Thursday, November 10, 2005

Fourth Book

Well, i'm sick in bed, and having started the fourth Harry Potter book, and having not much else to do, i've continued reading it. I should mention that i always identified more with Hermione than with Harry. When i saw the first movie for the first time, this feeling was really quite strong. So strong that it had me worried that something was wrong with me. I mean, i'm alot older than my picture - you can see it in my profile. Its totally inappropriate for someone my age to have a crush on an 11 year old - no matter how cute she is.

Eventually, though, it dawned on me that i'd read the book first. It wasn't the cute actress, after all. It was Rowling's book that was so, uhm, enchanting. I had identified with Hermione because she's smart and wise and hard working, and, did i mention smart? Cute helps, but in the book, she's not supposed to be that cute - in fact, she has a little overbite - buck teeth. Fixed in the fourth book, courtesy of the contemptible Draco Malfoy. Did i mention i'm into irony? And ironic justice is the best.

In the wizarding world, knowledge is power - like time is money in the real world. Well, in my world, that is, computer programming, knowledge is power in exactly the same way. The more you know, the more control you have over computers. I mean, computers are perfect slaves - they'll do whatever you want - exactly, to the letter. But if you don't know how to tell them what to do, they can't do it.

Some of this knowledge is telling computers how to do things fast. Let's say that you want a computer to multiply two nine digit numbers together. Well, multiplication is repeated addition. If you have A times B, then you can add A to itself B times in a loop. Now, if you notice, the computer can add A to itself just about as fast as it can add B to itself. So, if A is bigger than B, adding B to itself gets the answer quicker than adding A. But if the smallest of A and B is 1,000,000,000 (because they're both 1,000,000,000) - then it could take a long time. On my computer, it takes about 1.2 seconds, when written in C. The answer is 1000000000000000000, of course. While 1.2 seconds doesn't seem like much, the amount of time increases with the size of the numbers. So, there are other methods that are much faster. One of these takes less than a thousandth of a second - which is to say, my computer performs it so fast that it can't easily measure how long it takes. While i know how to do it this way, my compiler also knows how to do it. Since i know the compiler is competent, i can save some of my time and effort by letting it do it. Naturally, this is a contrived example. But i like to think about these things. Yesterday, i clustered a 2,000,000 row table on my home computer, and reduced a query by a third - that is, it used to take about twenty minutes, and now it takes about thirteen minutes. My computer performs this every day, so it now saves about seven minutes a day. And, i learned a little doing the exercise.

So while reading the book, i remembered that i'd forgotten how often i want to slap Harry for doing something stupid or unwise. It probably won't be in the movie, but Harry is at one point in bed and thinks "Hagrid had a point... they were all right, really, dragons...". And this is after Harry meets one face to face, up close and personal, and was in a continuous panic for days beforehand. At least he'd learned about Rita, and when she asked him for a word, he wisely said, "Goodbye". It was one word, as asked, and very funny, too. So, Harry isn't totally brainless.

So, my favorite part of The Goblet of Fire isn't the chapter entitled The First Task, but rather The Weighing of the Wands. It starts out with Hermione meeting Harry with a stack of toast, so he doesn't have to go down to breakfast. And she says "Want to go for a walk?". Then she tells him what's wrong with Ron, and hands him parchment and a pen to write to his Godfather. So, she's smart, and wise, and kind, and cute, and did i mention smart? And at the end of the walk, Harry obviously should bow to her and profess his undying love - though he doesn't. A missed opportunity, to be sure, and not the first or last.

Its going to be a fabulous movie. There isn't that much they can do to ruin it. Oh, sure, they'll have to cut things. They may even cut my favorite scene. However, i still have the book, and though i'll soon have read it four times, its likely i'll read it again.

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