Who Cares About Harry Potter?

November 19, 2010

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This weekend marks the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One.  Yep, the final Potter book is being split into two movies (part 2 due next July) in an effort to maximize revenue.

Honestly, this really isn’t the genre for me.  My favorite writers generally stay in the mystery and suspense genres (although the Preston/Child books swing a bit into the paranormal).  When I get tired of those writers, I have a backlog of classics to catch up on.  Quite honestly, the wizards, witches, and vampires that currently capture the attention of society are really not my cup of tea.  I haven’t read any of the Potter books, and was quickly bored when I saw one of the movies on TV.

Logically, then, you probably think that I’m not a fan of Harry.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

As disinterested as I am in the genre, I am thrilled to see young readers picking up a book – any book.  If the Harry Potter tomes are the gateway books to Shakespeare, Dickens, and Block, then J.K. Rowling is doing society a great service.  Just as interesting is the fact that many adults are getting into Potter – cracking open a book instead of spending time in front of the TV.

Even television – which I occassionally refer to as the “idiot box” has come into an era where there are many educational shows gaining in popularity.  I’ve always been a fan of crime shows (NCIS is my current favorite), and there are a ton of shows on TV that delve into the science of forensics (albeit sometimes in a sensationalistic fashion) as well as the inductive reasoning techniques used by detectives – techniques that can be quite valuable in solving real-life problems.

The upshot of all of this is that the old stereotype of smart people being “squares” and “not cool” is starting to erode, as smart characters take the lead in many popular books, movies, and television shows.  Anything that causes kids to have a positive view of education is a good thing, in my opinion.

The story behind the Harry Potter story is also interesting to me.  J.K. Rowling wrote the first book while on government aid and after beating back clinical depression.  How’s that for a Horatio Alger story?  The money that England spent on Rowling was pretty well spent – imagine how many millions she had paid in taxes over the years!  Additionally, Rowling is involved with a number of charities in Britain.

Saturday Stew

July 18, 2009

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Harry Potter

Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince opened in theaters at midnight on Wednesday. It broke the record for a midnight screening with $22.2 million is is well on its way to a huge weekend. I’m not fan of the Harry Potter series, but I am definitely a fan of the J.K. Rowling story. Rowling was on welfare before writing the Harry Potter series and becoming a billionaire. What a wonderful rags to riches story. We often hear stories about people who are on welfare for decades and have no real desire to work. Here’s a story about someone who took the assistance offered by the government, and used it to get back on her feet and become a success. The money the British government spent on welfare payments to Rowling ended up being a great investment – as they made it possible for Rowling to pay tremendous tax bills on her subsequent income!

Apple shuts down Palm Pre sync

When the Palm Pre launched, one of its features was the ability to pretend that it was an iPod, allowing it to make use of Apple’s iTunes software. There was some debate over at Lazy Man and Money regarding whether Apple would allow this to occur, or whether they would release a future update to block non-iPod devices. I thought that they would indeed block the Pre, and felt that they had the right to do this, asserting that it was not an unfair barrier to competition to force Palm to bundle a iTunes-like product with the Pre.

On Wednesday, Apple released iTunes version 8.2.1. According to Apple, “iTunes 8.2.1 provides a number of important bug fixes and addresses an issue with verification of Apple devices” – in other words, if iTunes can’t verify that your device is an iPod, you can no longer sync with it. Palm is suggesting that Pre own simply cease upgrading iTunes to retain the ability to sync.


Google has announced plans to launch their own operating system, Chrome OS. Chrome OS will be a simple operating system that is based on Linux. Chrome is not expected to be as feature-rich as operating systems like Apple’s Mac OS X or Microsoft’s Windows. On the flip side, the computer should boot more quickly (fewer things to load) and run faster (due to the operating system requiring fewer system resources). Chrome OS will essentially allow a computer to run Google’s Chrome web browser. Will Chrome OS be a solution for everyone? No. But if you spend nearly all of your computer time in your web browser, it may be a good fit for you.

Google’s free web-based productivity suite Google Docs will face competition from Microsoft, as the software giant has announced plan to release a free web-based version of Microsoft Office next year. The web version won’t include all of the features that will be available on the desktop version of Office, but it might be a good solution for many people.


The country of Ukraine has banned the Sacha Baron Cohen movie “Bruno”, saying that the movie is immoral. This will certainly be a death blow to the movie, ensuring lackluster crowds.

Oh, hey, just kidding. What I meant to say is that Sacha Baron Cohen will use this publicity to bolster his “bad boy” image, and that the banning will make more people flock to the theater to see what all the fuss is about.


Bank of America, which is not one of my favorite companies, charged a New Hampshire man 23 quadrillion dollars for a purchase at a local gas station where he often purchased cigarettes. The man was also charged a $15 “over the limit” free. After two hours on the phone, Bank of America removed the charge and the fee from his account.

Capitol Shooting

Officers shot and killed a man near the US Capitol on Wednesday. The man was trying to elude police. He jumped out of his car and began shooting at officers. I stumble across this sort of story occasionally, and always wonder what on earth is going through the person’s head. Do they think that the cops aren’t going to shoot back?

Sears Tower

The Sears Tower is no longer the tallest building in the United States. What happened? Did someone sneakily build a taller building? No, the Sears Towers was renamed Willis Tower as part of an agreement with Willis Group Holdings. The 110 story tall tower opened in 1973. Sears moved out of the building in 1992, but the Sears named has been retained until now. I wonder how many years (or decades) will pass before Chicagoans begin referring to it as Willis Tower?


The Yankees recently signed Damian Arrendondo, a 16 year old shortstop from the Dominican Republic, to a contract worth $850,000. (Note: international players may be signed as young as 16). Major League Baseball invalidated the contract when it was determined that the player was not actually named Damian Arrendondo, and that he was older than 16. No word yet on whether he is truly a shortstop.

Why the fascination with ages of these kids? After all, if a player is good, he’s good, regardless of whether he is 16 or 18, right?

Not exactly. Take this outside of the baseball world for a bit. If a 1 year old can count to 10, he’s a genius. If a 7 year old can count to 10, you’re not impressed. Yet, it’s the exact same skill. It’s the same with baseball skills. A 16 year old may exhibit the exact same skills as an 18 year old, but the 16 year old is a better prospect because he’s ahead of his peer group in the development curve.