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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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Monday, 16 May 2005
The Frugal Graduate?
When I used to think about life after graduation, I would think about new cars, nice apartments, fine eating, and endless trips overseas with my new found wealth. But now that I'm here, and after reading this article, I suppose it's time to be a little bit more realistic. Looks like toughing it out now will pay off in the future. But since I've been bumming it for the past couple years anyway, it shouldn't be that difficult. Guess the Corvette will just have to wait.

In other news, Dave Chappelle says he's not insane. Well, that's good news I guess.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 11:06 AM EDT
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Saturday, 14 May 2005
Graduation Day
I typed this up a couple of days ago but I decided to wait to put it up. As you know, I'm graduating tomorrow. This brings an end to my college career as well as my time as a student. Now, it's time to move on to bigger things. You'll have to pardon the length of the post, once I got started I just kind of kept typing until I was finished. I think it's all pretty important though. Well, here it is:

I'll be honest, I had been putting this one off for awhile- the official 2005 College Graduation Post. The reason is because this is such a major event for me, and I'm not quite sure quite how I can put my feelings about it down into text properly. Eventually I just realized I can't write the perfect entry, so why bother. I'm just gonna put down what I've been thinking and go from there.

First of all, it's really great that I am getting to graduate. Even if I always kind of took it for granted that it would happen, even if more and more people are graduating these days, it is still a significant accomplishment. I know a lot of bright people that haven't made it to this point. Another good point is that I will graduate in four years, with a pretty good GPA (3.4) especially in my major. That is, of course, after going on academic probation my first semester here. So at least being a nerd will pay off in that respect. Also thanks to my parents, I don't owe anyone a dime and I've got a good base for starting my life in the workforce.

But I'll be honest, I was bumming a little bit about graduation too. College has its fair share of difficulties but overall we all know it's a pretty cushy way of living. Also, this marks the end of my period of education in my life. For 17+ years, basically my whole life, that's all that I've been doing. When I look back at elementary, middle, and high school, and back through college, it seems tough in a way to see that it's all coming to an end.

What's been tough recently is that a lot of the people that I've met this year I will probably never see again. For whatever reason, this problem seemed really pronounced this year. Still, that's part of life, you can't keep up with everybody, but that doesn't mean that I have to like it. The fact that a lot of the people I've met in the last two years live in Japan has compounded the problem. I guess I've just got to try to stay in touch with the good ones as much as I can. But people move on in life, and that's just how it is it is.

Well while we're at it, let's take a look back at my life in college. High school, of course, was terrible. I applied to UNCC, NC State, and UNC Asheville, and I got accepted into all of them. I decided to go to UNCC, starting in the fall semester of 2001. I distinctly remember on the day I was to move into school, driving with my Dad on 485, and I almost panicked and told him to turn the car around, I'm going home. Fortunately, I kept my mouth shut and eventually settled into college life.

That was August 2001, and we all know what happened soon thereafter. So my whole college experience has kind of taken place under the cloud of 9/11 and terrorism. It couldn't be ignored as a cloud that hung a pall over everyday life. And to be honest, developments after 9/11 heightened my interest in politics and very likely contribited to me becoming a political science major. From there last four years and beyond, this is a topic that isn't going to go away anytime soon, unfortunately.

The rest of freshman year, I don't remember doing too much other than being on the computer all day and scraping by grade-wise. I actually ended up on academic probation after flunking Calculus my first year. Somehow I managed to pass it with a C the next semester, but the damage to my GPA was done. Sophomore year, I finally made up my mind to get off my ass and get involved, even if at first it was just small stuff like playing intramurals. By that time, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Japan, and getting bored by living at UNCC, I decided to take it.

So on September 16, 2003, I arrived in Narita Airport near Tokyo. This would be the start of one the most challenging and rewarding times I've had in my life. It was difficult at time to adjust to a new language and culture, but in doing so I learned a lot about the world and myself. Sounds cliche, but its true. The university I studied at, Obirin, was full of cool people and being close to Tokyo and Yokohama there were always a ton of things to see and do. Homestay was tough, but I found out a lot about everyday life in another country. Later, staying in an apartment was fun but it brought its own set of challenges like cooking when you can only recognize half of the foods in the supermarket. Eventually, it was time to come return to NC. While I was starting to miss everybody at home, it was still tough to leave, and I definitely need to go back as soon as I can.

I started my last year, my senior year, with high hopes that it would be the best one at Charlotte yet. To be honest, I'll feel kind of let down that I wasn't able to do more this year. Sure, I was able to get excellent grades, but there were a lot of missed opportunities like not being able to make it to the beach for spring break. I joined up with Model UN in the fall, but that ended kind of awkwardly and I didn't take the class in the spring- no Scotland trip for me. I did write for the school paper, which was rewarding, but in that I could only do it for one semester it was kind of limited. And for whatever reason, classes were particularly challenging this year. I specifically remember a couple of instances where I was about at my wit's end finishing up papers and studying for tests. But as it looks like I will get very strong grades my last year, it appears that everything worked out.

It's tough to leave what's familiar for a whole world of uncertainty. But I decided that it's key to have a positive attitude through all this. Again with the cliches, but it is one thing that I will have control over. Now as a college graduate I've got a world of opportunities and choices to make. I've just got to make sure I choose the right ones.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 1:57 AM EDT
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Friday, 13 May 2005
New Xbox Revealed
Yesterday, the design, features, and specs of the new "Xbox 360" were officially released by Microsoft. As expected, it contains all of the necessary bells and whistles to make gaming a gajillion times better than it was before. Two of the best rundowns I found on it were here at Game Informer as well as the basic AP story at Yahoo! news.

Comments: Overall, I like the design and think the system has plenty of power and features to make things interesting. Of course, we can still expect the over-the-top hyperbole common with every system launch these days about how it will change life as we know it. But still it would appear to be a good start.

Second, the controller. There's a good overview of the controller at It looks like a massive improvement over the current Xbox's controllers, much more smoother and finally replacing the stupid black and white buttons with shoulder triggers. As an added bonus, they're wireless and the controller itself can turn the system off and on.

Finally, the fact that the system was formally unveiled during a half hour show on MTV! This is some really interesting marketing here and of course only someone with pockets as deep as M$ could pull this one off. As of course I don't have cable I'm going to have to wait to see it, but I still think it was an interesting tactic from a marketing point of view.

Posted by nc/frodaddy at 10:45 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 13 May 2005 10:54 AM EDT
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