Today, I ran ) for 28 minutes, being in the middle of the eighth week of the Couch-To-5K nine-week plan. Of course, as I've been following the designated times rather than the designated distances, and as I've been "pacing myself," I'm not quite on track for five kilometers next week, as, according to the Gmap Pedometer, I ran only 2.38 miles. All of it, I might add, was uphill. It amazes me, but until I started running I had no idea that I could leave my house and travel a complete circuit through the neighborhood without ever descending. Apparently I live on a moebius strip. Today's more linear route was my attempt to limit the amount of climbing I would have to do: I spent much of it following the watershed of one of the ancient creeks. And yet still my body sends the message: "THIS IS UPHILL" while my brain divides the route into treacherous hills, steep climbs, steady uphill grades, and the occasional short stretch of almost, but not quite, sheer cliff face.

One thing that running has taught me is that my brain, much as I have trusted it over the years, doesn't always have my best interests at heart. Given half an hour of leisure time while my body and I are off jogging, it does nothing but concoct reasons why we should just go back to bed. For example, on Thursday, after about nine minutes of running and the hill out of the creekbed that I'm now sure is, if not K2, then at least K-twenty or twenty-five, my right Achilles' tendon issued a sensation. Not pain, not even discomfort, just a sensation. My body relays this to me as, "Uh, your Achilles' tendon would like you to know that it's here, and, on the whole, it would rather be sitting in a jacuzzi." Well, my brain overhears this, and it starts screaming, "It's going to SNAP and you'll be CRIPPLED and in a WHEELCHAIR and they better find a DOUBLE-WIDE WHEELCHAIR 'cause you'll be FAT ANYWAY so you should GO HOME and read the internet but DON'T POST or COMMENT because NO ONE WANTS TO READ YOU . . . " Meanwhile, my Achilles' tendon has long ago messaged "kthxbye!" and my body is wrapped up in trying to get over what we had previously believed to be a nice rolling lane but which evidence now suggests is a seriously disoriented Himalaya.

So my interest was piqued . . .  )
I had reserved my copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on Monday, after some minor panic that it was being released on Tuesday and the realization that the closer Border's had raised the reserved price to only 30 percent off, but I hadn't thought until reading my friend's list that I'd still need to get there early to pick up a wristband if I wanted to pick it up on Friday night. So I got to Barnes and Noble about ten, netting myself a wristband saving me the seventy-seventh spot in line, and went off to run some errands. (Barnes and Noble would run with such efficiency -- they had prebagged all the books -- that I would be out of there nine minutes after the cash registers had opened, although I would try to toss a spanner into the works by also purchasing the new James Crumley and making them look up a phone number for the Preferred Reader's discount.)

Seventy-fifth and sixth in line were an intellectual boy of somewhere between eleven and thirteen, who fit my mental image of Harry Potter a little more tightly than does Daniel Radcliffe, and his younger sister, eight or nine or ten years old, I don't know. As the line snaked past a display stand of ancillary materials -- Harry Potter puzzles, or candies, or eau de toilette -- the girl asked about the artwork on the stand. "What's that Harry's behind?" she inquired, pointing to the stone-colored wizard figure. "I don't know," said her brother. "I think it's a gargoyle." The girl then wanted to know what a gargoyle was, leading her brother to some difficulty in explaining. "You mean like Dobby?" "No, it's made out of stone and it's on old buildings." His sister obviously had no referrent for this.

It was about ten years ago that my hippest New York friend was showing off the gargoyles she had bought from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts catalogue, so I figured it was about time that the trend had trickled down to Woodmere, Ohio. I looked around: we were surrounded by the usual impulse kitsch which clots the checkout lines of big box bookstores. I saw a spinner rack of calendars; their subjects the epitomes of cute or cutely spiritual I had expected. Kittens, puppies, horses, Monet, angels, castles. At the bottom of the rack on its fourth turn I found it, the 2006 Gargoyles Mini Wall Calendar. I tapped the boy on his shoulder and handed it to him, mumbling something about showing his sister.

He gave it a perturbed glance and looked around for help. After half a minute the woman who was number seventy-four took it from him and deposited it on the remainders table.
Done. Marking time at 8:23 am. Seven hours and fifty minutes. Thoughts, perhaps, later.

