Saturday, July 28, 2007

Tooting My Own Horn (Lighting My Own Lamp?)

Spring semester of this year I served as a teaching assistant for a class called "Professional Practice." For my first trick, I learned the names of about fifty students within a week. I'm pretty sure the professor never did learn them all (but then again, he didn't have to, because I already had). I also graded papers, answered questions, maintained the class web page (someone else did the basic creation), tracked grades, and served as something of a go-between for the professor and the students (who did not always understand each other).

Apparently my efforts were appreciated. At the end of the semester the students voted me the Best TA in the ID department and awarded me a golden light bulb trophy. It's not a very big department, so I can't be too arrogant about this, but still, I'm honored and pleased.

Unfortunately, I was not able to accept the award in person as our graduate presentations were only in their fifth hour and still had an hour to go. This was also hour thirty-five of my forty hour day which, I suspect, strongly contributed to my failure to post about this in a more timely fashion.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


As I write this blog entry, I am sitting on Sarah's porch waiting for the postman to arrive with our copies of the final Harry Potter book.

So I guess I am book-camping after all, it's just not a very public sort of camping. This is a little less goofy than what you might find at Barnes & Noble or Borders. Then again - I did get bored beforehand and dyed my hair blue, spiked it, and gave myself a tattoo (all temporary) so avoiding goofiness does not seem to be a high priority for me.

So why am I out here?

Pleasant anticipation, I guess. It's a beautiful sunny summer day. It's cool for Atlanta which means pleasant for me. There's a cold lemonade to my right and just a little further past that, a hot girl. So I'm in a good place.

If I wanted the book as soon as possible, I suppose I could have camped at one of the midnight parties. But those can be weird and are not entirely necessary. There is some fear of a sell-out, yes, so if you're shopping at the official bookstores, the midnight parties at least lend a certain peace of mind. If you can stand to wait about 8 hours longer (perhaps using that time for sleep), you're better off getting the book at a grocery store. Yes, that's correct, a grocery store. They tend to stock popular books and people rarely think to check them. It's usually a reasonable price and unlikely to sell out. KaCee deserves the credit for pointing this phenomenon out to me. Thanks to her I got book four without any trouble. I could have gone that route for this book if I needed to. Indeed, there was a nice front-of-store display of Harry Potter books at Publix when I did my shopping this morning.

So I could, theoretically, be several hundred pages in by now. That's okay, though. I think I like this better. I'll get the book today eventually, and in the meantime I get a pleasant afternoon on the porch with my girlfriend. Good times.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Harry Potter and the Journey's End

I am a Harry Potter fan. I won't be standing in line at midnight, wearing my Gryffindor colors, talking about Quidditch, or discussing what animal my Patronus charm might produce but I do know what all those words mean and I am going to be receiving a copy of the final book the day/moment it becomes available. Book 7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The end of a long and fascinating journey.

The first book came out almost exactly 10 years ago. I discovered them sometime between book 3 and book 4, thanks to a mother who works with both children and books. After this coming Saturday, I will own all 7 in hard cover and will strongly encourage my children (many many years after this coming Saturday) to read them all.

I have read each book at least three times (the first thing I did each time I finished one of these books was to turn back to the beginning and start over - I've never done that before with any other book). I just finished my most recent reread of the series a few weeks ago, in time for movie number 5 and well in time for book number 7. I am a voracious reader (who else is ever voracious? Technically eaters should be, but I think I've only ever seen it applied to readers) and the books are fast reads. I average about 100 pages an hour (that's just for Potter though, other books don't always read nearly as smoothly). That was a mistake. I have promised myself I'm going to break this coming reading into smaller chunks - take occasional long breaks, let things actually process a bit as I go. I'm even going to try to sleep before I finish the book. We'll see how well I hold to that. These books have been incredibly addictive and arresting. I doubt the final one will be any exception.

If you have not read it, you are missing out. I mean it. Those of you who refuse because you don't want to get caught up in what everyone else is doing are being foolish (everyone else breathes oxygen...). If you're militantly opposed to fantasy, do not like reading in general, or have religious reasons for avoiding the book - I can't help you. Everyone else needs to read these books. I'll lend you my copy. Actually, I even recommend these to people who don't like fantasy (Harry might prove the exception) or who do not enjoy reading (they're easy and fun, I promise). I will not try to convince the religious opponents, and there are many - the Potter books are claimed to be the most banned book in America, although that may be apocryphal.

Okay, I'm done pushing.

I am looking forward to this final segment. I have my opinions and theories. I think I know who RAB is, I think I know whether Snape is truly friend or foe. I even think I know where some of the missing Horcruxes may be found. We'll see. I have enjoyed the journey through J. K. Rowling's world, and I'm excited to see its final stages. I am a bit saddened that this will be the end of the story, but I'm a firm believer that fictional story arcs need to come back to ground eventually - the never-ending storyline rarely seems to work as well as the more traditional beginning-middle-end approach. I am, however, really curious to see what Rowling does next, if anything.

I can't wait for Saturday.