Thursday, July 31, 2008

Graduate School: A Look Back

This past week I was in New Mexico finishing up my master's degree by defending my thesis. Everything went really well, and now I merely have to wait till I can get the degree officially around December. The last two years have been a time of great personal changes, where I have met many new friends who I don't doubt that I will in contact with throughout the remainder of my life. I have changed my mind many times over during this time about how exactly my life should be going, but I really feel with this job at Quest software that I have hit upon a good career for me.

It seems strange, after so many years of school, that I am now thinking about my life in these terms. I have been eagerly anticipating this time in my life. I have always thought of this time as the point where I would finally be able to enact many of my goals, such as getting some of my fiction published. I'm not gonna lie, now that its here I am a little frightened but also excited about the prospects. Much of what I am now, and how I view the world has been changed by my experiences in New Mexico.

From the first moment I set foot on that dusty soil, I began to think of coming home. In fact, within two weeks time I was on the phone with Jess trying to find some way to come home. For about a day or two I was completely sure that it had been a mistake and that I should go home and not even try. After many conversations, and some harsh words on both sides, I finally decided to make a go at it. I truly believe that this could very well be a decision that will cast a shadow on all future decisions to come. It truly was a crossroad in my life that could have led to a very different life.

With this decision made finally, I set about the rigamaroles of college life that at the time I had not done for over a year. This proved a little difficult to get through, but I eventually settled into a rhythm. If it weren't for several great friendships as well as my two jobs, I honestly don't know how I would have gotten through that first year. Uncertainties continued to plague me at every turn. I would consistently go to bed wondering if I had made the right decision. As time passed, things began to become more comfortable but I still missed those back home a great deal.

Missing Jess proved to be the greatest motivation I could have possibly had, as it has pulled me through many a tough spot and gotten me to where I am today. I want to thank all of you, and you know who you are, that have helped me get through this time in my life. Your words of encouragement have kept me afloat. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Review of The Dark Knight

I must first admit that I have never been a huge Batman fan, at least not over any of the other Superhero movies. And yes, I know that Batman is a Vigilante and not a Superhero (thank you Roger). Anyway, I never craved that I love Batman or anything like that. It was a good story with an interesting character but I was never a huge fan of Tim Burton's original Batman or any of the others that followed it. That all change when I saw Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins starring Christian Bale. I'll admit that most of the reason I saw it in the first place was because I am such a huge fan of Christian Bale thanks to Disney's immortal classic Newsies.

Beyond that, there were so many great things about Batman Begins but also some drawbacks. There were some problems with pacing at times, which plagues any genesis story coming from the world of comic books. The film maker must contend with the 'Batman faithful', those comic book afficionados who have been following the stories for many years. In this case, the director and screenwriter must decide how much to leave in the story to remain faithful to the source material as well as how much to change to appeal to a broader audience to rake in more money. I can confidently say that the sequel, The Dark Knight, has found a very good balance , at least I assume so. I have heard some rumblings that they didn't follow the storyline of the comic books but I have never read them.

My rationalization for saying they have a good balance comes from many personal and professional reviews that I have heard in the short time this movie has been out. Comic book fans and those new to the series appear to like it in equal measure. Having just gone to see it last night, I can completely understand why. There is so much going on in this movie, that it is hard to critique it all so I'll start with the acting.

Any discussion of acting must inevitably start with the late Heath Ledger, who will definitely be missed after this oscar-worthy performance. He managed to completely reinvent a character that was so iconically portrayed by Jack Nicholson in the past. His characterization was a perfect way to bring in a new kind of criminal into the slums of gotham city, one that seems more interested in the anarchy involved than in any kind of personal profit. Without giving anything away in the movie, it is well portrayed by the filmmaker's throughout the entirety of the movie. Remember this: how do you make a pencil disappear? Keep that in mind, and you'll like the movie better for it.

The rest of the actor's are equally good throughout the course of the movie. Christian Bale brings a believability to the character that I feel was missing in the other movies. Maggie Gyllenhall and Aaron Eckhart have a believable and necessary connection. Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine are predictably excellent in their respective roles and bring a weight to the movie that only seasoned actors are capable of. The plot of the movie can be somewhat formulaic at times, but never brings down the overall rating of this movie.

In the end, I would recommend this movie to all who like a good yarn. Be forewarned, however, that this is a very violent movie but not in the gory sense necessarily. However, it has more violence than I would have assumed in a PG-13 movie. Other than that, everyone should go see it. You won't be disappointed.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Retirement

The man and the woman sat chatting while the last rays of the summer sun spilled over them through the thatched roof of the tribal hut. They were here on vacation, something that they had been wanting for quite a long time. The typical trials of everyday life had kept them from doing what they been longing for every day to this point: enjoy their lives to the fullest. It was only with their long-awaited retirement that they were finally able to kick back, relax, and enjoy themselves. This was the fourth stop on a trip that was designed to slowly but surely circumnavigate the globe.

