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Inspirational Reads

UM, excuse me?

July 31, 2007

About a year and a half ago, all of the radio stations down here decided to switch formats. Drastically. We no longer have a new rock/alternative, we have "everything that rocks" (which includes 10 songs an hour between these three artists: Ozzy, Led Zepplin, Metallica, Aerosmith, Red Hot Chili Peppers). We no longer have classic rock, we have country. We no longer have light alternative, we have light classic rock (which features continuous repeats of Bohemian Rhapsody, that song about Gollum and the Evil Orcs ("you gotta understand...these guys were on a lot of stuff!"), Aerosmith and Red Hot Chili Peppers). We no longer have modern hits, we have something that features Whoopi Goldburg in the mornings. *shudder*

You get the idea. I gave up listening to the music stations about the same time and now I shuffle between the two "local" sports radio stations (one is mostly local, the other is a mouthpiece for ESPN, and all original non-Durham Bulls broadcasts end at 7pm) and the talk radio station, although that one gets limited play because I'm tired of listening to Shawn Hannity tell me that this is the most important election in the history of America. Again. For the third election running. *yawn*

Well, the problem with listening to the local sports stations is that they're populated by idiots. Now, it used to be tolerable because one station had a morning show that was informative, funny, and decent to listen to. The drive home featured this guy named Adam Gold who I don't really agree with most of the time, but he reads Harry Potter and I could see myself having a beer with him and having some decent debates. However, once the Imus thing happened, the radio stations had to shuffle things around and now Adam Gold and one of the guys from the morning show moved to now having a morning show together. The only reason I listen to it now is because Mike & Mike in the Morning are on the other show, and, well, I can only listen to so much of Mike Greenberg before I want to piss my pants and lose all faith in humanity. I imagine listening to Lindsay Lohan on a drunken, coke-induced bender fighting a rabid jaguar would be more interesting, informative and less painful on the ears than extended exposure to Mike Greenberg.

Okay, I digress. The real reason I'm on this rant is because the new evening guy is this dumbass named Chris Clark (who used to host a noon-time show featuring other local sports junkies which was enjoyable, largely because Chris Clark didn't speak too much). I've called this guy out over the internet before (remember, the lowest form of humanity is people who call into radio shows, in my humble opinion), most notably when he boldly proclaimed "there's no way Indiana's going to beat Wisconsin". Dumbass. So, you can see the level of moron we're dealing with here. A farting hippopotomus would offer more intelligent insight into the world of sports than Chris Clark (incidentally, Chris Clark is being joined by ACC-guru David Glenn tomorrow night so that we can listen to this one-trick pony continue to trot out there the advantages to football expansion in the ACC from a monetary standpoint because ESPN was beating down the ACC's door to broadcast games on Thursday nights when nobody watches...a perfect fit for a conference that has no football teams).

So, yesterday, Chris Clark was talking about holdouts in pro football camps. He made a good point that the NFL should adopt something like the NBA: you get paid according to where you were drafted, such that pick number one makes more money than pick number two who makes more money than pick number three and so on (Brady Quinn might want to remember that 22 comes way down the line). This was all well and good until Clark continued to talk. He then said (to paraphrase), "I know some positions in football are more difficult than others. A running back, for instance, is easy. Here's the ball, find the hole. A linebacker is easy. Here's our blitzes, get the quarterback."

This is the kind of idiocy that is acceptable only in ACC country, especially North Carolina, where the best team in the state is Division IAA Appalachian State (and I am including the Panthers). Apparently, someone forgot to tell Chris Clark that the running back is a vital part of the offense, not only for advancing the ball on the ground, grinding out yardage, getting first downs and running touchdowns into the endzone. For one, the running back has to know the playbook almost as much as the quarterback, that way he knows where to run the ball so that he can pick up the A-hole, B-hole and C-hole, make his decision, and go. He has to know where the blocking schemes are going, not to mention know where his lead blockers are going. Running back is not an easy position. If it was, then any moron could do it, which is why guys like Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and Emmit Smith are a dime a dozen in the NFL.

Not only that, but the running back also feeds into the pass protection. He needs to know whom to pick up and when. He also needs to know his routes in short-yardage pass situations when he comes off his blocks and plays the role of the check-down man. He needs to know if he has to get down the field and block for receivers on swing passes, curl routes, and cross patterns. It's a little more than "find a hole and run through it."

I won't even get into how complicated a linebacker's job is, with stunts, coverage, motion men, blitzes, two tight-end sets, 3-4 vs get the idea. The only "easy" job on a football team is kicker and place holder, and the kicker has to plan for wind, weather, angle of incidence...Ask any linebacker who has had to face an offense like Navy's how damned easy the job is. Or ask Brian Urlacher how dumb linebackers are and how they don't have to think or plan on the field. I'm sure he won't fuck you gently with a chainsaw, Chris Clark.

This would be enough to prove this man's high level of dumbass, but then he said something later on that really pissed me off. Once again, it was born of ignorance. I'll quote this one:

"Hey, Stengel [producer's name], remember me on Friday telling you about how Notre Dame was trying to weasel out of their contract with Michigan? They just signed a 20-year extension."
Now, I'm not exactly unfamiliar with the anti-Notre Dame bias expressed in the media. Especially among the unenlightened, like this moron.

First, let's point out one thing that Clark forgot to mention: when Michigan threatened to let the contract run out, Notre Dame went out and got a verbal commitment to play Oklahoma in a home-and-home series. Not exactly like the home-and-homes that schools around North Carolina play (East Carolina, Navy, Wofford...). Now, of course, the point is moot, since ND and UM have agreed to extend the contract out through 2031.

Second, let's also put in the note of contention between the two schools. Michigan wanted Notre Dame to play two games in a row at the Big House in Ann Arbor so that they [UM] could avoid having to play Notre Dame and Ohio State on the road in the same season. Being that we're recovering from the Davieham era and are actually fairly good now and looking to be good on a consistent basis, I can see Michigan's point. Especially in the BCS era, you don't want to have to play two heavyweight teams on the road every other year (especially when those are two of your chiefest rivals!), because then you can pretty much write off competing for national championships in even-numbered years.

However, you can see why Notre Dame wouldn't want to do this, as this would cause our schedule to shift in such a way that we'd play Michigan AND Southern Cal on the road every year. Granted, everyone loves to rip Notre Dame's schedule, but youd think the haters would slow down if they saw Michigan AND USC on the road every year. Of course, they'd heap disdain and scorn when Michigan AND USC played at Notre Dame stadium in the same season. Much like Michigan, we don't exactly want to write off shots at national championships in odd-numbered years (though you would expect there to be a serious boost in the computers to playing two heavyweights on the road for your SOS).

