Note:

This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

***spoiler galore***

It is done. I finished the series and I am now "in the know". It's a great club to be in. :)

What an amazing story...the whole thing. How amazing Rowling is, to actually fit the entire story line together, book after book. I don't know how you others did it: waiting for each book to finish and be published and released to find out what was going to happen next. And to have it all spaced out? I felt fortunate to be reading these, pretty much one after another, having the events of each book being current in my head. All the allusions to previous events, object, etc. in other books were fresh in my memory. And I feel fortunate that, soon, I'll see the movie and all of this will make sense...  It was a great way to end. Much the way it began for me, so many, many years ago. Trying to read to CJ as a child, a book that everyone was so excited about...marveling about her creative mind, the words ("muggles"), the names ("Hermione"). It's all too extraordinary.

This last one, is by far, the best for me. In a true sense of "tying things up", this one did it all. It was heartening to know that Severus Snape was a true ally to Dumbledore to the end. I felt strongly at the end of the Half-Blood Prince that he was not guilty but then throughout this one, he was providing LEGITIMATE information to Voldemort regarding Harry. This just seemed to discount my theory and thankfully, I was right...not just to be right but because I did like Snape and his loyalty to Dumbledore.

But I didn't see the love he had for Lily. That was bittersweet. A man so in love with a woman, only to hate the child she bore to the man he hated. And since Harry was a "chip off the old block", all he could see was the man who wed the woman he loved.

And I figured out that the Patronus doe had to be Snape's. I didn't realize it was also Lily's.

Some of my favorite characters to come from this? Luna Lovegood. I adored her in the last book and then, when Harry sees her room, it just blew me away. Rowling didn't do enough justice, IMO, to developing their friendships. I am not complaining - she did great...I am just saying that my love for these characters has me yearning for more (in hindsight).

Neville Longbottom. Seriously. Who is more brave than Harry Potter? To face up to Voldemort, as Harry's body lays before him, after announcing how he is now the almighty and all will die if they do not kneel before him...and Neville runs up to him, unarmed? To show him he is not joining his alliance? How stupid was that? It wasn't. It was one of the most mind-blowing events in all of the series.

Grawp. I love Hagrid of course. But Grawp and his love for "Hagger". OMG. It makes my heart feel hugged.

The death of Voldemort was spectacular. The whole puzzle being put together. I had to go back to wikipedia and make sure I truly understood how the Elder Wand came to its ownership. And to find out if it was really eight horcruxes as I had kept them in count but towards the end, the number no longer mattered to me and I sort of forgot...although, I had no idea that Harry would be one...and upon realization, I was so sad to know what his destiny was going to be.

And the end. The end of all ends. There can be no more. No sequels. Not relevant to this story anyway. The end was much like The Hunger Games. And it made me think about both series of novels: the evolution of these characters. It is a very glorious and sad: to meet these characters, get to know them, "watch" them grow. I loved Harry Potter in this final book because he was so confident, almost arrogant, in his decisions and his magic. A far cry from the boy we met "seven years" ago, and even a few years ago, never catching on as well as Hermione...which no one really did, but Harry was "the Chosen One" and more would have been expected from him.

And what is sad about this is that, now that the stories are known to me, I will never know the Harry Potter as I did when I first read about him. Just like Katniss in The Hunger Games: I will never see her in the same light that I did when I first read about her volunteering for her sister. I can read these books over and over again but it will never be the same experience as my first.

The meeting with Dumbledore at The King's Cross was wonderful. A last meeting, well, for a good while it seems now, to get the answers. In life, wouldn't we want that for all of us? But what I loved the most was the dialogue about Dumbledore being a leader. Dumbledore says to Harry, in regard to turning down the Minister of Magic position "...  I had learned that I was not to be trusted with power."

Harry tells him he would have been a better Minister than Fudge and Scrimgeour. And Dumbledore says these wonderful lines:
...
It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.
Goodbye Harry, Hermione, Ron. It was a great ride.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Acts of Boredom

A couple of weeks ago, the girls decided to ease their boredom by painting. We found out about it when evening time came, after dinner, and the girls had set up a couple of tv trays with covered items. We were then told it was time for an auction. Slowly but surely, up for bid were several paintings that Tim and I had to bid on. I think we got some great deals...

My buys
Tim's buys

Work by MiMi


Work by CJ
Work by CJ
Work by MiMi
Work by MiMi

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Face of a Killer

Another gruesome death.

I was not witness to it. Thank god.

