Monday, April 27, 2009

April Book Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

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My book selection for the month of April turned out to be one of my favorites. I wanted something easy and fun to read, so I chose Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by the great J.K. Rowling.

I have read this book several times and I love it to death. If you have somehow never read this story about about a boy who learns he's a wizard, go and pick it up right now! It's perfect for adults and children alike. The writing is wonderful and the style doesn't allow you to put it down.

I can't review this book in an unbiased way (clearly), so I thought that for this month's "review" I would do something just for fun. Without further adieu, I present to you:

The Top 5 Things I Don't Understand About Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone


5. What happened to the Dursley family after Hagrid came and took Harry away from the hut on the rock in the sea?

So, we all know that Hagrid comes personally to deliver Harry his Hogwarts letter because his uncle Vernon is actively trying to prevent Harry from receiving it. At this point in the story, Vernon had gone a bit mad and holed the family up in a small hut out on a rock in the middle of the sea in an attempt to keep the post office from delivering any more of the letters. They arrive there by a borrowed row boat, on a journey that "seemed like hours," so we can assume that the family is pretty far out in the ocean. It is also mentioned that the only rations Vernon provided the family with were four bags of chips and four bananas, which they ate that first night. Around midnight, Hagrid comes bursting into the hut (arriving by magic) and takes Harry away to Diagon Alley the next day. The two of them leave the hut in the boat that Harry and the Dursley family used yesterday.

So how do the Dursleys get back? Rowling never says that Hagrid sent the boat back to them. Are we supposed to assume this? If not, how long was it before someone came to rescue them? They had no food or water in that hut. Furthermore, when Harry is returned to the Durselys later that day, they are all home safe and sound. Nothing is ever said about how they managed to get back to shore. They were also able to be back at home when Harry returned there, despite it having taken them more than one day of Vernon's crazed driving to reach the hut in the first place.

4. Why would Dumbledore hide Fluffy behind a door that could be opened with a simple unlocking spell performed by a first year?

Dumbledore, deciding that Hogwarts is the safest place in the world to hide something, places the all-important Sorcerer's Stone behind a series of magical obstacles hidden within the castle. These obstacles start with Fluffy, a gigantic and dangerous three headed dog who is ready to tear anyone coming after the stone into pieces. Fluffy is kept on the third floor corridor on the right hand side. Dumbledore tells students that this area is out of bounds to anyone who does not "wish to die a very painful death." Miraculously, no students seem to test this new school rule (because that's super-realistic for children), but Harry, Hermione, Ron and Neville accidentally stumble into the room when looking for an escape route from Filch. The door is locked, but Hermione manages to open it with a simple "Alohamora."

Now I ask, is it wise to keep an extremely vicious and dangerous animal locked up in a school full of children behind nothing but an ordinary muggle lock? You know, this is a school of magic. There are doors within Hogwarts that can not be opened with Alohamora. Why in the world isn't this one of those? What if Fred and George Weasley, troublemakers as they are, decided to go and investigate this mysteriously locked area? They could be killed. Anyone could be killed. It doesn't make sense for it to be that easy to get into that room.

3. Why doesn't Dumbledore catch on to Quirrel's evilness?

We are immediately given the impression in this book that Dumbledore is the greatest wizard of all time. He seems to be everywhere and know everything. He claims that he doesn't need a cloak to become invisible and always seems to be one step ahead of everyone. Why then, doesn't he pick up on the fact that Voldemort is living in Hogwarts? Why doesn't he figure out what's hiding up in Quirrel's turban? Professor Snape is clearly shown to know that Quirrel is a bad guy and he reports directly to Dumbledore (as we find out in later books). So why doesn't Dumbledore take down Quirrel himself?

The evidence that Dumbledore knew about Quirrel is pretty damning based on his close relationship with Snape and his Superman-like magical powers. Is it possible then that Dumbledore wanted to let all of this go on so that Harry could face Voldemort himself? If that's the case, that's pretty scary. Harry is 11 and Quirrel and Voldemort combined could easily kill him with a quick Avada Kedavra. Dumbledore left the castle on the night that Harry and Quirrel both went after the stone. If he was monitoring the situation to give Harry a chance to "prove himself," why would he ever leave the premises?