So, you can clearly see that Notre Dame is not trying to "weasel out" of their contract with Michigan. Instead, we were unwilling to shift our schedule in order to make Michigan's easier at the same time we make our own harder. A little bit of digging would have shown this, but instead, Chris Clark decides that he's going to take the easy way out and insult Notre Dame. God knows that no one wants to actually do any learning to make an educated opinion in the world of sports talk radio (save for Adam Gold, who does seem to be a pretty smart fellow...despite being a Mets fan), and Chris Clark is the banner carrier for the continued ignorance of the trade. Way to go, Chris. You keep up that good work.

C'est fini, mes amis!

July 28, 2007

Just as everything said in Latin sounds better, everything said in French ne sais quoi...classier. Or at least it makes you wish you had a flagon of wine and a baguette and a scantily-clad woman smoking a cigarette through a long, black filter. Or maybe that's just me.

Anyway, in case you're Francophobic and can't understand what I'm getting at, it is done. In the furor surrounding the release of both the Potter book and the Potter movie (which I still haven't seen yet...anyone want to go with me, especially if you're hot and of loose moral fiber?), I kind of missed this, but I did need to get out there the whole Regulus/Scrimgeour non-connection thing. *sigh*

First, let me give you the important numbers:

Word Count: 174900
Page Count: 574

Overall, perhaps a little longer than I wanted, but if you go by the 1/4 rule (how it will actually be bound) that's only about 430 pages, which is not a bad length, especially if my first book comes out in a trade paperback (not that 574 is daunting, but, whatever).

So, what next? Lots of time wasting. Actually, I'm going to take a couple of days where I just screw around, and then I plan on doing the re-read where I'll go and make a few corrections, word substitutions, and whatnot. I hope to have this thing ready to go by the middle of August.

As a whole, I'm very pleased with the book. The ending chapters (which I did in descending order, once more) turned out to be some of the strongest in the entire story (which you would hope for). I was really pleased with how the characters who had to die died, and I was pleased with how the other characters who did not die turned out. I did, however, leave one character out of the last battle, so I will have to fix that. He'll have a minor role, but still, he needs to be there. Overall, I might sound a little smug, but I do feel really good about this story.

Once the re-read is finished, I'll, of course, send it out for publishing. I'll keep updates going about that.

And then, then...THEN....I return to the kingdom of Kallabria and start fixing The Hundred Kings Saga. I want to have another book ready to go when/if Boar War gets published. So, by the end of the year, I want to have Boar War out (what a great Christmas present) and at least in the hands of some publishers/agents, and then have both King of Shadows and King of Thistles done and ready to go. Since I don't have a lot of work to do on King of Shadows, that's going to be done by Halloween, easily. I have a few chapters I need to write in King of Thistles to round out that story and help lead into King of Storms (which has a handful of chapters written already). We could be looking at four books by this time next year.

Granted, that's getting the cart before the horse (with mad props going out to Lynn Schaeffer, my 4th grade teacher, who always used to say that), but I'm fired up about getting Boar War finished. I might be on a high right now, so...anyway.

Now, off to rot my mind with video games...although, the evening is perfect for a cigar and some beer on the back porch...

It's the End of Potter Mania as We Know It (and I Don't Feel Fine)

July 26, 2007

So, the furor over book seven has died down. I know I said I would post this last night, but I got busy doing other things. Plus, I went to bed early. I've been up late the past few nights reading. Take a stab at what I might have been reading.

Oh yeah. Spoilers Alert. Stop reading unless you really want to know that Harry survives and nails Ginny three times in the end (of the book...pervert).

Now, as to the story. For the first 450 pages, I was really, really disappointed. For one, I was half expecting a bloodbath from the very beginning. Instead, we don't even really see the deaths of Mad-Eye and Hedwig. They just sort of...died.

The lead-up to the wedding was painfully drawn out and boring. The wedding was painfully drawn out and boring. The aftermath of the wedding was painfully boring. And then there was just "Scrimgeour is dead". What the hell? All the character deaths were off-screen. Give me a break. And what was the fricking point of introducing us to Scrimgeour? Fudge could have gotten the same effect. And Fudge would have been more pliable for Voldemort's plans. Maybe I'm just still bitter about the whole lack of Regulus/Scrimgeour connection, I dunno. Still. And what about Regulus? All we know is that he got pulled under by a bunch of inferi. Blah. If two people have died any less spectacular deaths than Sirius and Regulus Black, I truly pity them. One fell through a curtain and died; the other was just a dumbass and didn't bring anyone along to help him. Numbnuts.

Finally, we come to the "apparate around the countryside" stretch of the book. Christ, at least Quidditch was readable. It was just a long line of "it was cold, it was rainy, it was cold, it was snowy, Ron's a punk". And then Ron shows up, tells Harry NOT to say Voldemort's name, and what does dumbass do? Promptly, I might add? Harry was just a non-stop pissy little dumbass throughout the last three books. Yeah, people didn't believe you that Voldemort returned. Next time, Harry, try being subtle.

And then, finally, something happened. The scenes at the Malfoy estates finally became a good read, and the first stages of the final battles were being fought. It felt good to see some action taking place and to finally begin weaving all of these storylines together.

I don't feel I need to rehash things, but I will say that when they finally figured out that Hogwarts held the final horcrux that things got really good. The tension being built by the return to Hogwarts (and man did Snape get a raw deal from MacGonagal!) was finally capped off by EVERYONE showing up to fight. Literally, as Neville and Seamus and Dean and Luna and all stood up to pissy-ass Harry and demanded they be included in the fight, my interest was swept up in the brewing melee. As more and more people came down that tunnel into the room of requirment, I began to tremble with giddy excitement. Here came the bloodbath I so desired, especially since Star Wars: Episode III, was such a let down.

And, man, the fact that MacGonagal led the charge was awesome (shouldn't have been a surprise...her first name IS Minerva, after all). I could just see Maggie Smith in the role, pressing her lips together in a sign of unbridled fury. Oh, it was fantastic. And, how all the Hogwarts teachers finally stood up and did something--it was obvious why Dumbledore had to die.

Anyway, the final pages passed in a blur. I knew that Lupine and Tonks were already dead (obvious from the first chapter), and expected one of the Weasleys (admittedly, Percy, but Fred did have a more dramatic twist) to be offed. And, of course, I knew Snape would die. However, as I read the final chapters, I could hear the stupid bitch in Gwinnett, Georgia screaming blasphemy as Harry died and then rose again to defeat Voldemort. It was a nice little Christ figure nod that pops up all the time in fantasy literature, but given the vehemence that certain people display toward Harry Potter because, you know, it's black magic and in league with the Devil, I could sense the outrage rolling through the born-again Christian communities.

