21 July 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Today I watched Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the fifth and latest movie in the series. I quite enjoyed it. It's relative newness and freshness may be colouring my current thoughts on it, but I think this movie is the best of the bunch--which is a very good trick for most sequels. With notable exceptions, I find most sequels less enjoyable than the originals.

I've never read any of the Harry Potter novels, by J.K. Rowling, though I did try to read the first book a while ago. If memory serves, I gave up after the first few pages because I found the writing style, narrative, and language to be stilted and simplistic. I can't completely fathom why these novels are so popular among so many adults.

I have seen all the Harry Potter movies. Some were better than others, but I've enjoyed all of them with, as I noted above, the latest being the best so far. Harry didn't alienate his friends for too long, much to my relief, and this movie introduced and expanded upon interesting characters. The actress who played Dolores Umbridge was great--very creepy. Luna Lovegood was fun. The special effects were great, except for one brief second or so with fireworks that looked obviously computer-generated. The climax was well done--an extensive magical battle.

There were some parts of this movie I didn't like. Cho Chang annoyed me from her very first appearance in the previous movie (Goblet of Fire) and that didn't change in this latest--even before Cho Chang's forced confession. During the climax I was distracted throughout trying to figure out the identity of one of the students. Turns out she was Ginny Weasley--I guess I should have recognized her since Ginny does appear before the climax, but, oh well. I only know who she was now because I looked up the cast list with matched pictures (thanks, wikipedia!).

Also thanks to looking at the cast list, I discovered that Emma Thompson plays Professor Sybill Patricia Trelawney, a role she's had since the third movie. Now that I know it seems patently obvious, but I completely missed it.

Anywhoo, overall I liked this movie and I'm glad I watched it.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

10 July 2007

Comcast customer service

Last night I was forced to telephone Comcast regarding my cable bill. I say "forced" because I only phone customer service--of any category--as a last resort, when all other options have failed or aren't applicable. My extreme reluctance to telephone customer service, in this case Comcast, is due to the frustratingly long time it takes to actually speak to a real person; pardon me, but I'm only phoning because what I need can't be answered/accomplished any other way, so why the heck do I have to jump through metaphorical hoops before speaking to someone?

With Comcast, no matter the time of day, I invariably get the automated, "We are currently experiencing unusually high call volumes. Please stay on the line and your call will be answered in the order it was received or you may wish to hang up and call again later." Ugh. As I mentioned in a previous post (Hello? Anyone there?), if this happens all the time, it's not unusual--perhaps I should buy them a dictionary.

Well, as I said, last night I phoned Comcast, but... what was this... it was different! Yes, I had to cycle through two automated menus, but then the message was, "We are currently experiencing unusually high call volumes. Please try again later." Then... and then... get this... Comcast HUNG UP on me!?!? What the heck?!

I stared at the phone in disbelief for a few seconds. Did *they* just hang up on *me*? That's a switch. I just had to try again to see if it was a bad connection, or if Comcast did that on purpose. It wasn't, and they did.

My first response was irritation. But on further thought, I decided it was better than the alternative of waiting on the phone for an eternity and a half. Still, I think the best option would have been Comcast to provide an estimate of the wait time, and then give the customer the option of hanging up or waiting.

Anywhoo, this morning I tried again and surprise surprise I got through on my first try. I have to say the representative I spoke to was great--polite, professional and helpful, and best of all, I had no trouble whatsoever understanding her English, unlike reps in other companies ::cough:: Dell ::cough:: I've had the displeasure of contacting.

Overall, a definite improvement in Comcast customer service.

07 July 2007

Springfield comes to Maryland

My brother's attendance at the grand opening of his local Kwik-E-Mart (Kwik-E-Mart opens in Canada) inspired me to visit the Kwik-E-Mart in my neck of the woods on the poorer side of town. I left relatively early, hoping to miss weekend/holiday traffic, and was mostly successful except for the accident that cost me 20 minutes to drive 0.3 miles.

The anticipation of getting there was much more exciting than the store itself, I have to say. As soon as I walked through the doors I felt a little deflated. I couldn't seem to maintain the same level of enthusiasm over a redecorated 7-Eleven. I bought the obligatory sprinkled donuts, a can of Buzz Cola and left. Still, with the mostly pleasant drive it was a worthwhile trip.

On a side note, I'm really happy with my Magellan Roadmate 2200T. It would be true of any navigation unit, I suppose, but having it certainly gave me confidence to take the first exit I could, instead of crawling my way through backed-up traffic, and know I'd still be able to arrive at my destination.

Site visitors in June 2007

It's a little late, but here are the top 5 site visitors in June 2007, listed by countries:

1) United States,
2) Sweden,
3) Canada,
4) Great Britain,
5) European Union.

Full list for June 2007.

Site visitors in previous months