It had started 5 years prior, after their last child had left the proverbial womb and had begun to live on his own. Both of them were a few years shy of retirement age and from this point on they began to plan how they would spend the beginning of their autumn years. He had experienced a large boom in business several years before this and had invested all of his money wisely so money was not an issue. That, combined with both of their retirement plans, gave them the financial cushion that they would need to do things that most never dare dream of doing.

It only took them two years to fulfill the federal requirements for retirement, but it took them another three years to decide the actual course of the trip. They couldn’t initially decide how much of the trip to spend with sight-seeing or how much of the trip to spend lying in each other’s arms. This battle was raging for several months before they looked at each other one day and realized just how silly they were being. After several minutes of out of control laughter between the two of them, they gave each other a nice long hug and he gave her a soft peck on the forehead. At this moment in time, they were content simply to be with each other. This realization forced through to them that it didn’t really matter what they did as long as they were with each other. The actual destination didn't matter as much as the ability to spend it together.

Once all of the plans were set in motion, they merely had to wait until the appropriate time when they would both set off for the airport. As with any trip worth having, this would most likely start at about 2 in the morning! Once there, however, none of the pressure of the trip would get to them because they were spending so much time together and they knew that this would be one of many similar trips throughout the remainder of their lives together.

They felt renewed again as they continued with their trip. All of the stresses of their married life and all of the petty arguments melted away under the coastal breezes coming off of the Mediterranean as they sat holding hands. Though they were considered quite elderly by this time, at least by the standards of the increasingly youth-centered society, at heart they felt much the same way they had many years past when they had first met each other. They knew everything there was to know about each other and yet they were finding knew and interesting ways of viewing each other. They knew that when this trip was over nothing would ever be able to come between them, and the realization of this made them happy: happier than at any time during their long marriage. This intense love radiated out from them and made all those who came within close proximity happier, though they could not quite understand its source.

The sun set on the two of them, with their eyes constantly gazing out towards sea but their hands clasped tightly together. Before the light completely failed, she slowly shifted her eyes towards her husband only to find that he was looking at her as well. Their eyes met, and they smiled.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Ranting Superhighway

My god, it has become so difficult to write things of late. I've had several great reasons for my lack of production on the electronic page. I have, as always of late, continued to put my hard earned sweat and tears (most especially) into my thesis. I have been in the thick of a job hunt that seems eternal, as I'm sure it always does but this is the longest I have had to wait since I started working at McDonald's when I was 17. Lastly, Jess and I have moved ourselves body and soul out of our apartment in Dublin to our new house in Clintonville. We still have many different boxes to unpack and furniture to rearrange. I expect that we will be doing this for a good long while yet until we feel completely at home.

It is strange to me how easy it becomes to acclimate to a new environment. Though things are completely new in many ways (eerie noises, I'm talking about you), the familiarity comes from having our material possessions scattered around this new locale. I am sitting here now in my office, the first time I've really felt like I had one all to myself and can thus do with it as I please, typing away to all of you eager readers out there and I feel perfectly content where I am. There is no hint to the astute observer that I am an alien to this space, that I have taken this place over for myself. Well... I suppose the scattered boxes are a pretty big hint, but I could just be a slob as well. No, I don't suppose that Jess would really stand for me falling back to habits of yore. :)

My point here, if there really is one, is to stress the amazing ability that we as humans have to overcome all types of obstacles. Whether it be a serious calamity or a mundane obstruction, we continually find a way to force our brains to function normally when the abnormal comes to pass. I truly think that if we did not possess this ability, this true sentience of thought and of being, that we would be adrift on the tides of time and would fall where we may. Whoah.. I guess I got a little poetic there for a second, but I like the ring of it so I think I'll keep it.

If you are still with me on this ranting superhighway, I applaud you. I would like to speak briefly about the future of this blog. I have many ideas that I am finding it harder and harder to put into play, but they still remain. I haven't had an original piece of fiction on here since October, I think, and I would dearly like to fix that. It is my hope that once I find a job and once this madness surrounding my thesis is concluded that I will fall into a routine that will find me, if indeed a routine were to have self-awareness, writing on a very consistant and daily basis. It is only with this that I feel I can give you as the reader something of interest as well as fulfill my own inner desire to travel along the crazy corridors of my imagination. Thank you all very much and remember that animals are people too!!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Trade from a Dying Team

It appears that the Indian's run last year into the playoffs was a one-time thing, and it saddens me to see this team fall so far from the glory and grandeur of last year's team. While they could still technically produce a winning season, at 15 games under the .500 mark at 37 and 52 it seems extremely unlikely. The trade of C.C. Sabathia seems to confirm this, since this trade leaves only Cliff Lee to give us consistent starts. Until Westbrook and Carmona return from there stints on the DL, as well as Hafner and Martinez, it is highly unlikely that the Indians will play like we all know they are capable of playing.