Overall, however, I was left with a sour taste in my mouth. Sure, Harry realized that Snape was a good guy and was trying to get him whipped into shape in order to be able to handle whatever Voldemort threw at him. I would have really liked, however, to have seen Harry turn to Snape's portrait in the Headmaster's office (I assume that there was one...Snape was, after all, dead...Dumbledore's portrait showed up right away) and look up at Severus and simply say "I'm sorry. Thank you."

I was also disappointed that nothing came of Umbridge. She got stunned and the horcrux stolen from her...she had Moody's eye, so one can only assume that she got the body from the Death Eater's after they killed Mad-Eye. Why not toss her in the end and have a rock fall on her.

And the battle scenes, while gripping, just sort of...petered out. There were flashes of brilliance, capped by Molly Weasley fighting Bellatrix Lestrange (a masterful pairing, if ever I saw one), but then there were scenes like Fred's death. He didn't move anymore. That's it. Done. Over. I thought so many things could have been wrapped up nicely during the fight; the girl on the ground that Ginny was comforting could have been Cho Chang; Mundungus could have showed up and started capping DEs, thereby redeeming himself. But, oh well. You can't please everyone now, can you?

Overall, the final few chapters could not really help to save this story. The introduction of the Deathly Hallows was...awkward, it seemed. Perhaps if Grindewald had been mentioned more, or his wand had been mentioned, or even mention of the Resurrection Stone at least once, that would have made the story a little more cohesive. As it was, it seemed as though it was something entirely contrived for the final book rather than a way to unite all the other threads in the book. Looking back, yeah, perhaps there were clues left, but it still seemed like this came hurtling at us from the outfield.

Don't get me wrong; what J.K. Rowling has done is crafted a new modern epic on the same level as Star Wars (I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago). In 50 years, Harry Potter might well be studied and picked apart like Lord of the Rings is in some English majors. And I would have no problem with this. Personally, I cannot say enough about what JKR has done for the genre that I seek to enter. Sure, there are the small-minded pinheads that bitch about the evilness of the black magic in the Harry Potter stories and the people who still consider fantasy/sci-fi a niche genre. However, each one of the Harry Potter stories made it more mainstream; it suddenly became cool to be a sci-fi nerd, dressing up and partying about the release of a brand new story.

Perhaps I had my heart broken because my vision for the finish of the series was not the same as the author's. Perhaps I have no qualms over killing my characters whereas Rowling has made them such vital parts of the world she has created that they have become friends. Perhaps it could be that I'm disappointed my favorite characters did not play more crucial, vital roles. Perhaps it's just that Rowling and I are two different authors.

Whatever the reasons, it does not matter. The series is ended, with a slow release "bang". And I, for one, am grateful for the past ten years. We might never see a series of books like this ever again. We should savor and love them, read them until their bindings are weak and their pages are dogeared. Most of all, we shouldn't be overly critical, but instead, simply enjoy them for what they are: a damned fine story.

That's All Folks

July 25, 2007

With apologies to Mel Blanc and Porky Pig...


Okay, now that that's out of the way (Hermione doesn't die, dude)...time for a review. But, let's recap my "bold predictions" first. In descending order:

1) Regulus Black is Rufus Scrimgeour
I guess the teenage boys with little wangs win this round. But, seriously...Regulus and Scrimgeour were linked once more: both were seriously killed in the most lame ways ever. What the fuck was the point of Scrimgeour? He appeared in book 6, talked to Tony Blair, came to Slughorn's party & Dumbledore's funeral, gave Harry, Ron and Hermione their presents from Dumbledore, and then died. Lame. I'm seriously disappointed here.

2) Snape dies
Nailed this one. Sure, he kind of died off camera, but he died to protect Harry, and then explained everything in his memories. And damned if he wasn't a tortured soul for telling Voldemort about the prophecy and then knowing Lily was killed.

3) Voldemort wasn't alone at the Potters' House
Kind of a disappointment here. Especially since JKR said in an interview after Half-Blood Prince that Voldemort wasn't alone. But if he hadn't been alone, I'm sure Snape would have been there. Seriously.

4) Harry got the Reprieve
Well, Harry did survive. I guess, technically, he did die. I think this might have been right. There's a good chance that Hagrid got it, though. That scene, with the spiders...really kind of weird. I didn't know what to think.

5) Harry is the seventh horcux!
I'm taking full credit on this one. Incidental contact still gets you a 15-yard penalty in college football. Especially if you play for Notre Dame.

6) Snape's Patronus is a Lily
Not quite, but damned effing close. I thought that everyone's Patronus was different, and I didn't know you could have the same as the one someone else had just because you had a crush. I won't take full credit, but it was close enough. Plus, it didn't take me long to figure out who had sent the Doe Patronus through the woods to lead Harry to the sword.

7a) Umbridge gets her comeuppance
She did get stunned and had the Locket stolen from around her neck. And Moody's eye. Stupid bitch. Where was she at the end? Someone needed to crunch her. I'm guessing that MacGonagal transformed her into a frog and stepped on her. Stupid old toad.

7b) Neville gets revenge
Again, not quite, but he did lead the charge against the Death Eaters, slaid Nagini, and turned into the new herbology prof. Not bad. And Molly Weasley finally busting out the big drawers and calling out Bellatrix Lestrange and then killing her was a nice touch and a good capper to the battle.

7c) Zacharias Smith has the cup
Actually, the way things worked out, I'm glad he didn't. Effing pussy. Knocking women and kids out of the way like George Castanza running from the fire in the kitchen. Hufflepuff sucks. Sorry, Cedric.

7d) Kreacher has the Locket horcrux
Well, he did. I'm taking credit for it. Stupid Mundungus (more on him later).

7e) Fudge was a DE
What the hell? Only one mention of Fudge throughout the whole thing. Chances are, he was, and got killed. What crap.

7f) Percy Weasley dies
Well, Percy did "die". When he had to apologize, he died. And he did it because of his family, which was the main reason why I thought he'd die, for the full retribution thing. The way things turned out, this was better. I actually was shaking with excitement as the army to defend Hogwarts was showing up, and when Percy arrived, I had to turn off my fan. That was awesome.

7g) Hogwarts is closed
Nope. Wrong.