A few days ago, MiMi and I got up and I saw all the dogs except Lucy. I asked MiMi where Lucy was and she went outside. When she returned, she had a somber face.

What's wrong?

MiMi says to me "Lucy killed a bunny."

What?! I gasped. I remember, the very evening before, seeing a big beautiful bunny sitting in our yard. It is a familiar face as I see this bunny often in our yard. It is either the mommy bunny, or the baby bunny that is now grown, that I have seen hopping alongside its mother. It seemed quite impossible for my little Lucy to kill such a big animal.

I walked outside to see Tim: Lucy killed a bunny? Yes, he said. A baby one.

Oh god.

And as he explained it: he was out, with Lucy on a leash, watering the plants, when he noticed Lucy lurching in and out of the bushes. He thought she was being the usual "stupid" by chasing the water he was spraying. Then he saw a big pounce and knew something was up. When he pulled her out, he saw the defenseless creature in her mouth. He picked her up by her nape, to try to get her to release and she would not. He even aimed the hose of water, right into her face, to no avail. I don't know the rest of the details. I don't want to know.

Unbelievable, how this small, cute creature could be so cruel. But, she is an animal. And I reminded my girls, who love to just flash their face into hers, how violent a dog can get...after all, they are just animals.

I'm not a big fan of what mother nature is capable of. I prefer to look away, put my hands over my ears, singing LALALALALALA as to block at the reality. I'll have to keep a critical eye on this one as she has done things that no other dog I have owned has ever done.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Any Man of Mine by Rachel Gibson

I decided to read this during our drive to Florida, after finishing the Half-Blood Prince and before starting on The Deathly Hallows. It was a fun, albeit cheesy, read.

I had read a review about it several months ago and at that time, I was in the mood for a light summer read. For me that sometimes means romance. But my idea of the "romance" genre has changed over the years. Give me books by Sarah Addison Allen vs. the Harlequin-type novels. But I was on the library list forever and it finally came through and I thought I'd try it. After all, if it sucked, I wouldn't finish it.

It didn't suck. It probably would suck for many of my reading friends. But there was some pretty funny parts in the descriptions...and some extremely cheesy parts.

The premise is basically this: two people meet in Las Vegas, have the "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" fun. Have a quickie marriage and then the man leaves the woman hanging. She ends up being pregnant and, while he provides child support, is pretty much a "when I want to be a dad, I will" while he parties hard. Because this man, Sam LeClaire, happens to be one of the most watched hockey player for the Chinooks.

Meanwhile, the woman, Autumn Haven (yes, that is her name), has been able to build a wedding planning business as a single mother. Five years have gone by and Sam and Autumn end up seeing each other at one of Sam's teammates' wedding, that Autumn has happened to be the wedding planner for...and some schedule mishaps occur with Autumn and her babysitter and Sam happens to be there to pick up the pieces.

Of course, there is the hate-hate relationship that so many romances build off of and Sam decides to be a real father after Autumn tells him:
While you're off playing hero to thousands of other little boys, your own son cries himself to sleep like this heart is breaking. 
His arms fell to his sides, and he rocked back on his heels as if she'd hit him. "I'm no one's hero."
"I know that." She pointed toward the window without looking up at her son. "But he doesn't. Not yet. He doesn't know you're just a selfish prick unworthy of him, but he'll figure it out someday."
I actually thought this was pretty emotionally strong. I would agree that most men, who decide to leave their family to enjoy the single life, are under the delusion that their kids are OK when they spend occasional dates with them. They pat themselves on the back for providing monetary support and a movie night or two, and call themselves a "great dad".

But it's this part of the story that shakes Sam back into reality and relates to his own terrible relationship with his dad, that he decides to become a better dad. And during his frequent visits to his son, he starts seeing Autumn in the same light he did while in Vegas. And those - reminiscing Vegas, as well as what happens towards the end (spoiler: they hook up...bet you didn't figure that one out), are pretty funny.

