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Saturday, 28 July 2007

Who should have died in Harry Potter #7?

In Wednesdays USA Today there was an article about an interview with J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series. In this interview she tells who the two characters that originally weren't supposed are, as well as the character who got a reprieve is.

Well, the two ended up getting killed were Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks and the one who got reprevie was Arthur Weasley.

In the interview, Rowling says:

Fred, Lupin and Tonks really caused me a lot of pain. … Lupin and Tonks were two who were killed who I had intended to keep alive. … It's like an exchange of hostages, isn't it? And I kept Mr. Weasley alive. He was slated to die in the very, very original draft of the story.

Monday, 23 July 2007

Harry Potter #7 (Spoiler Alert!)

Well, I just finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Do not read further unless you want to be spoiled.

Back in April I posted how my Mother, Sister and I had each made a list of three people we thought would probably include the two people J.K. Rowling said would die:

One character got a reprieve, but I have to say two die that I didn't intend to die...A price has to be paid. We are dealing with pure evil...They go for the main characters... well, I do.

Having talked with BriGal, a friend from #userfriendly on Undernet, I realized that we three interpreted things wrong. It wasn't two deaths that were going t happen, it was deaths = 2 + N, with the plus N being Voldemort (obviously) and the N - 1 not quite so important people who died as well. All in all, over seventy characters die in the book, with 20 of them named specifically along with an unnamed family of Muggles, a bunch of Gringotts goblins and 51 unnamed others dying in the defence of Hogwarts against Voldemort's army.

My Mom – guessing Ron Weasley or Hermione Granger, Professor McGonagall, and Draco or Lucius Malfoy – didn't get any right.

Janelle - – guessing Voldemort, Percy and a member of the Order of the Phoenix – got two right, though I think that Voldemort dying was a gimme and since the OotP were the good guy warriors and one of them dying was pretty likely.

Me, I guessed Draco, Molly or Arthur Weasley and Professor Snape, so I got one right. I guess I';ll have to eat my words about Snape not truly being Dumbledore's agent, as it turns out that Dumbledore intended Snape to kill him.

There were a few things I would have liked to see in this book, like more of Neville, Ginny and others from Hogwarts, but Harry, Ron & Hermione were on the lam for most of the book so I can see how that wasn't possible. Rowling's writing style doesn't really seem to have secondary side plots, so characters not directly involved tend to get left out. Also, even though Ron was supposed to be affected by wearing the real locket, I though his estrangement from Ron and Hermione to be a bit forced and his return had a tinge of deus ex machina to it, but it's not the first time for that in the Potter-verse and nor is it the only time in this book, what with Dobby appearing out of nowhere at the Malfoy's.

All in all, I give this book a 4 out of 5, and the postscript at the end, Nineteen Years Later, makes me wish there were other books ahead.

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Is Facebook being Infested with Spam?

In the past few weeks I've gotten friend requests on Facebook from people whom I do not know. And I don't mean people that I haven't seen in ages that I may have forgotten, I mean people I have never met — in Real Life™ or on-line.

All three of these people have in their profile in interests the exact same advertisement for this "SCHOLARSHIP4FREE" website.

The friends lists of these three people are abnormal, too. If you're familiar with Facebook, you know that one can limit which parts, if any, of your profile which people can see based on whether or not people are on or not on your friends list. You can also pick specific people and limit what they can individually see. So if you take a random person on Facebook and list their friends, a little bit more than half the Names will be links to their profiles and the other (slightly less than) half will not be links because they have made their profile private, visible only to approved friends. In these spam-peoples' friends lists, not a single one has a visible profile. One oddity.

The average person also has a large number of their Facebook friends in one network, usually the same network they themselves are part of. For the first two spam-people who sent me a friend request, each and every one of their friends was in a different network and these networks were so widely scattered across the globe that it seems a rather unlikely list of friends. This third spam-person, who's friend request came to me today, has two friends in one network, but all the rest are each in a different network. Nor were of these spam-people from whom the friend requests came actually in a network themselves. Second oddity.

From the 8th through the 15th I had holidays from school, and since I was so bored I took one of the these spam-people and wrote down “her” list of friends and then I went through the friends of those friends and then the friends of the friends of the friends, a total of four levels. For us real people, our friends usually know each other and everybody in the group is in each other's friend list. Not so for these spam-people. None of their friends knew each other and it was the rare friend of a friend of a friend who had another friend of a friend of a friend in their friend list. Third oddity.

Any single one of those three things would be unremarkably odd. I know a bunch of people on Facebook who haven't placed themselves in a network — yet most of their friends are in the same network and they know each other. I'm sure there are some well travelled people who have friends and acquaintances all over the globe, yet again there are clusters of friends in the same network and some level of common friends. Ball these things together plus the spamvertisement? It's just too much a coincidence.

They have got to be false networks of friends set up under false pretenses that randomly send friend requests to real people. The real people go “Hunh? Who's this?” and look up the profile for a clue. Et voilà, they have seen the spam!

The odd thing is, I have been thinking of writing a “Facebook crawler” that would trace friend-links for either a “Seven Degrees Of…” game, or to us the data in an OpenGL program that would create a three-dimensional graphical web of how people are connected. I guess somebody got there ahead of me and decided to use it for nefarious purposes. :-P