daughter was more proactive than just yelling for help. She apparently dove in, went underwater to get him, and dragged him back to the side like a lifeguard. I don't know if she was taught this during her swim classes or not, or if she just acted on instinct alone. Either way, it was pretty fucking amazing for a five-year-old to do. I'm guessing not a lot of twenty-five year olds would do that.

If it seems like I'm bragging, you're damned right I am. This is one of those things that I felt I should write down, lest my memory fail me later in life. Also, my daughter will someday be able to read AND work the internet (she does both now, but not together), and I don't want her to think that her father is just some fat, drunken lout who tries to poison his lab mates with toxic gas and has issues with HR and uses the F-word way too much. I mean, she knows that anyway. This way she can know that I really do pay attention and can be proud of her. Plus, this is another way of reminding my son that he owes his life to his sister, and being a Catholic family, you can bet this will come up time and time again as both children age.

All comments relating to Pamela Anderson and slow-running will result in a healthy ass-kicking from a father who is already a tad overprotective. You've been warned. Punk.

B Double E Double R U N Beer Run...

God bless you, Wisconsin. God bless you. *wipes tear*

Totally Mundane Update

June 21, 2007

A quick little follow up to the red cloud of death I generated last week.

I did the same reaction today, but made sure my stuff was good and clean before I added the nitrite. This time the solution just turned yellow and bubbled. I was paranoid and ran a vent line out into an Erlenmeyer full of DI water, just because I'm ubersafetynerd like that.

Hooray for me.

A Brief History of My Weekend

June 20, 2007

For something as monumental and epic as my past weekend, the tale can only be told in picture form. Being a cartophile, I've busted out the maps for all to appreciate.

First up, the map showing all the states I have visited. You'll find that Delaware and Maryland are new additions, bringing the total to 25. That's half the states. Score.

Second up is my "beer map", where I record every new beer that I've least by state. I found some stuff from Flying Fish Brewery in New Jersey and was quick to quaff a couple the same day. Total states "sampled": 30. Score again.

Final map speaks for itself. It's a map of all the states that I've gotten good and tuned up drunk in. Georgia gets honorable mention because I got drunk off two barleywines there, but I wasn't tuned up enough to be classified as "faced".
For anyone truly interested, a trip to Delaware is well worth it. I just wish that I had had more than a day to spend there.

EDIT: If you've been reading the comments section, you'll see that I inadvertently left off Illinois. It popped into my mind that my buddy Will and I went to Second City with several of our theater friends and we proceeded to pretty much try to drink the city of Chicago dry. I remember passing out on the bus only to wake up at some point chanting "Huzzah" and then getting lectured by a rather keg-shaped woman on the origins of the word "huzzah" and how it relates to "hooray". Memories are so much better when they're fractured...

Good-bye, Hep

June 19, 2007

I've never made it anything but abundantly clear that I'm a Notre Dame football fan. I've often referenced the strange phenomenon that happens in northern Indiana every fall, when people turn their Notre Dame football sweatshirts inside out and they magically become Indiana basketball shirts. I'm guilty of this, as well. I attended Notre Dame for graduate school, but I was a lifelong Indiana fan. As such, I've followed both schools major sports pretty faithfully over the years, including the "off sports" for each institute, which would be Notre Dame's basketball and Indiana's football programs.

Well, today, Indiana's football program took a serious shot to the stomach.

Terry Hoeppner, the head football coach at Indiana, died of complications due to tumors in his brain this morning. He was 59.

Indiana used to have some pride in its football program, back in the Bill Mallory days. Then came a time when it seemed everything went to basketball. When IU hired Hoeppner away from Miami (OH), it seemed that they were ready to shake the dust off a program that had grown stagnant over the years. He was exactly the kind of man that IU needed as a head coach: charismatic, outgoing, exciting, and loved Indiana football. Indeed, this past season, IU was tantalizingly close to a bowl game, which would have been its first since the Eisenhower administration (actually...I think it was since 1993). Interest in Indiana football had suddenly become posh once more in the southern part of the state, and season ticket sales were on the rise, among alumni, students and the general public. Higher level recruits were actually answering the phone when IU called. Changes to the facilities and to the stadium were planned and underway. A lot of this was thanks to Hep's energy and charisma. IU might not have become an overnight powerhouse, but it was taking the necessary steps toward shuffling off the doormat moniker that has plagued it in recent years.