This is one of her first few meetings with Sam in Vegas...by the pool. She has no idea who he is and he asks if she has sunblock on and this is what takes place:
"Sorry. I already put some on."
"That makes one of us." He looked up at the broiling sun and cringed. "I can practically hear my skin sizzle."
She pointed up at the palm trees. "In the shade?"
"I'm sensitive."
"Uh-huh." She reached into her beach bag and pulled out a tube of sunscreen. "It's SPF 40 and -" He whipped off his shirt, and she about fell out of her chair. Holy crap! He had big pecs and shoulders and a six-pack of killer abs. She'd never seen anything like him. Not in person, anyway. Not close enough to lick. Would probably never see anything like him again. Where had he come from. What did he do for a living? Lift small buildings?
And later, once the good dad comes out and is now flirting with the mad woman, he asks her to help him take  off a figure eight bandage, after breaking his clavical during a game:
She took a step closer and grabbed the edge of the soft cotton. she undressed Conner all the time. This was no different. It was mechanical. No big deal. She lifted his shirt past his waist and up his chest. See. No big deal. No biggie. No - Holy mother of God! She'd forgotten what corrugated muscles and six-packs and happy trails looked like up close.
That stuff cracked me up. So did the whole "do you want me", "yes I do" stuff but with the good comes the bad.

These books by Gibson apparently is a series that centers around this Chinooks hockey team. I wasn't sure what that meant until I saw the back of the book, advertising her other books and basically, each novel centers around another player on the hockey team. So some of the people in this book are the main characters in her other books. This might intrigue me enough to read others...especially, with Autumn's hunky, broody brother, who just happens to be an ex-Navy Seal.

But first...the end: The Deathly Hallows...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

***Spoiler post***

Book six done.  I almost made it through without a spoiler.  But there's always the one guy that is so dense and revealed to me, when I was only halfway through the book, that Dumbledore would die.

WTF? I said.

What? Everyone _knows_ that!

Um...no...*I* didn't.

And truthfully, I wasn't sure if he was revealing the overall end of Harry Potter or just book six...so even though I wasn't surprised, I was relieved because that left book seven open for me to discover.

It is amazing, frankly, that I have been able to remain deaf, dumb, and blind to the story.  But I have and I hope I can for another 759 pages.

I enjoyed this but, in true Rowlng form, about 80% of the book is just story-telling and the real intensity happens in those last few pages. That's not a bad thing but I certainly enjoyed the last few pages with Dumbledore and Harry's adventure to the cave...which, BTW, was pretty freaking freaky.

And the return to Hogwarts. I wasn't sure how that would end since I have actually seen The Deathly Hallows part one...and knew the castle was in disarray.

Malfoy was a bit of a surprise. I mean, I knew he was up to no good but I didnt figure him to be intent on killing Dumbledore. Yes, I know he didn't and probably would not have if given the chance - although i'd argue that he had plenty of chances - but I actually completely forgot about him until Dumbledore greeted him at the steps to the school.

But Snape? I didn't expect that at all. And I am going to go with the fact that he is still a spy for the Order, as he didn't kill Harry, nor allowed anyone else to either. Much like Harry had to promise Dumbledore to do as he was ordered to do during their expedition, I believe Dumbledore issued the same command to Snape and that when the time came, this is what Snape had to do. I am sure those of you that know the story are enjoying my theories of what will come to me in book seven.

I cried a little bit but not as much as I expected. What a great character Dumbledore was and his intuition and humility as a great wizard, but more importantly, a great person, is something I would hope to see in more people that I work or acquaint myself with in real life. His meeting with Voldemort, when Voldemort returns to ask for a job, is the epitome of greatness. Not intimidated by this man, but also, not rude...only wise and polite but revealing of his dislike for what Voldemort had become. How I can incorporate this into my dealings with, um, unsavory people, I do not know yet...but I will try.

A wonderful book and like many Harry Potted fans, they just get better and better. I feel like I am one of "them" now. I know the lingo, the people and the places. I look forward to the end so that my life can then revolved around my next obsession; The Game of Thrones.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Catfish

Vince Pierce: They used to tank cod from Alaska all the way to China. They'd keep them in vats in the ship. By the time the codfish reached China, the flesh was mush and tasteless. So this guy came up with the idea that if you put these cods in these big vats, put some catfish in with them and the catfish will keep the cod agile. And there are those people who are catfish in life. And they keep you on your toes. They keep you guessing, they keep you thinking, they keep you fresh. And I thank god for the catfish because we would be droll, boring and dull if we didn't have somebody nipping at our fin. 
This is the only thing I will share with you from this movie.

After you watch it, you can come back and read my reaction.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Hunter

This morning I took my chicorgis, Ricky and Lucy, out for a walk. As I approached the end of my driveway, I noticed Lucy, the hunter, eying something in the rough. This is not unusual for her. She is definitely the herder of the family.

