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Squared Sevens Blogging Corp.
Saturday, 9 July 2005
The Sports Guy
Obviously there are a lot of things that are wrong in the world. But some things are alright too. One such thing is Bill Simmons, a.k.a. The Sports Guy on He may just be the most talented columnist writing on the web today, using his eclectic mix of encyclopedic sports knowledge, insider savvy, humorous anecdotes and twisted pop culture references to make every article a must-read.

A great example is this recent article about the All-Star break in the American League- he's completely riffing the whole way, writing the way he wants to, and this article is 10 times more interesting than any other just because of that. I enjoy his stuff so much that I'll even read his NBA articles- and seeing how much I've followed the NBA in recent years, that's high praise. Non-sports fans may not see what the big deal is about, but for those "in-the-know", he's a genius.

(Exception: When Simmons, a die-hard Boston fan, won't shut up about the Pats or the Red Sox. Provided you can move past that, you'll have a great time.)

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 12:21 AM EDT
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Monday, 4 July 2005
Fourth Post
Welcome to the Fourth of July Post version 2005. I just wanted to start this out by saying what an underrated holiday the Fourth of July is. It's a great holiday, right in the middle of summer, and a wonderful chance to do fun things like fireworks, grilling, backyard whiffleball games, you name it. I had kind of neglected it for a couple of years, until I got more involved and saw a lot of the cool stuff you could do. So don't sleep on the Fourth.

I did some of the cookout stuff on Sunday, with fairly good results until I about broke our friend's jetski. Other than that, and the bad weather, good times. Now about today- Although I had to work from 8 to 3 (w/ holiday pay), the day still ended up being pretty decent. After work, I just vegged out on the couch and watched classic fare like Independence Day on cable. After working a ton it was nice to sit around and not do anything. Eventually I got tired of doing nothing, and went for a jog. This was the first time I'd really been running in quite a while, but to be honest it didn't really feel that bad. I probably put in a couple of miles, a good start. Then just hung out with the parents and waited for the fireworks to begin.

I had a pretty good time tonight watching the fireworks. We live on the lake, and we've got a good view from the dock so at any time you can see at least five sets of fireworks going off at a time. As an added bonus our neighbor puts on a fairly serious fireworks show from his pier about 500 feet away. Very nice. I was also drinking some Milwaukee's Best, and I'm not sure if that counts as a good or bad thing to be honest with you. After barely missing out on the Fourth last year due to being in Japan it was nice to be back and enjoy a "True American" holiday, fireworks and everything.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 11:55 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 5 July 2005 12:01 AM EDT
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Monday, 27 June 2005
Change of Pace
Enough with the serious posts. Time for something a little more lighthearted. I found this article about a week or two ago on Yahoo! News. Apparently, someone in Japan released a on book on sure ways to get seats during your train commute to work. And since many millions of people commute by train each day, it's no surprise the book became a best-seller.

The bottom line of any long train commute is that if you want a seat, you'll have to work to find it. Unless you start at a terminus, you'll almost always have to stand and kind of scope out an empty spot on a busy train. On the packed ones, you can't really move so you've got to try to get in front of one person and hope their stop comes up soon. It's always tough to stand for an hour plus in a cramped train car, and I never even had to do that after a long day at work. If you're lucky, a seat close by will vacate quickly. If you're not lucky, hope you like standing.

According to the book, the trick is knowing who to look for. Some of these tips are actually pretty good. The tip about standing next to students is clever, and the thing about ladies putting on their makeup wouldn't occur to most people. Of course, everyone knows if the person taking up the seat in front of you is dead asleep with their mouth hanging open, you're pretty much screwed either way- better get out that Asahi Shimbun and start reading, cause you're not going to sit anywhere til you reach your stop.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 12:03 AM EDT
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Thursday, 23 June 2005
Busted Bonneville
Looks like the old dependable Bonny is going to be out of commission for awhile. It all started a couple of months ago when I noticed the engine was running at dangerously high temperatures while driving up I-77. Turns out the radiator was almost completely dry- not a good thing at all. So I replaced the antifreeze, but I noticed that the car was using up an inordinate amount of the stuff. Refilling the coolant in your engine every other week or so can get expensive, trust me. Dad and I tried to find an external leak, with no luck. Eventually we did some research, took it to a shop, and decided to take apart the engine ourselves to diagnose the problem.

