Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Trip Home

My trip home in the Civic lasted two days and was pretty uncomfortable. I left yesterday, November 24th, and picked up two audio books at Borders to occupy my mind during the drive. One of the books, The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky, has so far been a gruelingly boring theological ramble, and probably did more to to put me to sleep on the drive than keep me awake. The other book, Don't Know Much About History by Kenneth C. Davis, is a revisitation of American History that is fairly elementary but still engaging. I enjoy learning about American history, mainly because it's fascinating to discover what is not taught to students in public school systems. One of my favorite books of all time, Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, has significantly influenced my views of the world. Anyways, I stayed the first night of my trip in a shabby La Quinta Inn in East Tennessee, which said they had free wi-fi access but it didn't work in my room. The next morning I shared an early Thanksgiving meal with some nice country folk at the hotel, but my mood soon blackened when realized that I'd left my glasses in my room before checkout. When I spoke to the desk about it, they said that the cleaning people had already serviced the room and left, and if my glasses had been found they wouldn't be retrievable until the next day. I left the hotel left blind and outraged, and the trip went a little slower from that point on because I was unable to see road signs clearly.

I woke the next morning to the golden sun shining brightly through my windshield. It seemed to say, "Wake up, Tom, and go home!" I had passed the previous four hours sleeping in my car, parked at a truck stop near Little Rock. Sleeping in the car was a bit uncomfortable, yet, in a way, cozy. I had managed to tuck myself into a little cave formed between two large pickup trucks and and overhanging tree, and slept pretty well in a warm sleeping bag. It was before 8:00 when I finally got up, stretched thoroughly, and entered the truck stop. After washing and having a Subway sandwich for breakfast while listening to Lynrd Skynrd on the intercom, I acquired that most essential cup of coffee and headed back out on the road.

By lunch time I had crossed the Arkansas/Texas border. I ate lunch at a Texas BBQ / souvenir store in Texarkana and let the nostalgia wash over me. By the time I reached Dallas I needed a break, so I slept for a couple hours in a Dairy Queen parking lot. By 8pm I was relaxing by the hearth in the warm living room of my Dad's house, watching TV with my brother. What a looong drive. I'm glad to be home.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Car Stereo In

I installed my new stereo and speakers in the Civic today. It took longer than it should have due to the remnants of the stereo system installed by a previous owner. There was some kind of wire routing box in the passenger side door that left me guessing, and aftermarket wires had been spliced & soldered into OEM wires, then snipped when the system was removed. I had to refer to a wiring schematic and it was just a pain. Anyways I got the speakers in, and although they were the cheapest Kenwood speakers I saw at they sound great and they're loud as hell!

Unfortunately there is still something wrong with the antenna - once again, previous owner - and I only get about 4 channels, including a Latino station and a Christian talk station. Also, there must be something missing in the area where the actual stereo sits in the dash. There's nothing to screw into to secure the stereo! Right now it's just sitting in there and is probably fine, but I don't like knowing that it's not right. Have to fix that later. I also finished removing the car alarm.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Life in Storage

I was scheduled to be back home two weeks ago, interning for an architect in Tomball, TX. Instead, I've been waiting on paperwork at the 94th IS in Maryland. It has not been cool. Aside from missing out on considerable opportunities related to my career, I have had to live in a storage room in my good friend John's basement. Overall I am pissed but not dejected. I've been able to spend a little extra time with my friends here in MD and my girlfriend, Aeree, and have been keeping myself occupied with an online class, working on my car, drawing, reading, and planning for UT.

My flow was thrown off today when I received some fretful news. I was contacted by a VA loan representative regarding my "guaranteed" no interest VA loan, and was told that since I didn't have a job lined up I wasn't getting a loan. Good ole' military benefactions - Hey, can I get some blankets too? Extra polio, please. To be honest, not granting a loan to someone without a source of income makes sense, but why do they advertise it as "guaranteed"? (maybe the 0% interest rate is what is guaranteed?) The thing is, according to the new GI bill that was signed into law by the president on June 30th 2008, I will have a source of income - the government will pay my tuition and provide a monthly living stipend equal to the amount the military pays its members w/ dependents for off-base housing. Apparently the VA doesn't view money going into my bank account each month as 'income'.

My plan was to buy a house in Austin with a mortgage of around $800 (found plenty), find a roommate to split the costs (found one already), sell my art work for spending money, and sell the house when I finish college. Now I don't know what I'm going to do, but I'm definitely not throwing my money down the apartment hole. I'd rather live on the street, which I am beginning to lightly consider. It looks like my next option is to ask my father to cosign a loan, which I am dreading. I take a certain pride in having 'made myself' for the most part, without much help from my parents, and I dislike the prospect of being indebted to one of them :(

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Tips for the American Traveler in South Korea

I'm writing this post on behalf of my buddy Bogle who just got sent to South Korea for a year. I was there from Jan 2005 to Jan 2007 as a Korean linguist in the Air Force, and feel I should offer up some suggestions for others on how to have a good time during your stay on the peninsula. OK here goes:

- Visit Busan! A massive port city w/ a laid back coastal feel. Delicious Korean seafood (get used to it and you'll become lovingly addicted), Haeundae beach, and lots of temples and sightseeing opportunities. Also the Busan Aquarium is located in Haeundae, and they actually let you (and me) go scuba diving in the tank with all the sharks and fish! This was my favorite city in Korea and I made the 3-4 hour trip by KTX train several times.

