Tuesday Oct 23, 2007

"External, Malicious Attack?" I doubt it

I tried to buy World Series tickets online yesterday, but instead ran into 90 minutes of “Connection Failed” and “Server Too Busy” errors. Looks like I wasn’t alone in my frustration.

I find it interesting that the Rockies are blaming an "external, malicious attack," but refuse to provide details. As best as I can tell, they just weren’t expecting 8.5 million hits in the first 90 minutes and so assume they were the target of some sort of denial of service attack. But if we do the math, 8.5 million hits is perfectly reasonable. I was attempting connections about once per minute on at least five different browsers. Over 90 minutes that leads to 450 hits from me alone. 8.5 million divided by 450 equals 18,889 (rounding up). That means it would have taken less than twenty thousand people doing what I did to generate that much traffic. Given that Coors Field seats around fifty thousand people for each game, that doesn’t sound at all unreasonable. Furthermore, if you add in the opportunists who are trying to buy tickets only to turn around and sell them on ebay for a huge profit, I don’t think these kinds of numbers should be at all unexpected. So it looks to me like they just didn’t do their math before opening up the ticket sales, and are now trying to blame an attack instead of admitting they weren’t prepared. This speculation on my part could, of course, be completely wrong. Perhaps there really was an attack. But I doubt it.

They’re opening up sales again at noon today. Let’s hope they’ve actually added more bandwidth, or we’ll see a repeat of yesterday’s fiasco. I also hope they aren’t going to accidentally lock out legitimate customers in their attempts to prevent against DOS attacks.

Thursday Jul 19, 2007

Rank Ordering the Harry Potter Books

Continuing the Harry Potter theme this week, here is my rank ordering of the first six books in the series from favorite to least favorite.

  1. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. In addition to conveying key information about Voldemort and the over-arching plot, this book held together well, with good pacing. I also enjoyed seeing Harry’s maturing relationship with Dumbledore and the clues as to how much Dumbledore cared about and trusted Harry.
  2. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I liked this book also for its revelations about the over-arching plot and about James, Lupin, Sirius, and Wormtail, as well as its good pacing.
  3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. This first book in the series is difficult to compare to some of the later ones as it feels so light in comparison (and I don’t just mean physically!) However, the introduction to the wizarding world is unbeatable.
  4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I think the climax of this book, where Voldemort regains his full body and Harry escapes, is excellent. However, the book itself is I think a bit too long and bogs down in places. I also didn’t really like the whole impersonation plot point that much.
  5. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I haven’t re-read this one recently, but I remember feeling somewhat dissatisfied after reading it. I didn’t really like the whole chamber of secrets and diary plot, though after reading later books I can see better how they relate to the larger plot.
  6. Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix. I felt that this book bogged down somewhat and didn’t really further the over-arching plot much. I finished the book feeling somewhat frustrated. But note that even as my least-favorite in the Harry Potter series, I’d rather read it than most other books around!

Where will Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows fall?

Monday Jul 16, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Predictions

In my previous post I listed some questions that I hope to find answered in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. In this post, I’ll go a step further and make some predictions about the book. I’ve re-read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince between writing the previous post and this one, which has led me to think slightly differently about some of the questions I asked. Without further ado, here are the predictions.

  • Fawkes the Phoenix will adopt Harry. Now that Dumbledore, the previous owner of Fawkes, is dead (and yes, I believe he is truly dead and won’t return like Gandalf), I think there’s a good chance Harry could end up with a Phoenix as an animal companion.
  • Harry will kill Voldemort after finding and destroying the four remaining horcruxes. After re-reading the ending of Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix, in which Dumbledore explains the prophecy, I don’t think there’s a chance that it could now refer to Neville.
  • Harry’s scar will disappear. The scar was the connection to Voldemort, so at the time of Voldemort’s death it will vanish.
  • Severus Snape will sacrifice himself to save Harry. After re-reading the Half-Blood Prince, I believe that Dumbledore was wrong that Snape was on his side. The fact that Dumbledore was somewhat incorrect about the Horcrux in the cave (he didn’t know it had been removed already) serves to underscore his fallibility, thus lending credence to the theory that he was also wrong about Snape. That said, I think that Snape, unlike Voldemort, has the capacity to love, and truly feels guilty about Lily Potter’s murder (though perhaps not James’). Therefore, he will redeem himself in the end by helping Harry.
  • Draco will help Harry in some way. By the end of the Half-Blood Prince Harry feels sorry for Draco, with his previous dislike of Draco pushed out of the way by his overwhelming hatred of Snape. Although they’re unlikely to become friends, I think (or maybe hope) that Draco will come to realize Voldemort’s fundamental evilness and will help Harry in his quest to defeat him.
  • Hagrid will die. Harry has now lost his parents, his godfather (Sirius Black), and his mentor and father-figure (Dumbledore). Hagrid’s the adult remaining alive to whom Harry is closest, so following the pattern, he may lose his life in the final book.
  • Percy Weasley will make up with his family. I can’t believe that, when push comes to shove, a member of the Weasley family won’t come through in the end.
  • We’ll discover that Harry is related to Godric Gryffindor. This connection would be parallel to Voldemort’s descent from Salazar Slytherin. There have been hints, such as Harry’s use of Godric’s sword in The Chamber of Secrets, and the name, Godric’s Hollow, where Harry’s parents died.
  • Neville will use his herbology skills to help Harry defeat Voldemort.
  • Petunia will help Harry in some way. This help will include more than just allowing Harry back into her house one last time.
  • We’ll learn more about Dumbledore and his defeat of the dark wizard Grindelwald. Maybe also about Dumbledore’s brother Ableforth.
  • We’ll learn more about James and Lily Potter. I realize this is a bit vague, but there’s got to be more to the fact that Harry has his mom’s eyes.
  • The house-elves, or at least Dobby, will help Harry, rewarding him and Hermione for their kindness toward them.
  • Wormtail will repay his life-debt to Harry.