I think it would just have been easier for Dumbledore to barge into Quirrel's room one night, rip the turban off of his head and let him have it.

2. Why were the magical obstacles guarding the stone so easy?

There are a series of magical obstacles guarding the stone, each set up by one of the Hogwart's staff members. Harry, Ron and Hermione are able to blaze through them all extremely quickly. If the Hogwarts teaching staff can't manage to stymie a few first years, then Dumbledore may need to look into their qualifications.

Furthermore, the only obstacle that was truly unbeatable was Dumbledore's mirror trick. The other obstables were wholly unnecessary and more like a fun challenge. Why not just enchant the Mirror of Erised and stuff it in a closet somewhere? No one would ever find it, and if they did, they wouldn't be able to access the stone inside of it. Done.

This all points stongly to the notion that Dumbledore wanted Harry to be able to reach the stone and face Voldemort. This idea is very irresponsible and unsettling to me. Harry is eleven people! Eleven!

1. Why wasn't Quirrel able to get the stone out of the mirror?

The final hiding place of the stone is the Mirror of Erised. It will only reveal itself to someone who wants to find it, but not use it. This is how Harry is able to get the stone out of the mirror and protect it. He wants to prevent Voldemort from getting his hands on it and not use it himself, thus, the stone pops right into his pocket.

Well, why can't Quirrel get it then? He wants to find it for Lord Voldemort, not use it on himself. He wants to serve his master, not synthesize a pile of gold. According to the logic of how the spell works, the stone should have come out for him too.

People might say to this that Voldemort was sharing Quirrel's body, so maybe the mirror interpreted that as a part of him wanting to use the stone. That is a possible explanation. It just wasn't presented clearly enough for me to say definitively that that is why the stone wouldn't come out for him.

Well, that's my fun list. I in no way mean to disrespect Harry Potter with this. I love the series in spite of the little things that make me scratch my head. The chief enjoyment in this series lies with reading it for fun and suspending your disbelief for a little while.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Toasty Cowl

I finished this cowl some time ago, but just got around to taking pictures for it today.

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Pattern: Spiral Cowl by Keri McKiernan
Yarn: Knit Picks Andean Silk in Bluebell
Mods: I used a size 7 needles and worsted weight yarn. I omitted two of the spiral pattern repeats.

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The hardest thing about this project was the picot edging. The instructions for the bottom edge ask you to knit some rows, then fold your knitting up to the inside of your cowl and knit a row holding the edges together. It was incredibly difficult to do this evenly. I figured it out eventually, but after much ripping. It did end up coming out very pretty.

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The yarn I used, Knit Picks Andean Silk, is delicious. It's soft and smooshy and I love it. It has a pretty sheen to it, from the silk, and a nice halo from the alpaca. It looked so good just sitting in the ball that I had an indescribable urge to stuff it in my mouth. It sheds like crazy while you knit it, but the finished product doesn't really shed at all. I will definitely use this yarn again.

The only things left on my needles at this point are my shawl and a lace scarf I started working on ages ago, last December. I've been bringing the scarf to sub jobs lately, so I should have that finished up this week. My goal is to have everything completed by the end of the month. The new House Cup term is starting and I want a clean canvas, so to speak.

Today's been a trying day. I hate subbing. Why do kids hit each other so much? My DH and I are going on a vacation to Disney on April 29th. I can't wait to get away from it all!

Now, back to the shawl.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Blech

If I had to come up with one single word to describe how today is going so far it would have to be. . . "ass."

I got a sub job with one of my regular classrooms today. The kids are low, but I get along well with them and I usually don't have any problems. Today was different. I blame it on the horrible thunderstorms and tornado warnings we've had all day today. Something in the air brought out the inner troublemakers in all of them.