Much later.
Got it.

Marking time at 12:33 am.

Also, one seed and 185 leeches on the torrent of tonight's Battlestar Galactica. It is, I suppose, unlikely that I'll finish reading the novel before I'm done downloading the show.

(Update: BSG finished in 4 hours, 36 minutes. After 5:48 I'm on page 460.)
Don't miss the story of the hoodwinked premillennialists, in which an LJer who had written a parodic Jack Chick-style diatribe against Harry Potter submits the essay to, which accepts it readily. (According to [ profile] gehayi, the author also convinced a number of non-premillennialist Harry Potter fans of the sincerity of her condemnation in the process.) I haven't looked at too many of the responses on's forum, but this earnest rebuttal caught my eye:
I'm pretty sure that [Lurlene Tyranna] Shores is implying that Lily had sex with Black instead of James. However, I would like to remind you that Black is an Animagus, and can change from a human to an animal, or in this case a dog, and back again at will, thus negating Lily's need to do a perverse thing, such as having sex with a dog.
Which proves that this commenter doesn't hang out in certain circles of LiveJournal, where there are needs and then there are needs.
I wish to know where this "vibrating broomstick" is, or was, marketed so that I may check to see if this ever existed. I have neither read about, nor seen, this toy. Still, an interesting question arises: Who bought them this toy? Toys cost money, so I'm assuming a parent would have to pay for it. Also, would a parent not notice a child bringing home a toy large enough to teach "young girls how to abuse themselves"?
For the record. And, as long as I'm being pedantic, from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter Twenty-Four:
"An excellent point," said Professor Dumbledore. "My own brother, Aberforth, was prosecuted for practicing inappropriate charms on a goat. It was all over the papers, but did Aberforth hide? No, he did not! He held his head high and went about his business as usual! Of course, I'm not entirely sure he can read, so that may not have been bravery. . .."
[ profile] ajhalluk has proposed a round-robin based on the idea that after the end of the series, Neville and Draco are at loose ends in Walthamstow. In need of cash, Draco writes a spec script of Buffy.

I couldn't resist. Probably should have, but couldn't.
Gary Farber points to this article:
Smart soldiers decided to flee the Rings battle
Digital warriors thought for themselves - and their first thought was to run away


CanWest News Service

Monday, December 15, 2003

It's the greatest and most spectacular battle in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

But filmmakers faced one surprising challenge - how to keep the computer-generated soldiers from fleeing the battlefield.

Director Peter Jackson had laid down his requirements for the Battle of Pelennor Fields - the climactic engagement in The Return of the King in which the heroic defenders of Middle-Earth face the overwhelming might of Sauron and his armies of Darkness. Jackson wanted the computer-generated antagonists to have absolute authenticity on the big screen and to be indistinguishable from the real actors.

Computer wizards responded brilliantly, not only with Sauron's swarming armies but with such additional lethal adversaries as the massive winged Fell Beasts and the giant elephant-like Mumakil. The next step was to ensure that the confrontation itself have detail and authenticity.

"I want battles like nothing anyone has ever seen on screen," Jackson said. I want every soldier fighting for himself - you have to come up with something."

Special effects designer Richard Taylor says this led to the writing of a "massive" principal code for the battle to give more than 200,000 digitized soldiers and some 6,000 horses distinctiveness and individuality.

"So to create these individual agents, there was a code that was especially written and developed," Taylor says, adding that it was like being involved in a living work of science fiction.

"It was the fact that you could get a computer to think for itself, that you could get 200,000 agents within the computer to think for themselves.

"So each of these computerized soldiers is assessing the environment around them, drawing on a repertoire of military moves that have been taught them through motion capture - determining how they will combat the enemy, step over the terrain, deal with obstacles in front of them through their own intelligence - and there's 200,000 of them doing that."

Basically, all the necessary information for decision-making was fed into this network of computers without determining for them whether they would win or lose.

But this attempt to ensure that they acted spontaneously almost sabotaged the the battleground sequences.

"For the first two years, the biggest problem we had was soldiers fleeing the field of battle," Taylor said.

"We could not make their computers stupid enough to not run away."

So some extra computer tinkering was required to ensure that the trilogy's climactic battle worked the way Jackson wanted.
It's a good thing Chris Columbus doesn't have Jackson's FX people, or a Dobby who had been programmed with an instinct for self-preservation would have deserted Chamber of Secrets and worked out a development deal with Miramax.