I was paying attention to Tim and Ricky when she lurched forward and pounced on something. I heard a lot of squeaking and squawking and thought she had caught herself a chipmunk finally. Brenna, our boxer-mix, and Lucy have a lot of fun trying to nab one of these cute, fast creatures.

I noticed something in her mouth immediately and the birds all over the immediate area were angrily squawking. I scream at Tim: LUCY GOT ONE! SHE GOT A CHIPMUNK! OH MY GOD GET IT! GET IT! as I drag her towards Tim.  I'm not looking at her either.

Well, I did because I saw her grab something and I'm just freaking out.

I hear Tim telling me not to panic. I'm not panicked, per se, I'm just FREAKING OUT because I hear the fucking other birds and they aren't happy. I think that she must have attacked a baby bird, that's fallen out of the tree, and I'm mortified. How else could she have gotten a bird? They FLY.

So Tim picks Lucy up by the nape because she ain't letting go of her "kill". It drops to the ground, obviously dead. Wow. What the fuck did she do to that thing to kill it right away? It must be a baby bird.

Tim eyes it carefully, while I stand WAY back. He asked me something about it being already dead, as if I would know... But he determines, based on his background of watching Bones, that the bird was dead before Lucy ever got to it.

You would never know that from the way Lucy reacted. She prowled, sneakily approached, then pounced on the "dead" bird. She held that thing in her mouth with pride and was not letting go. And then when she did, she struggled to get back to it, after all, it was her kill.

So Tim disposed of it and I tried to walk Lucy more. Instead, she looked up into the sky, the trees, ready to kill more birds. She raced across the lawn, chasing flying birds. She just thought she was bad ass.  At some point, I put her leash down (it has a heavy end...and she's 12 pounds, so it holds her down pretty well) to thrown the doggie bag away and I heard Tim say "Hey - I just saw a dog run across here." Of course, it was Lucy and I found her, on her hind legs, sniffing into the magnolia tree, looking for birds.

What a cocky SOB.

And where was Ricky this whole time? He was just hanging out. Not interested in the bird. Not interested in Lucy's adventure. Just get me back into the house so I can lay down.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Day in the Life...

...of today.

Volleyball camp is over and our personal camp counselor (PCC) works only Tuesdays through Thursdays. I decide that I would take both girls into work today. MiMi has actually been at work with me all week, in a one hour block: our PCC drops her off at work and then an hour and a half later, we head to NC State to pick up CJ from camp.

However, today was going to be a full day and my work days are full. I told the girls the night before: you all will have to get up early because I have a meeting that starts at 8.

Sure enough, both girls were up and ready to go by 7:30. They were excited about this. Why? I don't know. All week, MiMi just sat in my chair, rummaging through my desk drawers, eating, and every once in awhile, plays on the iPad but nothing else. And then she comes home to tell Tim how she had the "best day ever".

Oh if only I could feel that way...

So the first meeting is with a couple of people and a call with our team in India. One co-worker is my BFF and the girls know her (and she knows them) No problems.

The second meeting (9AM) - same thing: just a couple of people; BFF and a great team mate.

The third meeting (10AM), however, is with more people, a bit more tension, less familiarity. What happens? Whispered arguing from both kids, switching chairs in order to get away from each other. I shoot several evil eyes, the "shhhh" face, the bugged out eyes, etc. At one point, I have to snap my fingers and snap my finger with an above-a-whisper "MIMI!" to get her to settle down.

This, of course, does not work. I see my co-worker look over at them every once in awhile, so I know they are distracting him. And at one point, he also snaps his fingers, at me, to warn me that disaster is about to happen. I look over and see CJ huddled in the corner trying to cover up the iPad, and MiMi nearly sitting on top of her.

BTW, this is not a huge room we are in...so EVERYONE is aware of what the fuck they're doing.

Finally, we pull through the meeting. So I take them to lunch (11AM) at our new cafe, the "taj mahal". It's early so there are few people. MiMi has the california roll, I get pasta and CJ gets pepperoni pizza (my pickiest eater) after being turned off by the "grass fed" beef our cafe has to offer. I told her "it's what they FEED the cows, it's not in the burger!"

After lots of desserts, we head out. I decide to hit the nearest library because, of all the things they fight over, it's who gets to read what books. I tell them to get all the books they can read and we head over to the library (12PM).

I tell the they need to make it quick because I have to start meeting with a person from outside the company starting at 1PM but I had stuff to finish up before I met with that person. I found some books for CJ in the Young Adult section (trying to remember what Kerry recommended, what my teen writers read) and I look over and see them toting a zillion books. Good.

