Protocol Snow

Archive for February, 2007

Kekkon Dekinai Otoko

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I’m not entirely positive what was the first Asian drama I watched (I think it was Great Teacher Onizuka), but I’ve been addicted for the past few years. My favorites are the ones with at least some comedy in them because I can’t stand the stereotypical Korean melodramas that make everybody cry five times an episode.

My latest is a Japanese drama called 結婚できない男 or Kekkon Dekinai Otoko in Romanji (which translates into “The man who can’t get married”). It’s a 12 episode long series that aired in the summer of 2006 and is a favorite of both fans and critics alike.

The story centers around a successful architect named Kuwano Shinsuke (played by Abe Hiroshi), who designs beautiful houses but isn’t exactly a people person. He prefers to keep to himself and has an eccentric personality that makes it difficult for him to deal with others. He enjoys his freedom as a bachelor and scoffs at the idea of getting tied down by a woman and getting married (hence the title of the drama). Additionally, he isn’t afraid to speak his mind, which frequently rubs his customers the wrong way, much to the chagrin of his business partner and apprentice. He’s not a dislikable person but he does have some quirky traits which make him difficult to sympathize with initially.

That Shinsuke is such a believable character is testament to the acting abilities of Abe Hiroshi. In fact, this is the drama that introduced me to him, so I have a difficult time imagining him in any other role. He really does a perfect job in this series and was awarded a Best Actor award by the Television Drama Academy Awards (the series as a whole was heavily celebrated).

The action of the drama revolves around funny predicaments that Shinsuke finds himself getting stuck in, often as a result of careless speech and disregard for the feelings of other people. He manages to resolve these situations with the help of people who couldn’t bear calling Shinsuke their friend, yet who nevertheless find themselves intrigued by him in one way or another and are there to help him. As you might expect, Shinsuke finds himself getting somewhat softer as the series progresses and gradually becomes slightly more human. I added all those qualifiers because he does so very begrudgingly and is still cranky to the end, which just adds to the charm and the humor.

Shinsuke’s counterpart is a doctor named Hayasaka Natsumi (played by Natsukawa Yui), who is unlucky in love and often eats dinner alone at a ramen shop. She is Shinsuke’s doctor and has to deal often with his temperamental disposition. They get into frequent arguments (Natsumi is amazing in these by the way, she has a great deadpan delivery of verbal stingers), but as time progresses, these two start finding redeeming qualities in each other and fall in love.

Or do they? Wouldn’t that be completely obvious? I’m not going to spoil anything since that would just ruin everything. Let’s just say that there’s a few twists and turns.

Rounding out the cast of main characters is Tamura Michiru (played by Kuninaka Ryoko), who is Shinsuke’s neighbor and frequently finds herself reluctantly helping out Shinsuke. She is absolutely adorable and lights up every scene she’s in. I can’t get enough of her, she’s just too cute.

There’s one thing I didn’t like about this drama, and that’s the ending. By the way, I think it’s worth taking a digression for newcomers and explaining that the term “drama” is used as a general catch-all word to describe these shows. The genre of Kekkon Dekinai Otoko is very much comedy with a hint of romantic comedy. I just wanted to make that clear since I’ve been using the word “drama” frequently; you’re not going to be crying very much while watching this.

But anyway, the ending felt quite rushed to me. It was as if the producers happened to catch a glimpse of a calendar one day and gasped, “Oh christ, we only have two episodes left in the contract? How in the world are we going to end this?” Although there’s build-up all throughout the series so the ending isn’t unjustified, lots of events happen in the last 1.5 episodes and the pace was a little too fast. It could have used an extra episode for sure.

Still, even though the ending left a faint bitter aftertaste, the series as a whole is packed with comedic value, not only from the characters and the situations, but from completely random things like the 25 DVDs. The characters all become very endearing and as with many good shows, I hated to see it end. Kekkon Dekinai Otoko won’t change your life, but it’s great entertainment and I highly recommend watching it.