Reading through the predictions, I can see that I’m pretty optimistic about the outcome: Both Snape and Draco redeem themselves, none of the kids die, and Voldemort is defeated. Let’s see if J.K. Rowling agrees!

Thursday Jul 12, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Top-Ten Questions

In anticipation of the imminent release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, here are the top ten questions for which I hope to find answers or resolution in the final book.

  1. Whose side is Snape on? Is he truly a follower of Voldemort, really a loyal member of the Order of the Pheonix, just out for himself, conflicted, or playing both sides? I believe that whatever loyalties he currently has or has had in the past, he will redeem himself in the end, possibly by saving Harry’s life and in the process sacrificing himself.
  2. Why did Dumbledore trust Snape? While related to the first question, this point was emphasized so much in the last book that I think it will be important in this one.
  3. What will Draco do? He proved in the climax to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince that he wasn’t in his heart on the side of Voldemort. Will he redeem himself, as Dumbledore no doubt hoped?
  4. How will Wormtail repay his life-debt to Harry? Recall that Harry spared his life in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. This debt has not yet been repaid.
  5. What is the meaning of Dumbledore’s "gleam of triumph"? Recall that this look occurred when Dumbledore discovered that Harry’s blood was used to resurrect Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
  6. How will the prophecy be resolved? It states in part that, "…either must die at the hand of the other…" I think that Voldemort will be killed in the final book, but I’m not convinced that Harry will be the one to do it. Although not likely, I do think there’s a small chance the prophecy actually refers to Neville instead. Which brings me to…
  7. What will be Neville’s role? I think Neville will have a significant role to play in the final book – it will be interesting to see what it is.
  8. Who is R.A.B.? He claimed to have stolen one of the horcruxes. Speculation is that it’s Sirius’ brother.
  9. More information about Lily and the night of her murder? It seems like there are still some things we don’t know about that fateful night.
  10. Is there any more to Aunt Petunia? I suspect there are still a few things we don’t know about her.

Thursday Jul 05, 2007

Recent Reads

In this holiday week in the US, here's a list of the fiction I've read in the past couple months.

  • Hunting Badger by Tony Hillerman -- Typical Hillerman; a good quick read.

  • Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood -- I usually like Margaret Atwood's work, but this collection of short stories didn't do much for me.

  • Summerland by Michael Chabon -- My first exposure to Chabon's novels. This fantasy story was interesting, but didn't grab me the same way as other fantasy books I've read. I'll withold judgement on Chabon until I've tried some of his other novels ("The Mysteries of Pittsburgh" is up next).

  • Oblivion by David Foster Wallace -- David Foster Wallace is certainly unique. His writing is quite dense, and for the first time in quite a while I found myself needing to look up vocabularly words in a dictionary while reading fiction. Of the eight stories in the book, I enjoyed about three of them. I'd like to try one of his novels at some point, but maybe not immediately.

  • Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech -- this novel for kids was quite well-written and enjoyable.

  • The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason -- I wasn't impressed with this best-seller. The concept was interesting, but the characters didn't strike me as believable or well-developed.

  • The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow -- It took about 100 pages to get into, but after that the story carried me along.

  • Next by Michael Crichton -- (in progress)

Friday May 04, 2007

First Freedom First

I believe that freedom of religion is one of the most valuable aspects of life in the United States. To this end, I signed the First Freedom First online petition co-sponsored by the Interfaith Alliance Foundation and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.


Nick Solter is a software engineer and author living in Colorado.


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