7h) MacGonagal is the new Headmistress
It was Snape. I have a feeling that MacGonagal got it after Snape. Would have liked to have seen that worked out in the epilogue. Sort of right. Winged it.

7i) New House named House Dumbledore
Would have been a nice touch, but I knew that was a stretch. Anyway.

8) Snape is good
For all those idiots who told me I was dead wrong, Nyeh. You could totally tell during the story that he was good, too, the way he kept deflecting things and not taking out punishment, even for busting into his office and trying to steal the sword. Blah. People who didn't see this are dumb. God, Snape kicks ass. God, Alan Rickman kicks ass. I think he might be my favorite character in the end.

9) Dumbledore isn't dead
I guess he was, but, seriously, it was like he wasn't. Harry still had contact with him, as much as he ever did in any of the books. Some cryptic contacts in the beginning, full exposition in the end. But, yes, his body was lifeless.

10) R.A.B. = Regulus Black
Got that one again. Even supplied the middle name. Boom goes the dynamite.

I was going to post further thoughts on the book, but this one is long enough as it is. So, look for a full review later in the night. Again, more spoilers.

To recap:

1) No
2) Yes
3) No, but with an asterisk
4) Probably
5) Yes
6) Close enough
7a) Close
7b) Close
7c) Dead Wrong. Fucking pussy.
7d) Yes, but with an asterisk
7e) Maybe?
7f) Close enough
7g) No
7h) No, but probably yes in the end
7i) No, but who really thought this would happen
8) A resounding yes
9) A resounding no
10) Touchdown

So, it turns out to be 10/18, or 55.56%. Not too bad, especially with all of the loose ends that weren't tied up (Umbridge, Fudge, Headmaster/mistress after Snape). I guess, on the whole, I'm a little better at predicting basketball than Harry Potter spoilers.

And I'm still pissed about the way Regulus and Scrimgeour died.

You Done Good, Mort

July 19, 2007

File this under the category "Whoops".

Way to go, World Wide Leader. Keep on keeping on.

Ten Bold Predictions: Number One

Well, here it is. The final one, just hours before the last book hits the shelves. I thought before I got into it, I'd do a quick recap of the ten predictions up to now.

10) R.A.B = Regulus Arcturus Black

9) Dumbledore isn't dead

8) Snape is a good guy

7a) Umbridge gets pwned

7b) Neville gets revenge

7c) Zacharias Smith has the Cup Horcrux

7d) Kreacher has the Locket Horcrux

7e) Fudge is a Death Eater

7f) Percy Weasley dies

7g) Hogwarts is closed

7h) MacGonagal is the new Head Mistress when it reopens

7i) Hogwarts gets a new House called Dumbledore

6) Snape's Patronus is a Lily

5) Harry is the last Horcrux

4) Harry got the reprieve

3) Voldemort wasn't alone at the Potters

2) Snape dies

So, a lot of these, especially fairly low in the count, are pretty obvious. I really doubt that R.A.B. is Susan Bones' mysterious aunt that we've never seen, as some people have argued. The higher ones are more controversial, I guess, but none moreso than number one. I've espoused this theory/prediction since the latter pages of Half-Blood Prince, where I saw that R.A.B. was still running around getting his hands dirty in the wizarding world. I've been told that I'm "fucking brilliant" for coming up with this one and also I've been told I'm a "fucking idiot" for this. Of course, the ones who call me "fucking idiot" have also been 14 year olds, probably with acne and underdeveloped genitalia, and no chance ever of seeing a real breast (Barbie dolls with paint jobs do NOT count).

Anyway. Bear with. This is a really long post.

Prediction Number One: Rufus Scrimgeour is Regulus Black!!!

Huh? What? You're a loony! How the hell is that possible?

First of all, isn't Regulus dead? Not so fast, my friend. Remember one of the great rules of fantasy literature: No body, no death. You have to actually see the body to confirm that the character is truly dead. The only thing we've heard about Regulus is that he was "taken care of" by some Death Eaters and that he wasn't important enough for Voldemort to take care of himself. No certain, certified death. Only hearsay.

How then can Regulus hide out all these years as Scrimgeour? Easy: Regulus is a metamorphmagus. And for years now, he's been posing as Rufus Scrimgeour to keep Voldemort thinking that he's been dead. Now, before you jump to any more conclusions about my sanity, read the (very convincing, I might add) evidence that I will lay forth to illustrate why I think this is so.

First of all, neither character appears in a book without the other around. Regulus and Rufus both were first mentioned in Order of the Phoenix. Sirius talked about his brother's run-ins with the Death Eaters, and Tonks and Kingsley talked about Scrimgeour being the head of the Aurors at the Ministry of Magic. Then, in Half-Blood Prince, we meet Scrimgeour for the first time at the very beginning of the book. The chapter had NO point other than bringing Scrimgeour to the forefront. At the end of the book, we see that Regulus (R.A.B.) has been sniffing around Voldemort's plans and looking to foil them.

Next, let's look at the characters themselves. All we know about Regulus is that he is a pureblood, used to run with the Death Eaters, but fell out of sorts with them. I've illustrated in prediction three (where Voldemort was not alone) that Regulus was most likely disgusted with the whole attacking an infant and/or formation of horcruxes. However, the biggest clue about Regulus is to look at his name. It seems all of the Blacks name their children after stars (or in the case of Andromeda, galaxies/constellations). We had Sirius (the brightest star in Canis Major, and often called "the Dog Star") who turned into a big, black dog. We have Bellatrix (star in Orion's shoulder) who is a warrior woman. And we have Regulus, which is the brightest star in the constellation Leo. You would expect that Regulus might be an animagus, then, who can turn himself into a lion, but as we haven't seen any lions (save for Gryffindor's banners) in the books, we have to look at another source.

Enter Rufus Scrimgeour, who has been referred to as having strong, leonine features. Every time he pops up, he is described as having a large mane of hair and very lion-like in his appearance. His movements are even rangy and loping, like a lion's. Coincidence? Never.

The next thing that connects the two is found in Half-Blood Prince, as well. Horace Slughorn, the potions master in HBP, runs a thing he refers to as "the Slug Club" in which excellent students were gathered around him and they would meet and have tea and chat each other up. I imagine it's something like joining an alumni association, without all the drunken football watching (at least that's the sort of alumni associations I'm used to). While they were on the Express back to Hogwart's, Slughorn had a little meeting of the new Slug Club, and he referred to some past members, including both Rufus Scrimgeour and Regulus Black.