We now head back to work (12:45) with time to wrap up the stuff I need to do before my 1PM. But first I have to deal with their casually slow walk to my building. They are laughing, sauntering and I am a mile ahead. At one point, I turn around and double-snap my fingers at them (how asinine of me) with a "move it girls!" I don't care who sees me.

We make it to the office; I make my updates; I leave them be.

I later see a message from CJ sent from my phone to Tim, telling him that MiMi is disruptive in my office. No one confronted me about it. I guess all's OK.

But the day isn't over even though I am sleepy as hell. I just want to lay down and take a nap. But I have to get gas, stop at the store, get dinner ingredients, come home, empty the car out, walk the dogs, feed the dogs, empty the dishwasher, fill the dishwasher, prep dinner, COOK dinner, vacuum the floors, open the wine, DRINK the wine...

...and now, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh..........................

Thursday, July 14, 2011

An Interesting Poll

...although it probably is not statistically significant.

...or is it?

I have the privilege of listening to amazing writers every two weeks. These are mainly high school people, a scattering of middle schoolers, who write for *their own sanity*. This isn't required work from school (although sometimes they read their school writings), nor is it assigned work. It is usually work they do in their spare time (which is amazing that they have, as they are usually involved in multiple extracurricular activities) because -- get this -- they LIKE writing.

Although there are about a dozen writers active in this writing club, last night, six came to share their stories.  At some point during a break, I heard one of the teens mention being an atheist so I decided to poll the other five what their stance was. These are mainly high school teens. The result?

Two atheists (well apatheist, as one described himself)
Three agnostics
One "I don't care" apathetic

It was a very interesting result, for me. In my work, social and personal life, I am surrounded by similar views: non-religious people. It was nice, *for me*, to hear these young people express a view -- a somewhat controversial view -- so freely and confidently. I realize that, for the most part, the rest of this nation feels differently since religion belief is such a stronghold in everyday life, but I felt pretty "blessed" :) to be surrounded by more like-minded folks.

Oh. And if you missed my other posts on religion. I do believe. I just hate religion, religiousness, righteousness-by-religion, "I am a christian" public statements. For the most part, these people are full of hate (e.g. anti-gay, racist). It's the anti-religious that seem to actually have scruples.

Monday, July 11, 2011

$%#&^ Monday...

Today was CJ's first day of volleyball camp at NC State. I needed to get her there before nine, and apparently, Tim and her had a plan to get a smoothies from Mickey D's beforehand. On top of that, I had a 9:30 meeting and I was bringing MiMi into work with me.

We left pretty early *for me*: 7:45. This turned out to be a very wise decision because when I went through Mickey D's, I forgot to order MiMi's cinnamon bites so I had to park and go in to get them. The line was too long in the drive-thru.

OK. No problem. Plenty of time to spare.

I am now on my way to NC State. I go down Oberlin to hit Hillsborough. Since I am NC-State-ignorant -- hello, ECU girl here -- I have no idea how to get to Reynolds coliseum...even though I've been to it half a dozen times.

*Anywhay*...my GPS does not have the new traffic circles around Hillsborough so when the nice English woman told me to turn left on Hillsborough, I went right...when I should have gone around the circle onto Pullen, which is what the GPS was trying to get me to.

I knew I could get over there, magically, by going the _other_ way. Surely there's another way to get onto campus vs. Pullen. After missing a few rights to have me do a U-eey to get back to Pullen, which would have been perfect...in hindsight.

Instead, I went left on Dan Allen, which is apparently the only other way to get onto campus. No problem...all I have to do is go down one road, which will get me to Jeter Drive, which is where I need to be.

Only there was a road closure to my destination. Great. Now I gots to turn around and figure out how to get to the other side of the road closure.

I think I should be able to do a bunch of right angle turns to get to the other side and actually, on paper, that worked. Only the road I took to get over there was a one way...going the other way. I didn't care at that point. I got honked out but the road was wide enough, with little traffic (I saw one car) so I was going for it...."breaking the law! breaking the law!" The one car I saw honked at me and I just waved an annoyed "I KNOW!!!"

I finally find the darn place and I get CJ checked in. Now I gotta get out and get to work.

The GPS takes me to Pullen to Western (Hey - I don't hang around that part of town. I have *NO IDEA* how to get around without the GPS). Only I didn't realize that the 'exit ramp' with a quick cursory sign to Western was the Western I was supposed to take. So I had to make a left onto the _other_ Western, a very busy Western...and go back around to go the direction I needed to go.