Apparently, the EGR valve melted/damaged the the upper plenum and gasket, causing coolant to rush into the intake manifold. Which if left unchecked will flood the engine's cylinders with liquid, causing them to lock up. Which is not good. At a minimum we'll need to replace the manifold assembly, which has been estimated in the hundreds of dollars. Not good when I don't have a real job and am basically losing money every month. At least we will save some dough on labor by doing it ourselves. Until then, I'll be driving the parent's cars, which isn't that bad at all I suppose.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 11:06 PM EDT
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Typed Yesterday.
I typed this yesterday but Angelfire wasn't working. Adjust past and present tenses as necessary.

Today is a day that I will remember for a long time. And not necessarily for good reasons. It began what feels like years ago as I woke up early to go to a job interview in Charlotte. It was for an insurance sales job, and I never really thought I would take the job but I had just been applying to whatever opening that I qualified for. While the company seemed to have its act together, I had a bad feeling that I did not want to be a salesman, insurance or otherwise. It's just not what I ever saw myself doing. What complicated matters is that the insurance guy wanted me to decide about the job later that afternoon. Needless to say, I had to make a decision and quickly. Let me tell you, I'm not good about big decisions and I had been getting pretty worked up over it because I knew that I needed a job, and this one looked decent, but I had to decide that a sales career was not going to be my path.

So this lead to a serious discussion with my parents over the future- my future, to be exact. Basically, I have been putting off that decision over what I was going to do with my life for a long time. Plenty of things interested me but nothing exactly popped out in front of me. Now, without any income and turning down a potential career it seemed to be time to get more specific as to my plans and I was definitely feeling the pressure. To be honest, I don't remember a whole lot from this late morning and early afternoon, as my mind was racing the whole time. I was definitely getting worked up to the point where I wasn't sure if I would have an appetite for lunch and dinner. I haven't felt that anxious in a while and I wasn't happy about this at all.

Basically, because I need to make a decision. Because I just might have wasted four years in college. Because key actions that I needed to take a year ago did not happen and I'm paying the price for it now. Because it may be a full year until I begin any graduate school or go teach in Japan with JET. Because everyone else in my family transitioned seamlessly from school to work/graduate school. Because my first full time job is going to be tough no matter what. Because I'm not even sure if I work now what field that will be in. I couldn't even tell you if I want to work in the public or private sector. It feels like I've been coasting along for my whole adult life and currently I have nothing to show for it.

On the other hand... I'm not the only one. Many people have problems like these coming out of college. But that doesn't mean that I have to like it. The only question is, what's next?

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 10:41 PM EDT
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Saturday, 18 June 2005
Wayback Machine
It's amazing how long you can go without listening to a certain album or piece of music. And then you hear it, and it takes you all the way back in time. Take for example OUtkast's double album Speakerboxx/the Love Below. I bought the CD when it came out in Japan in September 2003 soon after I arrived in Japan at Tower Records Shibuya. I remember buying it as an excuse to test out if my credit card would work in Japan and also because the double CD helped to justify the high price (something like 23 dollars, most CDs in Japan are ridiculously expensive). I also remember I let one person get a copy of the CD, then the next thing you know it seemed like half the exchange students at Obirin had a copy of it. Funny how that worked out.

I'd go back to my homestay at night and listen to the CDs before I went to sleep. And I just popped in the CD to listen to it today, almost 2 years later, and it takes me back to those first couple of months that I was in Japan. That was kind of a seminal time in my life where I really grew up a lot. Here I was in this new place in a new way of life, having a great time but really learning a lot and dealing with many uncertainties as well. A lot of new and exciting things were going on but many uncertainties as well. And every night I'd go home and listen to a CD, whether it was Outkast, Led Zeppelin, or Mr. Lif's Emergency rations. Soon, my sister came to Japan to visit and I let her borrow the Outkast. Wouldn't you know it, she had it for like a year before she returned it. I finally gave it another listen today, and all I can say is it definitely takes me back to my early days in Japan.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 12:32 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 18 June 2005 12:41 PM EDT
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Thursday, 16 June 2005
Batman Begins- Again
I just saw Batman Begins tonight. Overall, I'm pleased with the result. My first impression was how strong the movie was overall. There's really no weak points to be had and the flick is sure to satisfy diehards and most casual moviegoers. The movie's real strength is its thematic elements. I really enjoyed how the movie examined Batman's motivations, his use of fear against his opponents, and other questions like the meaning of justice.