And now, IU nation has taken a shot to the gut. The recruits and players are all, understandably, dazed, as the people around the program are, too. I do suspect, especially with the naming of Bill Lynch (I believe that's his name) as the interim head coach this past weekend, that AD Rick Greenspan and others expected this to happen--perhaps not so soon, but they probably expected it to happen. Whether expected or not, it's a sad day for IU nation, and my heart goes out to them.

Here's hoping for a good season to remember Coach Hoeppner, who began to lay the foundation for improving the overall standing of the football program. My condolences to the Hoeppner family and to the team who grew to love their charismatic coach. You were a good one, Hep, and you'll be missed.

A Modest Proposal

June 18, 2007

A few months ago (probably at the beginning of the year, being that is the resolution time and all) my company offered this special discount with Weight Watchers. We still had to pay an inane amount of money to join, and the WW food wasn't discounted or anything, but we could pull out the payments from our paycheck so that we were losing weight tax free!!! And there was much rejoicing.

The response was...luke warm at best, I'd say. We got several emails from HR demanding asking people to join. Naturally, all of the people who don't need to do Weight Watchers joined. It was around this time that HR put pressure on one of my associates to get ME to join the program. This really pissed me off. Not because I'm not a fatass (I'll admit to being one readily), but just the gall of someone to think they can pressure a person into doing something they don't want to do just because they're in the front of the building...well, I shan't start on HR people. At my old job, the HR idiots directors were sneaking, conniving, evil people. Here, they just call you fat and pressure you into losing weight.

I realize that having a not-overweight workforce is something that companies see as leading to lower insurance costs. I won't deny the logic here. People who aren't grossly overweight make better, healthier, more productive workers. What I'm still pissed about is the notion that the HR woman felt the need to pressure me through another person in the company (this person had already signed up for the program).

The thing that pisses me off, though, aside from HR's antics and all the people who don't need to lose eight joining and that we still have to pay for food, meetings, blah blah blah is the really pathetic notion that people feel they need to have a group supporting them in order to lose weight. It's one thing to be supported by your spouse, especially if he/she does the shopping. It's entirely different to sit around a powwow once or twice a week telling everyone what you forcibly allowed to slither down your throat. Well, here's some news for you, folks: you ain't gonna lose weight unless you want to lose weight. The group means dick when it comes to weight loss, unless the group is going to show up at your house and slap the brownie away from your mouth upon its final approach. If you don't have the willpower to stop licking the cream from between Little Debbie's cookies and shoving ho-hos in your Twinkie hole, you probably should just end it now. Quick tip for you: the best way to lose ten pounds of ugly fat is to just cut off your head.

One other thing that pisses me off, and then I'll get to my point. I'm tempted to go on the Subway diet. Real tempted, except I'm not fooled by Senor Fatass Jared. I hate to tell people who buy into this whole notion that white bread and mayonnaise sammiches ain't the solution to your weight problem. What Subway neglects to tell you is that Senor Fatass walked/jogged for three hours a day in the park beside the optometry school at Indiana. I know this because my best friend went to optometry school at Indiana. So, it wasn't the highly processed carbohydrate-laden buns nor the processed fat-laden mayonnaise on those sammiches which caused Jared to shed the poundage, it was exercise. Gasp! A novel fucking concept.

Now, on the other hand, my wife has a friend/manager who received for Christmas a Nintendo Wii. Since Santa placed this sinful bunch of silicon wafers and circuits under the tree, Ms. Manager has lost 20-25 pounds. I'm willing to bet the last few ounces of Dr. Pepper in my bottle that most, if not all, of the Weight Watchers people did not lose that much weight. Wow. That almost sounds like--gasp! again--exercise! What a concept!

So, here's my proposal the next time HR feels the need to shake the fat tree that I've shinnied up: subsidize my Wii and allow me to buy games tax free. I mean, if I can lose 25 pounds in six months, isn't that getting me to the same goal as the Weight Watchers crowd? I believe it is. Oh, and it's a helluva lot more fun than eating white bread sammiches, counting points, and waiting for the approval of "the group".

So...what do you say, HR? First one to -50 lbs wins?

Rolling Red Clouds of Death

June 13, 2007

Yesterday, I had me some fun in ye olde lab. Some of the old school kind. And it involved a diazocompound.

I know what you're thinking must have happened if I mention diazo. No, no, rest assured that all flasks are still present and accounted for. There was no reason for two of my grad school professors to show up and chant "You'll blow your nuts off! You'll blow your nuts off!" (Two of my professors went to great lengths a couple of times to try and pound into our thick skulls the dangers inherently built into diazocompounds, like their tendency to go BAM!, and not with powdered sugar). This was an entirely different beast altogether.