The case for Regulus Black being a metamorphmagus is also found within the story, especially in Order of the Phoenix. In OOP, we first meet Nymphadora Tonks (an excellent first name, by the way), who is a cousin to the Blacks (this is where we learn that lots of the pure-blooded families are inter-related thanks to the family tree tapestry hanging on the wall in Sirius' house). It's been illustrated that certain powers run through bloodlines in the magical world; a few times Harry has been likened to his mother or his father in ability and technique. We also learn that a metamorphmagus isn't made, it's born. So, if powers run in families and we already know that Tonks is a metamorphmagus and a cousin to the Blacks, then it stands to reason that there's a chace that metamorphmagus genes are being carried in Sirius and Regulus.

I also remember reading an interview with J.K. Rowling sometime after OOP saying that (to paraphrase) "the metamorphmagi still have a role to play. We haven't seen the end of them with Tonks." Also, having Regulus be an unregistered animagus would be old hat; we've already seen that with not only Sirius but also with Rita Skeeter. Likewise, we've already seen the abuse of polyjuice with Mad-Eye Moody/Young Barty Crouch and with Crabbe and Goyle in Half-Blood Prince. The only logical way to hide out as someone else is to simply pretend to be them through another magical method, which would leave metamorphmagic.

We could dig a little deeper, especially on the Regulus front (the star, in this case). Regulus is a dual star, and being the brightest star in the constellation Leo--a zodiac constellation, by the way--it has been used in astrology for years. The rising of Regulus told the astromancers that war was imminent and that great leaders of men were due to die. (I'm not sure if astromancer is, in fact, a kind of wizard or if I made that up for my purposes in the Hundred Kings Saga or not...sorry).

One of the final--and biggest--pieces of evidence is the actions that take place in Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince by Scrimgeour. He has been elevated to the Minister of Magic postion after Fudge, well, fudged it. And as a former head of the Aurors, Scrimgeour is busy tossing baddies into Azkaban. Or is he? The two main people who get arrested are Mundungus and Stan Shunpike. Mundungus we can perhaps understand as he's got a bit of a shady past. However, why Stan? He's just some pock-faced kid with a squeaky voice who rides around on the Knight Bus (think of the teenager from the Simpsons), and certainly no threat. However, the thing these two have in common is that they both have been seen around 12 Grimmauld Place, which is the location of the Black House.

The problem is, the Black House is under a protective spell, and Dumbledore holds the secret. Without Dumbledore telling you what it is, you can't get in, even if you live there. So, in an effort to weasel out the location of the Secret-Keeper or the Password, Scrimgeour has arrested these two, questioned them, and tossed them into Azkaban for not cooperating. The big question is, why does Scrimgeour want in there so badly? The obvious answer is that he is after the locket, which he knows is in there, because he put it there. Plus, a fellow does like to retun home and sleep in his own bed from time to time.

So, if Scrimgeour is not who he claims to be, then why did Regulus pick him to impersonate? We need to go back to the Slug Club for the answer. Slughorn brags about how he was fond of Regulus and how he was a good student, so I imagine that when Regulus bolts from Godric's Hollow the night the Potters were murdered, he goes to one of his old professors, whom he knows he can trust. He pops in to Slughorn's place, but Slughorn doesn't want anything to do with the Death Eaters he knows will be chasing Regulus (and here begins Slughorn's tendancy to move around from time to time, avoiding Death Eaters like the plague). Instead, he sends Regulus off to someone who can better help, again, another former student and well-known Auror, Rufus Scrimgeour (the real one).

Only problem is, the Death Eaters follow. Regulus gets to Scrimgeour, shows he's been sent by Slughorn, and explains the whole story to him. Scrimgeour agrees to help, but they are beset by the Death Eaters. A battle ensues, and Scrimgeour is killed while Regulus is heavily wounded. Seeing that they're both down, the Death Eaters leave them both for dead. Unfortunately for them, Regulus survives and nurses himself back to health (though his wound is manifested in Scrimgeour's walk, who moves about with a noticeable limp). Knowing that his name is connected with the Death Eaters, he very well can't tell anyone that Scrimgeour is dead, so he buries the body and uses his super secret power to assume Scrimgeour's form. He then returns to the Ministry of Magic as a powerful Auror, knowing full well that Voldemort is in the Horcrux-making game. Being an Auror and having access to the Ministry's files, Regulus-cum-Scrimgeour can now begin to hunt down the horcruxes and dispose of them.

Which is how he got ahold of the locket. However, he wrote his real initials, knowing that, if he were to put in Scrimgeour's, Voldemort would hunt him down. With Regulus "dead", Voldemort would not think to look at Scrimgeour as anything other than a powerful Auror (and later Minister of Magic).

How will Harry figure all of this out? Probably there will be many clues left in Godric's Hollow (which is where the book opens), but the thing that will reveal Regulus' true identity will be the mirror that Sirius gave to Harry as a means of speaking to him. The only problem is, the mirror is cracked (Harry broke it in a fit of rage at the end of OOP), but being cracked, it will show two images...I do not think I need to explain further.

And there you have it. My final prediction. Now, let's all sit back, relax, and read like fucking mad at 12:01 Saturday morning and see how many I got right. As Brock Samson says, "Let's do this!"

Ten Bold Predictions: Number Two

July 18, 2007

Here it is. We're just a scant three days away from the official release of book seven, and here I am writing my penultimate prediction. I like the word "penultimate". For anyone who cares, it ranks right up there with "harbinger" as one of my favorite in the English language.

Without further ado, I'll get right to it. J.K. Rowling has said that two major characters die. She's also asked that no one let spoilers out. I haven't seen any spoilers, just the ones I'm predicting. Okay, so I guess this is further ado. Let's do this.

Prediction Two: Snape Dies!

If you've read any of the other predictions dealing with Snape (see predictions 3, 6, and 8), you know that I've pretty much pieced together his life pre-Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone from the hints and clues left in the previous novels in the set. Yeah, it wasn't tough, he's got a thing for Harry's Mom and doesn't much like his Dad because, well, we know James boned Lily at least once. We also know that Snape is a good guy playing the bad guy (he was originally bad, until Voldemort killed Lily and attacked Harry). So, why does he die among the panoply of other characters that could get offed?

Because people want him to die, that's why. And not just the fans who think that Dumbledore didn't order Snape to kill him. The other characters in the book don't like him. Not to mention, he has to do one last thing for his beloved Lily: save her son's life.

I don't think that it's so much that Snape is endeared to Harry that will cause him to sacrifice himself in order to save Harry, nor do I think that Snape truly detests Harry (though he does look an awful lot like James, which is a thorn in Snape's side). I think that what we have here is a guilt-ridden conscience that has been eating at him for 16 years or thereabouts.