It seems that I've been fleeing a number of battlefields of late. If it's good enough for the forces of Mordor, it's good enough for me. Suffice it to say that my strategy is to sympathize with those who embrace sympathy.
Ahhh, the joy of the Friends' Friends list. I have discovered Homicide/Harry Potter crossover fic!! It makes me happy. Thanks, [ profile] hwmitzy!!
1) Saw X-Men 2. Spoilers for "X-Men 2" )

2) Saw fireworks. Spoilers for 2003 Shaker Heights fireworks show )

3) Did not see relatives. Yay!

4) Did not see scroll. Damn.

5) Finished Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Thoughts on Harry Potter series )

6) Did not watch 1776. Did, however, listen to the Original Cast Album twice. Thought on listening to "1776" while driving through Euclid Creek Reservation )
Taken from "John's" comment on this CalPundit post: The Order of the Phoenix Innuendo List.

Lots of wavings and wagglings and whippings out of wands.
Borders just called; the two copies of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Rah and I reserved on Saturday are now available. Rah's been reading every review and every spoiler she can and she is almost more keyed up for this than I, so as soon as I post and shower we're going shopping! The kind of shopping I like! (Rah's also become very envious of my mp3 player. I'll get her into the gadget stores yet!)

Anyway, despite the utter failure and rejection Rah and I underwent trying to buy Phoenix on Saturday, Scholastic still managed to reap the take from selling 5 million copies on the first day in the US alone, which is astounding. The Times points out that last year's best-selling hardcover novel, some Grisham thing (Grisham's law: bad books drive out good books, except I'm far too impressed with the ability of Borders and Barnes & Noble to not only stock but promote a healthy back catalogue that I start to wonder whether or not it should be "bad books subsidize good books"), sold half that in a year. To look at this number another way, and compounding one's vague guesses at enumeration, if you assume that the average sale price was twenty dollars, that means that every person in America, on average, spent four bucks on Harry Potter on Saturday (which doesn't make me feel any better about Rah and me being denied the chance to spend $34). $100 million in one day? Has any movie done that sort of business? I think the $100 million opening weekend is still the holy grail in movie sales, and generally films that come close to that need a three-day weekend (or even five days, if they do a Wednesday opening, as is traditional for the big July Fourth film -- which is usually an expensive action blockbuster like Independence Day or Men in Black but in a strange and pleasing turnabout this year is Legally Blonde 2). Astounding.

Much has been made of the darker and more mature tone of the new novel; this gives me some hope that Rowling knows what she's doing (or, more accurately, knows what I want her to be doing). I have, since reading the first four books straight through twice three years ago, entertained the notion that not only will Harry age a year for each installment, but the readership will too. The Plain Dealer today made the most recent of many Tolkien comparisons I've seen, and I'm starting to wonder if we can bracket off Philosopher's Stone and Chamber of Secrets as Rowling's The Hobbit, whereas with Azkaban we could see her as moving into a deeper, darker, more adult, Lord of the Rings-style epic. Judging from the polaroids of ankle-biters in capes and forehead scars on display on Saturday, the morning after Borders's midnight release party, I may be alone in this (of course, I first attempted Lord of the Rings when I was nine), but I have my hopes. Just spare me her Silmarillion.

Were Scholastic to recognize the more adult turn in Rowling's story, it might decide to finally curtail the bowdlerizing of English idioms that has so marred the English releases and that Masq and oyc have commented on. Phoenix will be the first of the novels since Stone that I've read in the American version, and I'm not looking forward to seeing sweater where jumper belongs. Still, the Americanization has had its defenders. I remember a discussion I had with mundus: he thought the American title was an improvement; I responded by emphasizing the actual historicity of the quest for the Philosopher's Stone, the long history of that name, the actual existence of Nicholas Flamel, and the fact that my first knowledge of the Stone came from Carl Barks's wonderful Uncle Scrooge and the Philosopher's Stone and if a freaking talking-animal comic book can respect my intelligence enough to expect that I won't be scared by the word "philosopher," so can the largest textbook publisher in America; to which mundus responded, "Yeah, man, but dig the alliteration!" I think he won.



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