I make it to work safe and not quite soundly. I park and MiMi and I walk to my building. At one part of the parking lot, I tell her a story that I have been thinking about regularly since, earlier in the month, I moved back to a building I used to "reside" in.

My story: Several years ago, I was walking towards my car in the parking lot. It was a quiet time of day but I saw an acquaintance: someone I didn't really know but had played on a volleyball team with. I wanted to make sure I waved a hello to him once I caught his attention. And I did. Once he acknowledged me, I inexplicably fell down these steps. There are *four* teeny steps. I fell, knees first (I think I was trying to stop the fall) and went *BONK*  *BONK*  *BONK*, with my knees sliding and bouncing down each step, while the tops of my ankles, since they were at an angle, slide down the step the knees just left.

The guy raced to me with the most panicked look on his face. "ARE YOU ALRIGHT?!" He helped me up and still appeared more distressed than I was.

I, on the other hand, was immensely embarrassed, frustrated ('why does this always happen to me?'), and I felt sorry for the other person, having to bear witness to something like that. I shook it off with a "Yeah, I'm fine. Don't worry about it." Once he left, I made it to my car, shaking, humiliated and now pissed because I notice that my cool shoes were now scraped, as well as my cool pair of jeans.

So that was my little story to MiMi on the way into work. She said "It's really embarrassing for adults to fall down." Yes. Yes. I agree.

We go on and just mere seconds after I told her this story, MiMi fell hard on the sidewalk. WTF?!? Are you serious? I cursed my child!!!

She did well. She was obviously upset and I looked at her injury and saw that, not only did she have a big ass hole in her pants but she had a pretty bad scrape. She didn't cry and didn't limp into my office. I got a lot of first aid stuff and cleaned it up and got her all bandaged up.

What a day. And it actually didn't end at that...  My pick up time for CJ was 4:30. At 4:00 on the dot, CJ texted me "where are you?" Um...I am at work are you done? "yes." So now I need to get my stuff, MiMi's stuff, and MiMi into the car and off to find Reynolds Coliseum yet again.

Fortunately, I made it without a hitch (via Pullen this time...I've learned my lesson...today).

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

I can no longer state that I am not a fan of fantasy books. For the past two years, I have been reading book after book of sci-fi/fantasy, with The Hunger Games being my ultimate favorite.

I am loving the HP series immensely. By now, book five, the reader knows Hogwarts in and out; the characters are people we know so well and it's amazing how "comfortable" it is to go back to this place and see the growth of these folks, as well as the next evil escapade that Voldemort (I ain't skerred to say his name) has up his sleeves.

In Order of the Phoenix, I was insanely pissed off. The creation of Dolores Umbridge was incredibly bright, a nice twist to make the reader INSANE with anger and frustration at this woman's ignorance and pompousness. This, along with watching the first season of Game of Thrones, made me CRAZY. The most vile characters one could think up existed in two of my favorite 'things'.

I enjoyed this book immensely. Towards the end, to have Ginny and Neville -- especially Neville -- come into the story line as strongly as they did, it was just a great way to show the depth of other characters other than the three BFFs of Harry, Hermione and Ron.

To recap for myself: the Order of the Phoenix are a group of people formed to deter Lord Voldemort and his minions from trying to take over the wizardry world. Voldemort had taken form in The Goblet of Fire and Harry has discovered that he can 'feel' Voldemort and 'see' what he's doing through dreaming. It's not really dreaming but some weird Being John Malkovich thing.

The Ministry of Magic refuses to believe that Voldemort is alive at all. And to keep a good public image in the wizardry world, they do everything they can do make Harry look crazy, along with Dumbledore, who made the news of Voldemort's rise publicly.

Delores Umbridge is then sent to Hogwarts to monitor the teachings at Hogwarts as the High Inquisitor for the Ministry of Magic. She annoys the hell out of everyone and eventually becomes the headmaster of Hogwarts. Dumbledore is gone; Hagrid is gone; and McGonagall is also gone.

Harry then has a vision-in-Voldemort's-head that Sirius Black, Harry's god-father, is being tortured and soon to be killed by Voldemort. He takes off for the Ministry of Magic's Department of Ministry to save Sirius, and not only do his dedicated pals Hermione and Ron join him, but Ginny Weasley (Ron's little sister), Neville Longbottom (a classmate from the beginning) and Luna Lovegood (a quirky hippies-style witch) join him to fight Voldemort and his peeps.