We know that Snape had a thing for Lily. We also know that Snape overheard the prophecy that told of the child that would be Voldemort's undoing and promptly ran off to tell the Dark Lord all that he knew. Voldemort went off and hunted down young Harry then, with Snape in tow, killing first Harry's father and then his mother before attacking the young child. We know all of these things; they have been brought up time and again in all of the books. However, the key to Snape's character lies in his guilt over Lily's death. If he hadn't told Voldemort about the prophecy, Voldemort would not have killed Lily Potter.

So, when Harry shows up at Hogwarts, Snape is reminded of his pain. The wound has been freshly torn open, metaphorically, and Snape strikes out vehemently at Harry. Harry misinterprets this as being hatred toward himself, when it was really a reflection of Snape's self-loathing.

Despite this, we see Snape throughout the stories helping Harry rather than hindering him: the counter-hex on the broom during Quidditch the first year, Occlumency lessons (Dumbledore would not force a professor to do anything against their will, I'm convinced), NOT getting Harry expelled from Hogwarts after he used Sectum Sempura (I think that was the spell) against Malfoy. There are more instances, but these stand out readily.

But why throw his life away for a child that only reminds him of his own failures? Again, it comes back to Lily. Voldemort killed her. Probably (definitely) against Snape's wishes. Saving Harry so that he can defeat Voldemort accomplishes two things: one, it gets rid of Voldemort, hopefully forever this time and two, a little piece of Lily lives on. He has his mother's eyes, after all.

There is also probably a command/request from Dumbledore to watch over Harry and help him in the end. Dumbledore sent Snape off to protect Draco (since Draco didn't actually kill Dumbledore, or levy the attack) and keep him around until the end (Draco will end up, like Snape, turning against Voldemort...probably when Lucius Malfoy is killed for not following orders correctly) when he will be useful. His string is threaded in with Harry, Ron and Hermionie's rope as well. Not to mention, it will be one final act to prove to the world, especially those members of the Order of the Phoenix who doubt him, that Severus Snape truly had turned to the light side and was one of Dumbledore's closest confidants.


Okay, so you've ignored my warning. Sobeit. Don't be pissed at me when I'm right here.

The second major character to die is Ron. He's a Weasley, and there are ten million Weasleys in the book. They're expendable characters, plus, he's a Ginger Child and all of Britain hates a Ginger Child. Okay, so that's a slight exaggeration. Sort of. But, seriously, of the three--Harry, Hermionie and Ron--he's the weakest link. Dying to protect Harry is the only thing that will make him notable in the end. He might actually die while helping to destroy a horcrux.

Initial rumors that I've heard also confirm this theory. So remember, don't hate me because I'm beautiful and because I told you about Ron going belly up. I did write in big red letters up there, after all.

Ten Bold Predictions: Number Three

July 14, 2007

Here we come down the final stretch. I'm sad to say that I haven't yet seen the new movie, but I believe we're planning to catch it maybe next weekend after the crowds die down a little bit. From what I've read, I'm in for a treat.

Today's prediction isn't really startling news. I believe in an interview shortly after Half-Blood Prince came out, J.K. Rowling alluded to this prediction. However, she did not go into great detail, so that's where I come in. I guess this is only like a half prediction then. But, it sets up the next two prognostications, so there. It maybe be a half of a prediction, but it determines the fates of several characters.

Prediction Number Three: Voldemort was Not Alone!

For most of the books now, we've all been suffering under the distress of thinking that Voldemort acted alone when he went to Godric's Hollow lo those many years ago to kill James Potter and to horcruxify Harry. It just so happened that Lily Potter got in the way was killed. I don't believe that she was the main target, but a sort of collateral damage that came about after the dark lord's attack.

If Voldemort wasn't there by himself, then who was with him? Peter Pettigrew was probably there, and once the deed was done he went tearing off into the night to hunt down Sirius Black and frame him for Pettigrew's own duplicity and assisting Voldemort in slaying the Potters. This is not much of a stretch at all. I still don't think this accounts for all of the wizards there that night.

Voldemort knew that Dumbledore would be ready to protect the child in the prophecy and that he commanded the Order of the Phoenix. Of course, Voldemort would then seek assistance from some of his own Death Eaters in case there was any sort of battle that would ensue. It's not like Voldemort is a dummy; he's not going to stumble into a situation where he can be offed. Sure he has the safety net of the horcruxes, but why use them unless he really needs them?

So, who went with him? For one, Severus Snape went along.

We know that Snape had a crush on Lily Potter. We also know that Voldemort went to Godric's Hollow only to kill James Potter. My guess is that he was going to try and convert Lily to the Death Eaters, only because of Snape's feelings for her. Up until that point, Snape had been a loyal Death Eater, and Voldemort would trust him inherently. And perhaps Voldemort thought that Severus' presence would help to bring Lily to the Dark Side. However, we know that their efforts were for naught and she ended up dying and Harry was "scarred". None of this is too surprising.

The second name will probably stir some controversy. It was Regulus Black.

All of the pieces fit for Regulus to have been there: he was "running with the Death Eater's", he comes from a powerful, pureblood family, and we know that Regulus figured out that Voldemort was making horcruxes. Not to mention his surname, Black...perfect for one of Voldemort's trusted cohorts. Sure, his last name doesn't implicate him at once, but it does help make him all that much more sinister.

We also know that Regulus got in deep with the Death Eaters, but "didn't go all the way" as Sirius put it when talking about his brother's fate in Order of the Phoenix. Something happened to change his mind about wanting to hang with Voldemort, and my guess is that either seeing him attack a defenseless infant or seeing him form a horcrux is what turned Regulus away from the Death Eater's. However, he had seen too much, which is why Voldemort sent the other Death Eater's after Regulus with orders to kill him. Sirius passed this off as not being important enough for Voldemort to snuff out himself; I believe it was because Voldemort was too weak and/or preoccupied with dealing with infant Harry to take up matters with Regulus personally. I see it as something like Regulus telling Voldemort that he can't do such things, he's a monster, yada yada and then running from the room or the house (or apparating). And then Voldemort screams to the other Death Eaters hanging around "Kill him. He must not be allowed to live!" or some other silly villain speech.

I think the same things turned Snape, or at least the attacking infant Harry. The straw that probably did the most damage to the dromedary was Voldemort killing Lily. Snape is also familiar with all sorts of dark magic, and so I'm certain that if he saw a horcruxing spell, he would recognize it for what it was. I'm sure this is how Dumbledore got turned on to the notion that Voldemort was making horcruxes; he just needed Slughorn's memories to confirm everything. Remember, he had already been out hunting and destroying horcruxes before Harry discovered what they were and what they did (Dumbledore did seem awfully laid-back in those memories alongside Harry for finding out that Voldemort was nearly impossible to kill).

