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July 20th, 2008

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Well, the car search continues, which is really about the only real news with me right now. If life were an MMO, I'd just be grinding money, sleep, and pages of car research atm.

There was a gaming competition hosted by TSTC yesterday, apparently. I heard about it on the radio (98.1FM just in case it matters to anyone) and tried to catch the last hour or so of it after work. All that was left was the Guitar Hero competition at that time, so I figured it wasn't even really worth watching. Don't get me wrong, GHIII is a great game, but it's not really that fun to watch. There were some guys there with a 360 and Halo 3, so I decided to get my butt kicked for a while before going home.

On my obligatory emo note, I need to find some friends in town and start getting out. Now that I'm more or less stable in terms of finances and time, I need to start meeting my next level of Maslovic needs as it were. It was suggested to me that I check out the ISA (International Students' Association) on campus. I think I'll also go watch movies at the Cukrowski house tonight, as well.

July 18th, 2008

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So my boss did something I'm a little annoyed with yesterday. I stupidly left the keys in one of our Focuses (Foci?) right at the end of the day when I needed to leave and meet some friends. I told him as I was leaving about this, but instead of helping out and covering for me, he said something to the effect of, "I need you to fulfill your obligations here." So I went out, got the keys, and returned them to an apparently empty counter since he had apparently stepped away for a bit. Well, on my way back out to head home, I happened to meet my boss...out in the parking lot...where he could have picked up the keys for me anyways without losing even 2 minutes. I don't appreciate this. I'll work hard and do what I need to get my job done, but I refuse to be a doormat. I plan on confronting him about this later on. If he is unrepentant or God forbid he resorts to threats, well, let's just say I don't need the job THAT badly. And personally, I think having an employee quit on him in his first week will reflect more poorly on him in his job at Enterprise than having less than a week at a location will on my future job applications.

July 17th, 2008

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I started working for Enterprise this past weekend  as a car prep out at the airport. The job hasn't been too bad so far. Basically I take the returned cars from the airport to another Enterprise location, clean the car, and return it. I'll also occasionally shuttle cars to and from other Enterprise locations or service shops. Even when I'm at my busiest I'm driving maybe 50% of the time, so the job has been pretty chill so far.

It's been great seeing all the different types of car they have, too. It's helping me get ideas as to what I want in a car for my ongoing car search, as well as just get a feel for how different cars feel. I already have some favorites, as well as some that I'd rather see crushed. So far the ones I've liked the most are our Mitsubishi Galant, our red Chevy Impala, and our Mazda 6. They all have nicely made interiors (the Impala especially), are fun to drive, and are very clean throughout. I'm still looking for something a little more sporty than these for my own car, but I'd recommend these to anyone searching for a good mid-size car.

Speaking of my car search, I found a car that matches all my criteria. It's a 2001 BMW Z3 with under 70k miles and priced at $6200. I'm just afraid now that the listing is a hoax. I emailed the guy twice and haven't gotten a response. I then tried calling the number provided, but it comes up as a "cannot be completed as dialed," so I'm becoming increasingly convinced the deal is bogus. With that in mind, I broadened my search a little bit and have found some possible deals I'd like to go with. There's a slightly beat up 2000 miata for $6k, and a 300zx for about 2k and under 80k miles. Hopefully something will come from one of these.

July 11th, 2008

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I keep complaining about not updating this thing as often as I should, and yet I found myself kind of wanting to post but also feeling that it was too early after my last post. This post, then, is a rejection of that idea.

So just some thoughts I've had since the last post:

I've been testing out he iPod touch for my Team55 job. Basically they just gave me one of them to mess around with for about a week. So far it's been really fun, actually. The Touch had several movies on it that I hadn't seen before, so that was definitely a bonus. For some reason sitting at the same desk doing basically nothing for 5 hours goes by quicker when I have a movie to watch. The Touch also has wireless with a web browser, instant e-mail checkage, calendars, weather info, maps, and a bunch of other neat stuff. Surfing the web on the 3" screen isn't all that bad, either. The touch interface is pretty intuitive, and it detects the iPod's orientation and automatically shifts the view to fit landscape or portrait. Really cool. About the only beef I have with the thing is that because it is a touch interface, you get your fingerprints all over the screen, and to watch anything with a lot of dark colors on it you have to wipe the screen a lot. Other than that, though, it's a pretty cool little device. If it didn't cost $400, I'd consider getting one of my own.

Of course, I'm also still thinking about cars. My CD doesn't mature until the 20th, so I can't really make any decisions yet, but I've continued to search. I had planned out what it would cost to finance up to $8k from my $6.2k I'll be getting, as well as vehicle insurance based on my current jobs, but it slipped my mind that I would be moving, possibly to another state for Grad School, and possibly wouldn't have a viable job for much of that time. That puts a bit of a wrench in the spokes of montly payments. With that in mind, I've started to broaden my search to include decent cars under $6200. There are a few hits so far, but nothing that's standing out. I've been really excited about the possibility of getting a Z3, but I may just have to settle for something I can buy outright. So, the search continues.