The script's real tight. Everything happens for a reason and there's not a lot of unneccesary filler, and all of the scenarios and character motivations seem to be plausible enough. The characters are all fairly well developed and there's a lot of psychological warfare going on- in fact, the dullest part of the movie might be the obligatory Batmobile chase, just because the story isn't moving forward. Christian Bale was born to play the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman and there isn't really any weakness in the rest of the cast cast.

Director Christopher Nolan went for a look of black and dark orange/brown, for a striking effect. He did a fine job with the rest of the direction, although he might want to find a different second unit director for some of the faster paced fight scenes (but then again, I'm real particular about that). I suppose the only real problem I had was with some of the humor they interjected into some of the action scenes. In a movie as serious as this, I'd prefer if they left it on the cutting room floor.

So overall, good flick. For a series that has had so many problems I'm glad to say that it is back on track, and the fingers are definitely crossed for the sequels.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 2:23 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 8 June 2005
The Post-Graduation Post
It's sure been a long time, hasn't it. Sad to say that I've been pretty busy lately with little in the way of results to show for it. Most of my time has been spent doing the job search thing- the pace of progress has been a lot slower than I expected. It's partially that way because that's just how the process is, and partially that way because I'm not working as fast as I could submitting applications.

The main problem with it is that I'm being a huge perfectionist. Basically, it seems like everything I've read about the job search process is that one mistake can sink the entire job for you- whether it is in the cover letter, the resume, a phone conversation, or of course the interview. It seems like you've just got to do everything exactly the right way, and if you don't, well too bad. So since I've been trying to knock every document, every interaction out of the park, that kind of gums of the works for me personally. I hope things will speed up soon but for now patience is key.

In the meantime, I've took up a couple of part time jobs to keep myself busy. One is the good old dependable Food Lion cashier job, just like the old days. Yesterday when I was walking out to the carin the sweltering heat it felt like I was stepping into a time machine set for 2003. Definitely a sense of deja vu there. I'm also doing Ebay work for a neighbor selling some various items. This is really my first thourough Ebay experience so it's definitely been a learning process. It's been cool because I've been given a lot of tasks and responsibilites in the project, certainly more interesting than most other part time jobs. No bids up yet, but let's keep our fingers crossed.

Other stuff that I've been doing- I planned on cleaning out my room and my closet, something I really haven't done since before I left for Japan, but somewhere it got derailed and now there are clothes and empty boxes strewn all over my room. Gonna have to work on that. My Japanese studies have been slipping pretty bad, I tried to translate a page of Famitsu just tonight and it was definitely slow going. I'll get that figured out one day. Really haven't spent much time at all playing games, mostly it's been DVDs if I have the time. I've been watching the original Star Wars trilogy a lot, Chappelle's Show season 2, and the Hoop Dreams DVD which was recently released (and highly recommended). I rented Donnie Darko this past week, and while I liked a lot of the stylistic elements of the movie, I wasn't that impressed with the convoluted story. Maybe I'll give it another go round soon.

I talked to Ayana over the phone recently, which was nice. It must have been over a month since we talked so I had to make sure to keep up contact. Apparently, she's living up it with the slacker lifestyle over in Machida. It must be great to be a Japanese college student- people expect you to do even less work than in the States! Well, As long as she's having fun, right?

In the meantime, it looks like more job searching, Food Lion, room cleaning, and Ebaying mixed in as well. I'll keep you guys updated if anything exciting happens.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 1:08 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 25 May 2005
Movin' on out
College is really over, for real this time. I finally moved out all my stuff from the apartment back home today. I had wanted to stay a little longer, but Sammy left early and he took all of his stuff with him, including essentials such as the couch, TV, microwave, toaster, tables, even the silverware. If I stayed, I was really going to be roughing it. So why delay the inevitable? Either way, I'm still two weeks out of college with no job. A situation that I plan to change immediately, by the way. While my political science degree may not be as technical as some other disciplines, I've still got a strong academic record and a variety of experience to utilize in a job search. Just hope everything goes well.