Even when they do return, it will take a complete change in the way the Indian's appear to be playing baseball to make the second half of the season enjoyable for the fans. Right now, from what I have seen, it does not look like a team playing out there. Instead, I am reminded of a little league team where glory only comes from personal accomplishments and a victory for the team is second. Of course, everyone on both sides of a little league game still has fun so does it really matter? They aren't getting paid millions, or at least hundreds of thousands, to play a game. I apologize if I sound a little frustrated, but I am. After watching the heartache of the ALCS last year, I came into this season looking forward to a season of wins not losses. I, like many of my fellow Indian's fans, believed that this just might be the year and that we would finally get the ring that was stolen back in '97 against the Marlins.

I certainly didn't expect this monstrosity of a season, where I have seen one of the most potent offenses of last year fail to score more than three runs in half of the games. This is ludicrous for a team comprised of major league hitters. Absolutely ludicrous and it has become an exercise in futility to even watch them these days. I seriously get depressed watching them, after having lived through the team that brought us to the series twice in the nineties and annually made it to the playoffs. In a year where the Tampa Bay Rays, though I still think of them as the Devil Rays, are in first place over the Red Sox and the Yankees no amount of excuses are enough for this high-profile Indians team. In many ways, it is teams like the Rays, who seem to genuinely enjoy the game and play like there is no tomorrow, that keeps me coming back to the sport. I need to see an Indians team that doesn't appear like rich old men sitting back in lawn chairs while they sip at their wine and talk like Thurston Howell III. They need to, I believe, remember what it is about the game that got them playing in the first place. If they can't do this, I am afraid there is no hope for the current incarnation of the Cleveland Indians.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Respect the Popcorn Gods

Popcorn has finally had its revenge upon me! After years of gleefully enjoying its buttery flavor, it apparently has decided that enough is enough. Jess and I went to go see Hancock yesterday, which was quite good, and halfway through the movie I picked one seemingly innocuous kernel out of the bag and proceeded to bite into it. What happened next was surprisingly painless, but still abrupt. I felt a little bit of pain, but then a sort of pop. I could feel something that was definitely not popcorn in my mouth and I fished it out.

At first, I didn't even realize that anything with my tooth had specifically happened. I thought that I had encountered a steel-hardened popcorn kernel. Then I looked at it and it was definitely white, or as white as I could perceive under the harsh illumination of my cell phone screen in the darkness of the movie theater. Even then, I did not connect the dots really that it was a part of my tooth. My original thought was that it was a filling, of which I have several old ones from my youth, and had popped out of its cavity. Then my brain started working correctly and I reasoned that if that was the case that I ought to be feeling some pain from this previous hole in my tooth.

Not quite knowing what to do, but secure in the fact that it was painless I kept watching the movie and also continued eating popcorn! Of course, I made sure to stay away from the left side of my mouth. At some point during the movie, I reached in to extricate a bit of popcorn fluff that incessantly gets stuck in-between teeth. While I was in there, I felt around a bit more and realized that there was a very sharp edge on my back molar, much sharper than on the other side. After feeling around a little bit more, I came to the conclusion that I had actually cracked my teeth while eating popcorn.

Luckily for me, there is no pain and I feel comfortable waiting till Monday to schedule an appointment. In the future, though, I will be certain to pray to the popcorn gods before devouring them so as to allay any righteous actions on their part. I have been taking advantage of them for far too long, but let me be the first to say that they deserve our respect and we should give it to them.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The State of the Sean Address

I have finally received the green light from my adviser for my thesis. Finally, I have finished my thesis as to content. I still need to reread pretty much the entire thing to do some minor grammatical changes but the important part, at least to my impending graduation, has been completed. Now I must figure out the best time to get together with my committee, but it needs to be in enough time to graduate which makes it tricky. I still need to figure out the bureaucratic part of the whole thing, but with Rani's help I think I should be fine.

Beyond that I am still looking for jobs. While I am continuing my search, I will be working part-time at Blockbuster. This will be nice, I think, because I will once again be able to enjoy the free rentals. I don't anticipate the job hunt to go on too long, however, as I am confident that I have quite a few marketable skills. The trick, as it always is, is to figure out how best to put these together with the current job pool. In the meantime, I am busy with the move to the new apartment and all the grown-up things that correspond to moving. But.. as of July 12, 2008 Jess and I will be officially moved in. It is very exciting.

Beyond that, there isn't a great deal going on in my life. I am trying, sometimes in vain, to keep writing. Sometimes I just need to sit myself down and make myself do it, as I have done with this post. The funny thing is that as soon as I do sit down and run my fingers across the keys I instantly remember how much I enjoy writing and I can feel the creative juices stirring. Unfortunately, it is becoming harder to make myself do it sometimes. I am attributing that to the stress of finishing my thesis and finding a job and moving into a new house. I fully expect that I will find it easier when Jess and I are better situated into the new house. Until next time, it is never a good time to settle on anything.