So, there it is. Voldemort wasn't alone, and Snape and Regulus were both there to witness his attacks on Harry. These also help lay the foundation for the next two predictions.

And because I feel like it, here's a couple of fanciful predictions I came up with.

7g. Hogwarts will be closed at the beginning of book 7, only with promises to open again at the end of book 7 when the good guys have won.
Nothing surprising here. Parents pull their children from the school when monster snakes roam the hallways killing people. The board shuts them down when dark wizards threaten. Dementors roam the grounds when evil escapees from Azkaban come to town. With Voldemort on the return and Harry's attachment to the place, yeah, it'll be shut down.

7h. MacGonagal is the new Head Mistress at Hogwarts.
Again, not much of a stretch. Mostly because MacGonagal (and Maggie Smith, by the way) kick major ass. Even if she does have a proclivity toward cats.

7i. A fifth house opens at Hogwarts called "Dumbledore" in honor of the last head master; it is symbolized by a Phoenix and the traits for being placed in Dumbledore will include honor, leadership, compassion and forgiveness.
This is a real stretch. I admit it. It probably won't happen, but if I were writing the book, that's one of those last little tidy-ups that I'd put in.

Spoiler-Free Harry Potter Post

July 9, 2007

I was reading this today about Helena Bonham-Carter's portrayal of dark witch Bellatrix Lestrange in the latest Harry Potter flick. At first, I thought it was the same ho-hum story about yet another bigger-named actor in one of the Potter flicks (especially since Bellatrix isn't all that involved in this episode).

But then my pretty little eyes lit upon this part:

"At first they thought, `Oh, we'll just put her in a sack,'" Bonham Carter said. "But I said, `There's no way I'm going to wear a sack. I've got to be a sexy witch.'"

"I wanted a sort of bodice thing to give me a shape," she said. "There is a bit of the warrior about her Bellatrix means warrior. She's the right-hand Death Eater to Voldemort.

"I also wanted everything to be splitting at the seams and a bit of `Sunset Boulevard' disintegration to be going on, because she's been in prison for so long. She has a very posh, aristocratic carriage, because she's pureblooded, but at the same time she's completely divorced from reality."

Oh hell yeah. It's not that I think Helena Bonham-Carter is hot, but she is fairly attractive and most definitely sexy. Especially with the accent. So, to hear she'll be filling a bodice to the utmost, well...sign me up. Especially with dark hair. about Witch-alicious.

Maybe I'll start rooting for the bad guys after this...

Ten Bold Predictions: Number Four

I have a little over two weeks to go, so I figure I had better step it up in the whole "predictions" ring, especially since an early release of the novel sold at auction a couple of weeks ago for $18,000+ (I think that was the news I heard whilst driving to Indiana). I wouldn't want people to think I had an extra $18,000 to blow on early release Harry Potter editions. Because, you know, I wouldn't buy a new car or pay off my credit cards or put a down payment on a fairly nice house or anything like that. I'd go right for the children's lit section.

Prediction Four: Harry got the reprieve!

When I first figured out that Harry was the last horcrux, I immediately wondered if he would have to die. In my world, where I write the endings to books, he would die. And, for a long time, I'm pretty sure J.K. Rowling was in the same boat. She had said that there was absolutely no way that there would ever be any more Harry Potter books (being that she's a multi-billionaire at this point and wants to work on different stories, I tend to believe her). And, honestly, the way I see things working out, I don't blame her. She's written seven books now all about one kid growing up (okay, so it's three kids...four if you toss in Neville Longbottom), so why not make that series about a magical raccoon who shoots spells out of his butt?

[That's an obscure Robot Chicken reference, just in case you didn't get it (thus making it obscure).]

Anyway, it would make sense. Harry (and his friends) manage to pull the magical upset of the century and they beat Voldemort and send him on his merry way after completing the Triforce destroying all the horcruxes (except Harry) and squaring off against dark lord Gannon the dark wizard Voldemort. Then, in order to make sure that Voldemort doesn't sneak back, because Hermionie will have figured out the true nature of the scar, Harry makes sure he gets killed--probably at the hand of Wormtail, Peter Pettigrew. After all, Wormtail does owe Harry a bit of a favor, not to mention, that whole business with betraying Harry's parents.

However, a few months back, John Irving and Stephen King both went on a campaign to beg JKR NOT to kill off Harry. Evidently, they saw the finish of the story the same way I did, and that Harry had to die in order to really wrap things up. I think lots of other people saw it that way, too, and there was an outcry (I don't know if that's really the right word, but it fits) to save Harry from the fans.

A few months after that, J.K. Rowling came out and did an interview in which she stated that one of her characters got a "reprieve". In stead of the original plans to kill off two major characters, she would only kill one (which one? See prediction number two, forthcoming). The one who got the reprieve, I originally thought, was Dumbledore (though she claims he's really dead, ha, we all know the truth!). Then I realized that popular pressure had influenced her and she changed it to young Mr. Potter. So, instead of killing off Harry and one other, it's just the other--but his (or her) death is still tied to Harry.

But what of the scar? How to take care of that? We've heard for a long time now that the last word of the last book (Deathly Hollows) was "scar". How to get rid of Voldemort's soul from Harry's forehead without harming Harry?

Again, we'll have to leave this one up to Hermione, as she's the clever one. She'll be the one that realizes that the Dementors are the key to releasing Harry from Voldemort's curse. The Dementor's Kiss sucks the soul out of a person. So, if you have an extra piece of someone else's soul, one would think that that would go away, too. Harry will then have to allow himself to be "kissed" by a Dementor (they will be at the last battle, anyway, since Voldemort has gathered unto himself all of the non-human magical creatures of the world) just long enough for Voldemort's soul to be released from Harry's body. Then Ron will pop in, create a patronus, and scare off the Dementor, leaving Harry to recover with all the chocolate he'd ever want to eat.

How to know that the Dementor's kiss worked? The scar fades and disappears. Simple as that. The last line of the book will read something like "When he looked in the mirror, for the first time in his life, he did not see the scar. The End." Or some such. I won't pretend to know exactly how she'll word it, but that is probably pretty close. And that concludes prediction number four.

Appetite for Algebra

July 7, 2007

I was on my home this evening from tutoring when I heard a DJ come on the local radio ("the everything that rocks" station...for what it's worth) and say that it was 20 years ago when Guns & Roses first released something off their "Appetite for Destruction" album. This didn't make me feel old, though I probably should, but it did make me think of my 7th grade math class.