Tonight I did something I haven't done in quite a long time, and that was watch a soccer(football) game. While I was glad to see any soccer on TV, the matchup of AC Milan vs. Liverpool in the Champions league final succeeded all expections. It was a tremendous showdown that probably even the most jaded American could enjoy. There's a good recap of the game here, and just you try to decpiher that very British English. While I did enjoy the match, I must say I wasn't impressed by Dudek's clowning during the penalty kicks. But if it works, and the refs won't call you on it... still, I wasn't very impressed by that at all. Otherwise, a great game, and I guess I will have to enjoy it because it will probably be another year or so till I see another match on American TV.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 10:21 PM EDT
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Friday, 20 May 2005
Star Wars Episode III Comments
Let me start off this review by saying that the release of Episode III, the final Star Wars movie to be released by creator George Lucas, is undeniably a major part of my life. Ever since I was a kid the Star Wars series has always been there to take me out of this world and into a galaxy far, far away. It's impacted me like no other form of entertainment before or since. So it is with sadness but also joy that the series comes to an end. While it is sad that the series is coming to an end, we should all feel glad in what it is and what it has accomplished.

On a personal level, it seems like no accident that the movies is released within a week of my graduation from college. A graduation that ended the education of my earlier years is follwed by the end of the saga that entertained me throughout my childhood. Some timing.

But enough with the philosphizing- how is the movie itself? Having gone to the midnight screening, I can sum Episode III up in one word- intense. From the beginning, which features perhaps the best action section I've yet seen, the movie grabs hold and doesn't let go until the credits. Perhaps it is the sense of impending doom that pervades the film, or the never-ending barrage of lightsaber battles. Or in seeing how all the pieces of the plot finally fall into place. Either way, the film is just one incredible sequence after another and I can guarantee that all of the action will keep your heart pounding throughout. (Can I mention how incredible the opening sequence is again? For once, it seems as if Lucas' use and abuse of CGI has finally paid off.)

As the movie is essentially a payoff for the prequel trilogy, as well as a bridge to the originals, bombshell plot developments are scattered throughout. Some of these will be already be known by fans, others will be less expected. With so many plot elements going on, This makes the movie essential repeated viewing material and truly the key to the rest of the saga. It seems that every scence has several layers of significance- especially for the original trilogy. I guarantee that you will want to schedule time for a viewing of A New Hope immediately after getting out of the theater.

Now, for the negatives. Again, much of the acting is suspect, and some dialog is downright cringe-worthy. Christensen and Portman again have zero rapport, and fail to convey the necessary gravity in their emotions. One incredibly key scene in Anakin's transformation is weakly handled, and it was sad to see Padme's character get reduced to almost nothing- save for a sure to be often-repeated phrase about the end of democracy.

On the plus side, both Ewan McGregor as Obi Wan and Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine deliver standout performances. Where Christensen's acting seems to be limited to a good mood or a bad mood, Macgregor is in control throughout and expertly communicates the the successes, failures, and torment of Kenobi. McDiarmid steals the show, changing between fatherly Palpatine and the cackling Darth Sidious with ease. Yoda, in full CGI form, isn't half bad either.

In many ways, the real star of this movie is the way it is tied into the original trilogy. We know many of the events that must occur, the only question is how? Even if we know what the outcome is, that does not detract from the drama at all. Take for example the Kenobi/Anakin showdown- even if we know the end result, it still remains a shocking event and a true climax to the Star Wars story.

In the end, I feel that this movie can stand on its own as one of the best in the series. Episode III has gradually recovered from the first two prequels to stand on its own and add to, rather than detract from, the Star Wars legend. From the first batte to the last screen wipe it is impossible to take your eyes away, and the anguishing themes of evil and betrayal provide an unexpected emotional depth that will keep you glued to your seat. Combine these elements together, I feel confident in saying that Episode III provided a fitting ending to the biggest movie saga of them all.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 12:57 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 20 May 2005 12:59 PM EDT
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