All I wanted to do was to convert an amine into a hydroxy group, which I've done by this route maybe two dozen times now. So, yesterday, I took my amine up in glacial acetic acid (as per usual) and I stirred it vigorously under N2 (as per usual) and then I took my sodium nitrite up in water to make an approximately 2M solution (as per usual). When I added the first drop, everything changed color drastically. Usually, it goes from pale yellow to bright yellow as the diazo forms and is replaced by water. This time it turned dark brown/orange. Better yet, it started making a gas that was the same color.

Instantly recognizing it for the bank of death that it was, I acted. Fortunately, from my bigass hydrogenation days, I had a sparge line set up, and I jammed that into the flask and quickly affixed the outlet hose with a pipet which got set in an Erlenmeyer of water. I watched as the Orange Death slowly made its way through the tubes to the water where it harmlessly dissociated into nitric acid. Later, after (somewhat seems) my reaction went to completion, I was smart enough to flush the solution with nitrogen to chase out the rest of the gas before I continued on with the work up. Today, I isolated a beautiful white solid, which is amazing since everything was black and orange (screw you Warsaw Tigers!). The LC\MS even confirmed it was the right stuff.

I'm not sure why this time was different than all the rest. I guess my starting material wasn't as clean as usual (which is true) and that something in there caused the generation of the N2O4. Whatever, no one got hurt or dead (which is most important) and I have a gram of nice, clean material to carry on to further reaction.

Too bad I'm taking a couple of days off and won't get to do anything with it until next week (more on that later).

Ten Bold Predictions: Number Six

June 12, 2007

Tonight starts the sort of "turning point" when the predictions, I feel, aren't as obvious as some of the others I've made. Granted, this is a series geared toward children, so maybe the outcomes are supposed to be really easy to figure out, but then I have to think back to the fourth book, when I think most people didn't see Young Barty Crouch pulling off the hiding heist of the century (notice, no spoilers).

Also, this is the point where the predictions all begin to build off one another. So, I guess these are now predictions for the end of the book. Without further ado, let's get down to it.

Prediction Six: Snape's patronus is a lily

If you remember, throughout the story, especially in Book Six when Snape became the DADA teacher, he's never used his patronus to fend off the Dementors. In fact, when Harry answers that the patronus is the best way to ward off a Dementor, Snape goes ballistic reeling off a whole series of answers that Harry should have answered instead of "patronus". Snape pretty much sets himself up as being anti-patronus. But why?

Well, let's take a look at what a patronus is. A patronus is a manifestation of white light that will take on the shape of something near and dear to the creator's heart. It's a powerful bit of magic, and one imagines that it must be centered around a white-magic or healing spell or something in order to be able to fend off something as dark and frightening as a Dementor. We know that a patronus also takes on the form of something that is closely connected to a person's emotions; Lupin explained this to us in book 4, and we've seen several examples time and again: Harry and the stag, Lupin and the Moon, Tonks and the wolf. Why, then, would Snape's be a lily? The lily is a symbol of life and purity, which you would think would be the furthest thing from Snape's character, especially after sullying it in Book Six.

The simple answer is that he loved Lily Potter, and his emotions would thus influence the shape of the patronus. We know that he had feelings for Lily thanks to the scenes Harry spied in the Pensieve about Snape's past. She was the only one who was nice to him whenever the Marauders (James Potter's band of friends) would tease and ridicule Snape. And we all know how a simple schoolboy crush can turn into something far more serious, especially if those emotions are forced to be hidden away and kept secret for years. Lest we forget the posting about Betsy Hagar. *dreamy sigh*

Why does any of this matter? Well, we know that there's going to be a big fight at the end of the book. Or there had better be, dammit. And we also know that the Dementors have sided with Voldemort (he's been gathering the non-PC magical folk to his cause ever since his resurrection). We've also seen that the Dementors have a certain...taste...for Harry as they seemed to gravitate toward him throughout the story of Prisoner of Azkaban. One stands to reason that they will be at the final battle and that they'll have their sites set on Harry once more.

This is, of course, when Snape will be forced to bust out his patronus. It will be when he's trying to save Harry, and none of his other tricks and tools work. Snape finally breaks down and reveals to the world his feelings for Lily Potter. This could also come in the denouement, when everyone realizes that Snape wasn't so bad after all.

And does this tie into the other five predictions above it? You'll just have to keep reading.

I'd Like a Little Irish in Me

My good friend, Will, over at City of Tiny Lights, posted the results to this little "who's your inner European?". He got Irish, which is expected...after all, there's many a Shannon on the Emerald Isle. And Will embodies the "spirited and boisterous" descriptor, especially after a few rounds of ale (and don't get him started on politics).