Eh. A lot of stuff to think about and a lot of stuff coming up to deal with. New job, moving out, vehicle purchase, Grad school, building my portfolio, etc. /grindstone

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Well I start working at Enterprise tomorrow, which coupled with my Team55 job should provide me plenty of $s to do what I need...such as move out. Luckily, this arrangement should also continue through the school year, though I can't confirm that quite yet.

I talked with Jake the other day, and I've decided to seriously get down to business about writing my mod and basically taking the next step I need to take in terms of my goal of working in the gaming industry. I originally planned to do my mod in Neverwinter Nights 2, but I think it might be easier to plan out and implement if I made it into a WarCraft III mod. My only problem there is that I realized my story is rather similar to that of Arthas. "The Cursed Paladin" is my working title, which hints at the gist of the story. From there it's not too hard to see the similarities. Either way, I'm going to start seriously working on this project.

I've also identified a recurring setting for some of my dreams recently. I'm not usually a big dream interpretation guy, but this one intrigued me. It's some kind of large missile silo with catwalks and stairs and such running along the walls, spiraling down into the ground. The walls are generally white, and there are alcoves with doors every so often along the catwalks. I also vaguely remember some kind of control room. It's actually very similar to the missile silo in the old Goldeneye game only larger, brighter, and much more realistic. I can remember at least two dreams that have used this setting now. In the first I was escaping from the silo, but the one I had last night I was actually entering the silo with a small and rather heavily armed force.

As I said, though, I'm not usually big into the whole dream interpretation thing, so I'm not going to try to say what the silo "means" or anything. It was just something interesting I noticed about the weird ways my brain works.

June 25th, 2008

Breakthrough

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I've finally had some breakthroughs in my recent downswing.

I've all but completed my paper. I just need to fill out one more page. The whole writing by hand and retyping thing seems to be working, so I'll continue doing it that way. I plan on poring through my previous LJ posts to find some material for my missing page, and I'm rather confident I can get it worked to a point that  I'd be willing to submit it finally to Kevin Kehl.

I've also finally gotten a job. Well, technically they need to run a background check, but the interview I had with Enterprise went extremely well and I should have a good 30 hr/week job about the time I get back from my upcoming backpacking trip.

It seems that once I'm actually working, things stabilize for me. This past week I've been working just a few hours a day at my Team55 job, but having something to be even quasi responsible about seems to make so many of my other behaviors fall in line.

Until next time,
~Mike

P.S. -- For all the cliche usually reserved for this site, I do find it funny that I'm listening to Evanescence while writing this post, due to the characteristically emo nature of site and song.

June 22nd, 2008

Hmm

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It's a little hard to describe these last few weeks. They've been at once uneventful and full of activity. My job hunt remains fruitless, and I've been bumming around the house for the greater part of this last month, but I somehow feel like I've been active the entire time. I've gone to test drive some cars, picked up applications, dropped off applications, etc. I seem to be in a kind of apathetic funk at the moment, though, since I can't seem to follow through with any of these activities. I've also gotten off exercising, which I really need to pick back up considering my backpacking trip next week.

The biggest thing is I still haven't finished my paper for my 1 hour INTS class. I did, however, finally make a start on it I feel confident in. It seems that if I try to write something in a word processor I become mired with the infinite possibilities of what I could be doing wrong, but if I sit down with paper and pen, my thoughts flow much more freely. I think I already have about 5 pages on this new start, but I'm not done writing yet, so Imma go some more. It just hacks me that a one hour course that I really had no interest in is shaping up to be a black mark on my transcript. While I recognize the importance of a reflection paper, the fact that we had no other coursework and that the course was primarily designed as a prep course to get you ready for the trip overseas gives me great qualms as to the seriousness that the course's papers have attained. I'm strongly reminded of U100, for any of you who have had experience with over-hyped joke classes.

In other news, I test drove the Honda S2000 recently. That car was an absolute dream to drive. It was nice and responsive, the looks are right along the lines of what I'm looking for, and it houses one of the best engineered 4 cylinder engines I've ever seen. If I had enough money to, I'd definitely consider buying it. However, since I'm nowhere near being able to afford a $31k car, I think I'm SOL on the S2000 for the moment. The staff at the Honda dealership here in town were very agreeable. However, while they were very helpful, I did get the distinct impression that I was being humored while making small talk.  It seemed there was a line in there where I crossed over from "friendly person to talk to" back to "potential commission." I'm not too worried about it, though. I've come to expect it from the world of car dealerships.

June 9th, 2008

Jobs, cars, and stuff

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I've been looking for a job recently, after turning down the position at Camp Tonkawa. I love CT and all, but with the offered $150/week deal, I think I can easily do better working for Team 55 and find another job that will do even better. Right now I've been talking with the people from a local antique shop named Relics, who are looking for a furniture painter/finisher. As an art minor, I've done some minor carpentry and have some experience staining and finishing a wood piece, so this job sounds like a great fit for me. However, their owner's been out of town for a bit, so I'm still waiting to talk with them to finalize decisions, etc. I really would like the job: it'd be an opportunity to be creative, be employed, and learn some new skills while doing so.