That's probably a strange sort of memory to be stirred by GnR, but it made me think of a t-shirt design that was proposed for the math classes under the tutelage of my math teacher, Mr. Wallace. The t-shirt design had the cross with roses in place of the heads from the Appetite for Destruction album cover, and in the same font as on the album was written "Appetite for Algebra". Someone actually sketched the design freehand (we had many pretty decent artists in my middle school...I sometimes fancy myself a bit of an artist, but my designs, drawings and everything paled in comparison to some of my middle school classmates). I believe that it was going to be a black or slate gray shirt with red letters and it was going to be really nice, especially to a seventh grader. I'm sure my mom would have crapped to have something like that in her house, which always seemed like the worst insult ever. "I wouldn't have something like that in my house!" "I won't allow that in my house!" What about in the yard, mom? The car? Just on the porch?

Anyway, all of these are in the "possible" range since I never received my shirt. You see, I wanted one, wanted one badly. I saved up my lawnmowing money for a couple of weeks and the money I could con out of my parents in order to buy "extra milk" on chocolate milk days. Then the day came when the sign up sheet was passed around. So, Mr. Wallace put the sign up sheet on a desk by the door to the math room and stepped out a second for coffee, and now that I'm an adult, I can't fault him for that. With Mr. Wallace gone, havoc was sure to ensue. And it did.

We all lined up for sign ups. We joked, talked, goofed off...all the things you'd expect from a bunch of seventh graders. I thought nothing of it, but the air was filled with electricity from the merriment surrounding both the sign up sheet as well as the lack of Mr. Wallace. It was the build up to the perfect storm. Finally my turn in line came, and so I dutifully bent over the desk to write my name, number of shirts, size, money enclosed for payment...

Let's point out here that, in the seventh grade, I was about six foot tall. The desks were about mid-thigh high on me, so I had to bend over quite a bit to get down to the sign up sheet. Instead of crouching down by the side of the desk and filling out the paperwork like I had a fricking brain in my head, I bent over, at the waist. Doing so caused the waistband of my jeans to dip low down my backside. Fortunately for me, the waistband of my underwear was rock solid and did not move at all, providing a delectable target that was too delicious to avoid for my friend Chris Long. I had just managed to jot down my first name when I felt that horrible tug on the waistband of my drawers as they shot skyward. Searing pain shot through my nether regions as the crotch of my briefs threatened to emasculate me and the bulk of my underwear were turned into butt-floss.

The pain was real, that was for sure. My fragile seventh-grade ego also was shattered--doubtless word would spread soon after the attack on my backside to the remainder of my classmates who were not fortunate enough to witness my unmanning. Worst of all, however, was that, while the Mother-of-All-Wedgies was happening to my backside, the only face I saw was that of the alabaster angel who sat on the other side of the room by the far wall: Stacie Farmer.

In the seventh grade at my school, we got a whole new batch of kids from another school that did not have a middle school. Among these imports from Lancaster Elementary were my best friend, Jason, one of my closest confidants through middle and high school and beyond into college, Kelly, and the perfect, unfettered beauty, Stacie Farmer. The one problem with my infatuation with Stacie was that it was quite unrequited. Being a writer, I'm sometimes hostage to the whims of my passions, which flow through my veins like white-hot lead. It's these passions that I spill out onto paper in the form of prose, most of the time. Being an awkward seventh-grader, my passions would often fully encompass my being, smothering all sense and reason.

The unrequited nature of my desire for Stacie happened pretty much from the first day the new students arrived from Lancaster Elementary. I was blessed enough to have Stacie sitting behind me in science class. One day, that fateful first week of seventh grade, I turned around, smiled, and opened my mouth to speak. Unfortunately, that was the exact moment my wits decided to leave me, and thus my opening line was:

"You don't blink very often, do you?"

Not the smoothest pick-up ever. In fact, that pretty much sealed my fate with Ms. Farmer. I could tell because her answer was "What are you, stupid?"

That did not stop the ball of emotion within my chest from beating solely for Stacie Farmer. It would not, however, amount to anything, but I still remained completely infatuated with that blonde beauty. So, you can imagine that, upon that fateful day in math class, when I looked up and saw the look of astonishment and amusement on Stacie's face as my underwear was being heaved up around my shoulders like the raising of the mizzenmast, a piece of my soul shattered.

So, when I heard that Appetite for Destruction was 20 years old this year, I didn't feel old. I felt a small twinge of pain deep in the pit of my heart, thinking about the time when I was completely and thoroughly embarrassed and unmanned, and my poor little heart was crushed.

And I also felt like I needed to pick my underwear out of my butt.

Many Happy Returns

July 5, 2007

Well, I'm back from vacation, such as it was.

I'll give a quick recap. We went up to Indiana to reclaim my children. They had been with my mother-in-law for about three weeks, lest we forget the near drowning incident. Nothing so ghastly took place over the small break. I did get my eyes checked out and found I need new glasses. I could put it off last year, but not this year. We also celebrated my wife and daughter's birthdays. It was the big 06 for my daughter, which means it was the year for pierced ears.

If you see her, she'll sweep her hair back behind her ears and flash them at you. She's very proud. I won't even tell you that she freaked out pretty bad when the earrings were going in her ears. Oh, crap...

Also spent the day at the zoo in Fort Wayne. It's a fine, fine zoo, one of the best I've ever been to. Of course, that would be all of three zoos. But, seriously, the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo is awesome. One of the tigers was up pacing around. I had never seen it up and walking around before. Normally it's hidden in the foliage of the tiger pen. That was great. My only complaint about the zoo is that there is a definite lack of bears. They need a North American exhibit with bears and buffalo and elk and such. Just because I've never seen them is all. And some ibex, which I know are European, but are pretty damned cool nonetheless.

Anyway, Sunday was spent with my friend Jason and his family, which was nice because his son was born last year on the day we left Indiana. So, it was our first introduction to little Porter. Oh, by the way, Jason's a homebrewer. Heh.

Monday was the trip home. Like I said, it was a strategic, surgical strike. And we're all here, none the worse for ware, and very happy to be home. I lazed about for another two days before returning to work. Sure, one of those days was a national holiday, but still, I lazed.

Not much else to report, other than US Route 35 in Southern Ohio is a very lonely stretch of road. Very pretty, but not heavily trafficked. I guess I should also report that I have managed to not get a speeding ticket yet again. Go me.

I'll return us to regularly scheduled programming within a few hours.