In my first period I have a boy. Let's call him A. A decides that he's not interested in listening to the story another student is reading out loud to everyone. Let's call the student reading the book (a girl) B. A tries everything possible to disrupt B from reading, including getting into her personal space, putting his sneaker in her face and ramming her chair with his chair. I try desperately to separate them before the fireworks happen, without success. A keeps finding new ways to torture B. B finally decides she has had enough. She takes off her flip flop and starts beating A in the head with it.

Of course I am on them like white on rice trying to defuse the situation. A eventually gets mad and storms out of the classroom on the pretense of going to the office to report the incident (I found out later he was hanging out in another classroom).

Now I ask you, why would A spend so much time trying to rile up B if he was only going to get mad and pissy when she retaliated? It makes no sense! I was glad to have him out of the classroom in any case. I wrote him a referral and left it for the teacher to deal with.

Of course, this incident ruined the kids for the rest of the period. Everyone was disrupted from their work and it was really impossible to get them back. Not good.

So then 2nd period rolls around. I already know from previous jobs in this classroom that this will be the worst class of the day. Two boys, let's call them C and D, decide that they don't want to do anything besides fuck with me and each other. They started off the period by plastering each other with packing tape (on heads and hairy arms) and ripping it off their bodies loudly. Once I wrangle the tape away from them they get back at me by stealing the television remote off the teacher's desk and turning on the TV and turning it up as loud as it will go. At this point I don't yet know who took the remote and I am getting incredibly frustrated. I unplug the TV and wait for the remote to surface. Once I finally pin down the culprits, I send them both up to the office.

If course, their actions completely disrupt the rest of the class and not much learning takes place. Again, not good.

When your day starts off so badly, there's not much you can do to salvage it. His other class did not get the best of me because I was so messed up from the other classes. Days like this make me question my decision to teach. They also reinforce my notion that substitute teaching is the WORST job in the world. I don't know what I do wrong or what I could do better. Being mean as hell is not in me. I suppose that my laid back approach will work in most classrooms, but not in others. I need to be able to adjust my demeanor to match the tone of the class. What I did today did not work at all.

Perhaps the worst news of the day is that my cowl is all complete, but I can't take pictures because it is such a gray rainy day. Maybe tomorrow. :(

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Easter!

I wasn't planning on making any special projects for Easter this year, but this one just fell into my lap.

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My mother really wanted to decorate Easter eggs this year. As I was boiling them up in preparation for dyeing, three of them got cracked. They were no longer suitable for decorating, so I decided to make some little hats for them.

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Pattern: Chick Egg Cozies by Derya Davenport
Yarn: Paton's Classic Wool Merino, Vanna's Choice, Red Heart Ltd. Soft Heart Solids
Mods: I knit the cozies as the pattern directed, I embellished them with scrap yarn differently.

Happy Easter everyone!


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Some WIPs

I thought today would be a good day to do a little sprucing up around the blog. I changed up my header and redid the colors. Nice, huh? This is much more cheery and it puts me in the mood for spring!

Speaking of spring, I am currently enjoying more time off in the second part of my break. The DH has his spring break this week, so I am taking some more time off to chill with him. We really needed the recharge time too. When you work all day long, you don't have much time to just be a couple.

I worked a little bit today on my shawl, which is nearly finished. I have four more repeats of the border pattern to go and then the bind-off! Please excuse the messy progress picture - the shawl is now so big that I can't really stretch it out for a proper picture without risking some stitches falling off the needle.

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I'm really enjoying the knitting still, but I can't wait for it to be finished. I've never been so excited to block something.

My other WIP at the moment is a cowl I wanted to use for the HPKCHC, but I didn't get it finished in time. I feel honor-bound to finish it before the next term starts (next month!).

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See that decorative picot edging on the bottom? Hardest knitting thing I've ever done, hands down.

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It was incredibly fiddly and I had to tink back tons of times to correct bunching issues. Once I got the hang of it, it came together nicely, but I was sweating all the way. There's no way I'm not finishing this cowl now, because then all that hard work would have been in vain!

The worst part is that I have to do the edging again at the top.