It turns out that Voldemort used Harry's mind-power to lure him to the Department of Magic in order to get Harry to get the prophecy for how to kill Harry. An all-out wizardry fight ensues and Dumbledore and others from the Order of the Phoenix make it in time to save the day. Voldmort escapes...again...and sadly, Sirius Black is killed and gone forever during the fight.

The prophecy is in a glass orb that breaks during the fight. But Dumbledore had heard the prophecy first hand and Harry finds out that neither he and Voldemort can live: one must die while the other lives.

Two more books and I'll be done. I am excited because I want to find out what happens in the end. And it means I can start on Game of Thrones.

Monday, July 04, 2011

SYTYCD - Now and Then

I still love this show. Tim likes it for different reasons: some of these performances brings tears to my eyes, they are so beautiful and breath-taking.

This season, Melanie and Marko danced a performance to a Leona Lewis song. It was wonderful. Melanie blew me away with her first performance - which was her tryout.


What was great about this performance is that a song by Leona Lewis was responsible for one of my all-time favorite performances, with the man of my dreams, Mark Kanemura, who tours and dances with another fave of mine, Lady Gaga.





And here is the actual recent performance from Melanie (who looks just like Ginnifer Goodwin) and Marko:

Watered Down

We decided to celebrate the 4th of July by taking a trip to the Great Wolf Lodge in Concord, NC.

I have heard great things about this place. I remember my friend's surprise visit to her children, which I thought was spectacular.

But I have also seen the prices and, well, they are pricey.  Fortunately, Tim managed to find a special, along with a company discount, we got an amazing price for the night.

I mentioned this to Ann, one of the parent's responsible for the surprise above, that we were only going for the night. "That's all you will need" she said.

We got there Sunday afternoon. We wouldn't get our room until 4, according to the website, but we would be allowed to enjoy the water park starting at noon. And enjoy we did!

The girls quickly left Tim and I alone so we decided to give the Alberta Falls a run.

This is an odd thing for me: enjoying a water park. I never went to one as a kid and a trip to Wet-N-Wild last year made me anxious.  I learned, through last year's visit, just to GO and not think about what I'm GOing to.

And that's what I did with Alberta Falls. A little anxious about what I was about to embark and once done, not a big deal at all. Fun but safe.

And for the most part, this would be my experience upon riding everything for the first time.

Mountain Ridge Raceway is a slide that requires the rider to lie belly down, head first, onto a blue mat. CJ and I rode this one and I remember thinking: I'm not sure I can do this...slide head down? But we did and it was quite fun. Fast and at the end, there's a clock that displays every racer's time.

She then convinced me to give the Howlin' Tornado a try. I took the 84 steps up to the ride and, while we waited for others to ride, I made the mistake of reading the sign. There were sentences mentioning the high-velocity speed and turns that the ride would have and if anyone had any doubt about how they might handle that, they should not ride it.

Hmmm...how bad would it be for me to leave CJ hanging and I just go back down those steps and skip this ride?

Well, I can't do that and I wasn't going to show any fear so I hopped on the tube with my baby on the other side.

Scared.

Excited.

There we were, swirling around. My back was to the future; CJ had a wide view of what was coming toward us. For the most part, it was a fast hustle and bustle and we enjoyed screaming. But then, CJ's face...her eyes got big, she mouthed a big scream, she had sheer fright in her face and then: we DROPPED. I felt the breath leave me and I couldn't scream.

Well, in my head I was screaming GET ME OFF! Please stop this!

And when the drop was finally over, I had no time to feel a reprieve when we were suddenly swished UP to the side of a big funnel. I screamed and I thought I was going to fall right off. And then before we could, again, settle into our tube, we get swished UP to the other side.

After another small drop and a fast spew to the end, we had looks of surprise, exhilaration and relief. The woman that helped us out of the tube noticed the look and asked, jovially "Had fun?"

We would continue to ride that one over and over and each time, it would do the same thing: take my breath away, scare the crap out of me, make me think I would fall off, and I would go right back up and do it again.

But nothing compares to the first time of riding it, knowing nothing about it.

MiMi, as excited as she was about going to GWL, pretty much froze about going up the stairs to any of the rides. I felt so bad for her because I knew she would love the rides, if she could just get over her fear of the steps.