- See live music! Korea has an awesome scene if you just have the guts to go out and find it. This should help start you out:
  • Osan - around the base the clubs that often have American bands on Friday and Saturday nights are The 99 Club, The Piano Bar, The Hurricane, and sometimes Studio 54.
  • Seoul - There are tons of live music places in Seoul, but the ones I frequented most were Skunk Hell, a raw dive punk club straight from the 70s and 80s (seriously, Korea has punk like it was meant to be), and All That Jazz, a quaint little jazz club. BTW in Korea it's kind of trendy for adolescents to play in jazz bands, and since Asians get pretty serious w/ their hobbies, Korea has plenty of stellar jazz artists.
  • Busan - see here
- Take up snowboarding/skiing! There is a resort called Jisan not too far from Osan, and several others within day trip distance. The resorts are comparable to US East Coast resorts - not great but you can keep your skills up and have fun with your friends. The big one in Korea is Dragon Valley (Yong Pyong), and it is actually pretty sweet but is like four or five hours away from Osan.

- Visit Lotte World! I, regrettably, never visited Lotte World but my friends said it was fun. I think they got discount tickets that day because some people died on a ride the previous day.

- Visit Everland! A HILARIOUS amusement park, and if you have any kind of sense of humor you'll see what I mean when you get there. Prepare to have fun and laugh your ass off, and be sure to see the little parade/shows they have. Also people die on the rides at this park too. Korea has a bit of a problem with this, lol.

- Visit JeJu Do! A beautiful island often termed 'The Hawaii of Asia'. Plane tickets are cheap and the flight is under two hours. I went with the travel agency on base and our package included a few nights stay at a sweet hotel w/ a big pool, an ATV off-road course, and a trip to the gun range where we shot various weapons (still not sure what this had to do with anything, but it was fun). I wish I had stayed longer because that place was great!

- Eat Ramen! My favorite Ramen shop chain in Korea was called Myung EEn, and there's one on the right side of the main drag coming out of the Osan gate. Tell them you want 'duck law myun' and 'kimchi mandu'. God I wish I had that right now.

- Go Bungee Jumping! This place in Seoul is located in a nice park, so even those in your group who decide it's a little too intense can have a nice time. Tip: yell "Whyting!" as you jump to evoke cheers from the Korean crowds. Also, take your dorm key out of your pocket or you'll lose it in the lake (doh!)

- More to come

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Clutch Slave Cylinder Replacement

My clutch had not been disengaging properly due to a leaking slave cylinder, so yesterday I bought a new one from Advanced Auto. It cost $19 and took about an hour and a half to replace by myself. One thing I learned is to always use line wrenches instead of normal wrenches when disconnecting/connecting the clutch lines, brake lines, etc. My normal 10mm wrench did not fit snug enough, and if I had forced it while trying to unscrew the clutch line it would have stripped. Anyways the clutch works fine now and I made a little bit more progress reconnecting the wires and putting the dash back together from my last job. I still haven't put the radio in but at least my instrument panel and blinkers work now, lol.

Friday, November 14, 2008


I found out today that I got into the University of Texas! I was accepted into the school of Asian Studies, which I'll be using as backdoor to the architecture program. I am so happy that my hard work has paid off and my plans are unfurling. Now if I can ever get outprocessed from the military I can start looking for houses, a dog, and work as an apprentice architect!

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I tried installing my bezel today which required removing the entire dash. I ran into big problems with the car alarm system (once again, installed by a previous owner.) The wires were a rat's nest under the dash and spliced into various OEM wires. I didn't have time to properly fix it all before the auto shop closed, so I ended up having to throw the car back together and drive home without a working instrument panel.

The car alarm has been an ongoing problem. The battery in the remote would die after just of few days of me replacing it, and then I wouldn't be able to get into my car. I'd have to 'break in' to my own car while the alarm annoyed the whole neighborhood, then disconnect the battery to get it to turn off. After that I disconnected the alarm, but the wires are bulky under the dash and their mere existence irritates me. I've decided that I will just remove the car alarm from the Civic and either put it on my Subaru or sell it.

ALSO I have been losing pressure in my clutch, and today I found the leak under the boot surrounding the clutch slave cylinder. That should be a 1 hour, $30 fix.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Dash Removal / Radio & Speaker Install

As previously mentioned, the bezel surround the radio and climate controls on the Civic was broken by a previous owner. I pulled another bezel out of a junked car ($10 at Crazy Rays), but it was all discolored and scratched. I repainted it with auto spray paint, and now it looks great! Unfortunately, I'll have to remove the entire dash to put it in, and I have to put it in before installing my new radio ~~

As a present to myself for getting my car to pass inspection, I bought a pair of Kenwood KFC-1651S Speakers, Kenwood KDC-MP208 stereo deck, and a wiring harness. With shipping it all together cost me $111.24 from and arrived within three days of placing the order, well packaged. For the install I'm going to follow some good looking instructions from this how-to guide on I plan to get a couple audio books to listen to on my long drive back to Texas in a week or so.