In honor of the only man I've ever known who knew the monarchs of England in order and got all of the dates of their rule within a +/- 2 year error set, I felt the need to take the quiz, too.

Your Inner European is Irish!
Sprited and boisterous!You drink everyone under the table.

Here's to you, my fellow inner Mick. Now let's get the mattresses out and start wrestling in the hallway once more...right after drinking another bottle of Whisky.

Please...don't turn your head all funny trying to look up the Irish lass' skirt.

A View from the Inside of a Vodka Bottle

June 8, 2007

Any of my friends who have been with me during a drunken soiree will truly appreciate this comic...

For the record, I also know that the first two words are "that's great"...even when I'm drunk

Click on the picture to make it bigger.

EDIT: I fixed the click on the picture and make it larger. Should work now.

Ten Bold Predictions: Number Seven

June 4, 2007

I think it's time we addressed the roles of a few of the minor characters in the series. Since they're minor, they don't need their own posts for predictions. I'm listing minor characters as those characters which could be replaceable by someone else throughout the main plots of the stories. Therefore, I'm keeping the main characters as Harry, Ron, Hermione, Draco Malfoy, Snape, Dumbledore, Voldemort. McGonagal and Hagrid along with Pettigrew would be sub-major characters, I guess. I can't really lump them into the minor characters, but they're also not major characters. Maybe Hagrid is, but, well, oh well. With that in mind, let's get some predicting done!

7a. Dolores Umbridge gets her comeuppance.
I don't have any reason to believe this other than I'm sure JKR would listen to her fans and make them happy. No one likes Umbridge (does she just not seem toady enough in the movie version, or what?), and they'd all rejoice if she got turned into a frog. And then disected.

7b. Neville Longbottom gets revenge upon Bellatrix.
Bellatrix and her husband ruined Neville's parents through egregious use of the Cruciatus Curse. Neville's a member of the D.A. Neville's always hanging around. I don't think he'd be so cruel as to use the Cruciatus Curse on the Lestranges, but he'll be the one that brings them down. I don't think either will die, but they will be brought to justice, and Neville will be the one who does it.

7c. Zacharias Smith knows the location of the Cup Horcrux
Remember, Voldemort made a horcrux out of Hufflepuff's cup that he stole from Hepzibah Smith. Zacharias Smith is about the only Hufflepuff that gets any import in the story (aside from Cedric Diggory who, well, is dead). Zacharias and Hepzibah are both named Smith. I don't think it's ever been shown that the two are related, and Smith is a bit of a common name, I hear, but, come on. It's pretty evident.

7d. Kreacher has the locket
Molly Weasley might have tried to throw away the locket that couldn't be opened while they were hanging out at Sirius' house back in OotP. Kreacher kept stealing stuff that she was tossing away. So, if they want to find it, they need to go and dig through his nest under the sink or wherever he was building it. Hermione will find it, since she's the one who cares so much about House Elves.

7e. Cornelius Fudge is a Death Eater
Thus all the issues surrounding the "oh, Voldemort isn't back". Incompetent people are always evil.

7f. Percy Weasley dies to save his father
Poor old Weatherby. Percy is hated by his family, except for his mother, because he refused to believe that Voldemort was returning. He's such an insignificant cog within the ministry that his superiors don't know his name. This is the classic rising from nowhere to become a hero by sacrificing yourself archetypal storyline. We've already seen Arthur almost buy it, and we're going to see a lot of magical battles popping up. In the end, I think Percy will see how wrong he was and throw himself in front of some killing curse in order to keep Arthur from being killed. He'll die instead in a very classic Christ-like character (redemption of the father through the death of the son). His family will suddenly realize that Percy wasn't so bad after all, the Ministry will realize he wasn't so unvaluable after all, and everyone will be grateful for his sacrifice to save Arthur Weasley--especially Harry, as this is the closest he can get to a father figure now. Poor old Weatherby.

Ten Bold Predictions: Number Eight

June 2, 2007

This could be a bit of homerism, I'm sure. My thoughts could be clouded because I'm a chemist, once was a chemistry teacher (or a TA for lab, which is the same as Potions Master), and, dammit, Alan Rickman kicks ass. He was the Voice of God, fercryinoutloud! Not many people could clean the exploded remains of Ben Affleck's head off their coat on God's gown, you know.