She was adamant about not going up the stairs, not even with the suggestion of getting Tim to carry her up. So I let CJ show Tim the rides and me and MiMi enjoyed the Wave Pool. Then we enjoyed the slides at Fort McKenzie. Then we went into the outdoor pool and I told her that she should give the steps a try...that I am scared of the height too but I just tried not to think about it. That we could take it very slowly and she could go as high as she wanted, then if it got too scary, we would just go back down. I told her that, after time, she would get used to it and go higher and higher. We had all Sunday and Monday to do this, so we had plenty of time to get to the ride.

This seemed to work because she decided she was ready to give the first set of rides - 64 steps to the ride - a try. This one was the one Tim and I rode, the Alberta Falls, so I carried the tube and used it to block at least one side of MiMi's vision of the open area that we were climbing up from. It took a few people to go ahead of us before she took her nerve and walked the remaining steps to the ride.  We got on, rode down, and I saw a big happy face on her when we made it to the bottom. LET'S DO IT AGAIN!

So we did it again. And then she had the nerve to get a mat and we did the Mountain Edge Raceway...TWICE. And she beat me both times.

I was SO happy. Happy for her because I knew she could do it and that the steps were not that bad. After all, she did all of this stair climbing for rides at Wet-N-Wild last year...three visits to the park!

And the girls played and played. And by 8:50 the evening of Sunday, MiMi was out like a light bulb.

We checked out today and played in the water park until about 1:30. We even got MiMi to climb the 84 steps to ride the River Canyon Ride, which is adjacent to the Howlin' Tornado but not as frightening.

Well, she didn't climb the steps but her wonderful dad carried her all four times she wanted to ride it. Which is no easy task as I was out of breath every time I got up them things.

All in all - a great vacation even though it was only for the night.  The room is really nice - and we had the cheapest room (or close to it). The overall facility was so clean, not overly crowded (could be we were lucky...most went to the beach?) so the lines were not long. The staff were top-notch. It was incredible how nice, funny (our first ride on the Howlin' Tornado and the lifeguard went down with the group in front of us...it was a joke as he climbed back out...but it was freaky, then funny), and hard-working these folks were. I was incredibly impressed. It was definitely worth a trip, even at full price...so even better when we got such a huge discount!

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Game of Thrones

This is one of the most amazing shows I have ever laid eyes upon.

And I watch a lot of TV.

I saw the previews for this series before it ever started. It looked interesting but I decided, since it seemed to have a more medievil hint to it that I probably wouldn't like it _that_ much.

How wrong I was.

I decided to give it a try after reading about American Gods becoming a series similar to GoT, an article about the shocking death of a beloved character, and that my fiend audreypodrey was a big fan of the show.  Thanks to HBO on Demand, I had all of the episodes ready for me to watch.

If you don't want to know anything about GoT, do not read any further.

The first one got me hook, line and sinker. The very first few minutes were freaky good: a group of men come upon a snow-laden, quiet forest. One of the men walks off and stumbles uon a smoldering campsite, with mutilated bodies scatterec into an unusual pattern. As the discoverer runs to bring the other men to the site, nothing appears. The bodies are gone. But upon closer inspection, some gory body part is seen and then, suddenly, a zombie-like creature comes out of the shadows and kills two of the three men.

The one survivor runs away to see one figure in the woods. It is the face of a young girl...one of the dead bodies he had just seen.

FREAKY!

I had no idea there would be some creepy shit in this show and that's what sold me. But that's not all one getx out of this show. Amazing characters, like Ned Stark: the man with a moral obligation, despite having a son from an affair (the 'bastard' son Jon Snow); Arya Stark, the spunky daughter of Ned; the Imp and even Khal Drogo. All the characters are incredible and while I was in Atlanta, all I could think of was: why can't HBO on Demand be out here? I wanted to watch them all right away. But I have a job, a family, and other shit I *have* to do before popping my big ass to watch a TV show. But Tim and I watched the last three episodes last night. I was shockex by episode 7's ending: with Little finger turning on Ned Stark. And then with episode 9's shocking beheading :(. I kind of knew that there wouldn't be an end to end it all to the season...especially since audreypodrey mentioned a fifth book in the series was about to be released. Nonetheless, if you haven't watched it yet, WATCH IT. It's got everything that mainstream TV does not have...and everything HBO has become lauded for in its TV series. There will be a GoT season two, which will be even better because season one gives us a taste of the most evil characters you can think of, as well as a great insight to the lives of people you will root for. And there will be dragons. So it's not just 'historical fiction...there's some fantasy thrown in there for fun. I can't wait for season two but I'm gonna have to. But in the I term, I'll be catching up on the books. After I get through Harry Potter.