I've looked at other jobs, as well: mainly working wait staff at one of the various restaurants around town. I've just either not gotten calls, they're not hiring, or some other lame corporate excuse. What I'd really want to do at a restaurant, though, is work the bar. Bartending has always had an appeal to me. It seems like it'd be a good job to me. Serving drinks, chatting with customers. It's a good bit of responsibility and seems like a good fit for me. We'll see how it goes, though.

I've also been looking at cars for when my CD matures and I have some cash to spend on a car. Hopefully by that time I'll have a steady job (*crosses fingers for Relics*),  and will be able to finance on top of the $6200 down payment. I'm mainly looking at a used BMW Z3, but I'm also on the lookout for a good two-seater from some other marque. The two-seater roadster seems like the best fit for me so far. They're small, get good gas mileage, are fun to drive, and for the most part relatively cheap. Some of the other models I've looked at have been the MX-5 Miata, Pontiac Solstice, and Saturn Sky. I actually test drove the Solstice and the Sky today. I test drove a BMW Z3 about this time last year, but wasn't able to buy at that time.

The Solstice was decent, I guess. They only had automatic versions at the dealership I went to, and I'm really looking for a manual. The car itself is decent. It's a manual top, but it's not hard to figure out, and the build quality is decent. Unfortunately the power just isn't there, and the manual gearbox lags like crazy. When accelerating, it seems like the little four they had in that thing had to labor and would hit these little plateaus in power that were really kind of annoying. If I do look further at the Solstice, it'll be their higher-end version with a proper manual gearbox in it.

The Sky was a much better ride. It's actually basically the same thing as the Solstice (they're made by the same company, same plant, and share most of the same internals). However, the version I drove was the Sky Redline with a good manual gearbox. The Sky Redline has plenty of power - 260hp to be exact, and is a very quick little car. I'm not complaining too much, but the visibility in both the Solstice and Redline leaves something to be desired, but with the amount of pick-up-and-go that car has, I'm not sure I'd be too worried about that. It also handled nicely, and was very fun to drive. My only complaint is that the clutch isn't what I'm used to. I've driven manual my entire time driving cars, and I killed the Sky starting off like 3 times. It also felt a little odd while shifting in some corners, but I think it may just be me needing to learn how that clutch works.

Either way, though, my main focus is on the older BMW Z3 models. They discontinued in 2001, replaced by the Z4, but I don't like the way the Z4's lines go nowhere. The Z3 is generally within my price range and has everything I'm looking for. That and my test drive last year was great. That car moves like a dream and was pretty comfortable to drive, despite my 6'4" frame. I'm also looking in the direction of the Miata, but I have yet to test drive that. It'll probably be an older model, though. Again, we'll see how it goes.

June 4th, 2008

Mmstuff

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So I went car shopping with my mom and sister this morning, looking for a car for the youngest sibling. It was an interesting experience. The sooner you realize that everybody in the car sales world is out to screw you out of money, the better you are. No car presented at-price on the lot is a good deal. Period. We finally met someone who actually went to a computer program and pulled out issues of Consumer Reports and found that everybody we had talked to had marked their cars up $4-7k. We'll still be looking, and I'm going to be buying a car myself sometime in July, but hopefully I'll be wiser for the wear by that time.
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May 7th, 2008

That strange feeling

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This is a strange feeling. I'm now completely packed, my room is completely cleaned out, and right now I'm just kind of waiting around until we go get on the plane at about 1:00, about two and a half hours from now. I imagine that this feels similar to the dead time between the trial and the execution. I can't really do anything else to prepare now, so I'm in a strange sort of limbo state.

Uruguay has been a fun and exciting adventure, and though I miss my family, friends, and some of the small perks of living in Abilene (Sharkie's, Little Panda, etc.), well, the best way to say it is, "I don't wanna go." Montevideo is great, and I feel like I've still only scratched the surface of this wonderful city. I've sat on the beach during sunrise, run the length of the Rambla, strolled down Dieciocho, gone to the Big Game between Nacional and Peñarol, stared wonderously at the Entrevero Statue, danced the night away at Ola Montevideo and Kalú, gone climbing in Minas and surfing in La Paloma, dined in Piriápolis, lazed on the beach of Isla Gorriti, walked the walls of Fort Teresa, and eaten at least 50lbs worth of Chivitos, and these are just the beginning of the list.

I will miss my Uruguayan friends, what unfortunately few of them I made. The guys at the ACJ were great, and I enjoyed immensely climbing with them. I will also miss Emanuel, with whom I've shared more than a drink, a conversation, and a few virtual bullets on CoD 4. Pilar, Paula, Nando, Marcos, and the rest were great, and I will always remember our crazy night at Azabache. Todos son buenos. I wish all my Uruguayan friends the best. I will always remember them.

I could go on and on listing all the small things I've experienced and enjoyed during my short 4-month layover in Montevideo, but I think it best to go ahead and begin thinking of them as ghosts of a wonderful chapter in my life that is already closing and pointing toward what is to come. I can feel myself already becoming nostalgic for the things that are in actuality still around me.  And I can feel myself already forming the tears of fond memories in the corners of my eyes.

Salúd, Montevideo. May you and all your people have a bright and glorious future.

~Mike
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