No. 8: Snape is an Agent of Dumbledore's:

I know a lot of people have a hard time swallowing this one, but based on my claims that Dumbledore is, in fact, NOT dead and is playing a clever ruse on everyone (the reader included, but most of all, Voldemort), then I could not possibly claim that Snape was evil. Yes, he's mean to Harry. Yes, he's friendly toward Slytherins (he's their equivalent of MacGonagal, after all). Yes, he wears black and is a the Goth archetype (without the make-up). Yes, he was a Death Eater. But, people change. Who would have thought that, at the beginning of Star Wars when you see Vader command the scene as he is strolling onto Leia's ship that he would ultimately toss Palpatine into the chasm on the new Death Star? Not I. Not you, either.

Same goes for Snape. See, Voldemort is plenty clever (we'll get to that in a while). But so is Dumbledore. Old Albus has cooked himself up a righteous good scheme here, and it revolves around how Snape has turned to the good side and is playing Voldey and the Death Eaters for a bunch of dupes. There are reasons for his actions, each and all of them, and he remains true to his persona throughout the end of the book six.

Remember, there are reasons why he hates Harry. For one, James was a dick to him. Two, Harry has been a dick to him. From day one at Hogwarts, Snape's been tearing away at Harry's "fame" and "prowess". He, like everyone else in the wizarding world, knows about how Harry "defeated" Voldemort while just a babe in his crib. He also knows that Voldemort will return and that when he does, he will hunt down Harry once more and this time actually try to kill him.

Snape takes care of the Slytherins because he was a Slytherin. If you think about it, when a young Severus shows up at Hogwarts as a first year, he has a lot to prove. He's a half-blood, and therefore wants to prove himself in the wizarding world, especially to those who treat him like shit because of his "low birth". This is probably why the Sorting Hat put him into Slytherin, because he wanted power and fame while proving himself a worthy wizard. When we see a young Snape in the pensieve, we see him hanging with the Griffendors (the Marauders and Lily Dursley), which, to me, shows that deep down, he's an admirable fellow at heart. Chemists always get a bad rap.

The deal for dressing all in's easy to accessorize. Plus, as a chemist, you inevitably spill colored shit on yourself, and having a wardrobe of black cloaks means that stains won't show up so easily.

As for the Death Eater thing...most of the D-Es tended to be in House Slytherin, and so when it comes time to prove himself in the eyes of his peers, he joins them despite not really wanting to side with the bad guys. Also, I think something a little later makes him change his tune and turn to the right side of magic. When he turns, he becomes a disciple of Albus Dumbledore, who rewards him with the potions professorship at Hogwarts. There's also a tacit agreement between the two of them that Severus will help in the fight against Voldemort when he returns by playing the double agent.

Not only does Dumbledore have Snape playing the double agent, but he's also the tutor for his prize pupil: Harry Potter. Snape is tapped to teach Harry Occlumency so that he will have his thoughts and actions veiled when it comes to the final fight versus Voldemort. We all see how this goes, and Harry doesn't quite master it. However, at the end of Half-Blood Prince (HBP), while Snape is firing off some weak attempts at hurting Harry, he's constantly reminding Harry to close his mind, to seal his thoughts. He's mean about it, but he is reminding him what he must do.

Snape is in charge of helping Harry prepare for the final battle, but he's also in charge of Draco Malfoy. Snape and Malfoy are seen running off together, and it's not Malfoy that "kills" Dumbledore on top of the tower, it's Snape. I believe that this is the main rub that causes the fight between Snape and Dumbledore overheard by Hagrid while he is out tending to Aragog by the forest. Dumbledore knows what Malfoy is up to; he also knows that Malfoy is doing it because Voldemort has threatened the lives of the rest of the Malfoy family if Draco cannot finish the task of slaying Dumbledore (this could be the reason why Luscious is hidden away in Azkaban, because he knows Voldemort is not happy that he's allowed Harry to live as long as he has). During the argument by the Forbidden Forest, Dumbledore tells Snape that he will have to "kill" him, and Snape doesn't want to do it. Malfoy, like Harry, has a role to play in the end of things, and Dumbledore doesn't want to lose him to the dark side, which might happen if his family is killed. Especially since Voldemort, he of the utmost compassion and outstanding character, would probably just kill Draco, too.

In all, Snape has been put in charge of taking care of two of the more important young wizards at Hogwarts. He began tutoring Harry in Occlumency, and he's now protecting Malfoy from Voldemort (I doubt that they apparated to the same place as the other D-Es...chances are, they went elsewhere and Draco is holed up somewhere safe for the time being). Despite being hated and vilified throughout the story, Snape is really a good guy at the core of things, and this will become evident during the concluding chapters of book 7.

Too damned bad he's going to die.