12 episodes
Aired Summer 2006
Genre: Comedy

Official Japanese site
Drama Wiki page
D-Addicts Bittorrent download page

If you’re interested in trying out an episode or two, check the D-Addicts link above. D-Addicts is by far the best drama community on the internet. You’ll be able to see what new dramas have people buzzing, get some recommendations, and find English subtitles. If you have any questions about getting started watching this show or any drama, feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me: andy (at) protocolsnow (dot) com

Written by Protocol Snow

February 25th, 2007 at 1:40 pm

Posted in Asian drama

A dream fulfilled

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For my birthday present this year, I treated myself to a particularly alluring gift. Look what came in the mail today:

What else but Panzer Dragoon Saga, possibly the most coveted treasure in the Sega Saturn library? PDS’s status as a rare game is legendary, though it’s worth taking the time to define exactly what is meant by “rare”. Panzer Dragoon Saga isn’t exactly difficult to find; browse around eBay and there will regularly be half a dozen copies on auction (the catch being that each one commands around $150 on average). Owning your own copy of PDS isn’t difficult if you’ve got the desire to pay that much for one used game.

Furthermore, its total print run of 30,000 copies, while definitely limited, is by no means extraordinarily scarce. I own several Sega Dreamcast games with print runs in the low thousands, such as Border Down Limited Edition which had just 3,000 copies produced. In the next month, I hope to score the DJ Max Portable 2 Orpheus Package for Sony PSP, limited to just 500 pieces.

So why is Panzer Dragoon Saga commonly the first title that people think of when they hear the phrase “rare game”? For one, it was released on a game console that not too many people owned. Sega Saturn was 2 seconds away from drowning underwater when PDS came out, so few people knew about the game, let alone had the chance to buy it when it released. PDS was critically acclaimed by the gaming media, but its fame was mostly achieved posthumously through word of mouth from dedicated fans. By the time everybody knew about the game, Sega Saturn had been wiped out and you couldn’t hope to find any related products in stores.

Also contributing to the eventual mania for the game is nearly universal praise for its quality. A lot of rare games have little redeeming features aside from simply a very low print run. Panzer Dragoon Saga, on the other hand, is considered by many among one of the best games ever produced, a jewel coaxed from the dying breaths of the Saturn. That assured a constant demand for the game and maintained its high price tag for the past decade. It wouldn’t be too presumptuous to say an aura of mysticism surrounds PDS, a fabled masterpiece that few have been fortunate enough to play. Is it any wonder Panzer Dragoon Saga has often been called the Holy Grail of gaming?

I personally have been desiring PDS for the past 6 or so years, tracking it on eBay to see if prices would ever drop. They didn’t. Cynics may reason that the time spent following this game could have been saved by just purchasing it on eBay at the onset, $150 and all. But where’s the fun in that? A little delayed gratification never hurt anyone, and if it weren’t for the daydreams and the longing over the years, finally holding Panzer Dragoon Saga in my hands wouldn’t be nearly as sweet as it is now.

A lot of people have great stories about how they got their copies of PDS. Mine isn’t that interesting. A member from Something Awful forums had finished the game and wanted to pass it onto another Sega fan (some people just aren’t collectors, I suppose). I jumped at the opportunity and had it mailed to me for a fantastic price. I’m happy to say it’s in pristine condition and I can’t wait to try it out in the summer when I return home. Am I worried that after all the anticipation and excitement, actually playing it would be a letdown? Not at all, the time chasing after the game is just as vital a component to the overall Panzer Dragoon Saga experience. Does a guy pursuing a girl worry about whether she’ll live up to expectations? Half of the fun is in the hunt.

Written by Protocol Snow

February 21st, 2007 at 11:08 pm

Posted in Games,Pick-ups

Gaming for a better life

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Every time a positive study about our favorite hobby is published, the gaming community rallies and news of it are spread throughout the Internet. Case in point: a study at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York was released yesterday showing that surgeons who play video games have greater operating skills. I couldn’t visit a website yesterday without seeing this posted. I could go into how the industry as a whole sometimes seems to have an inferiority complex, but that’s a topic for another day.

Of course, I’m contributing to the noise by posting it myself, but I found this quote in the CNN article noteworthy.

“Parents should not see this study as beneficial if their child is playing video games for over an hour a day,” Gentile said. “Spending that much time playing video games is not going to help their child’s chances of getting into medical school.”

Obviously being the stereotypical gamer dork and having your life dominated by gaming isn’t healthy nor recommended, but playing games for an hour a day isn’t too bad as long as you have some discipline and can set some limits. Wasn’t there a study that said the average American child watches three hours of TV daily? I would swap out those three hours of TV for an hour of gaming any day.

Oddly enough, I have found that gaming contributed in some way to helping me get into medical school. In a couple of my interviews, the topic was addressed directly as my interviewers found it interesting (I had mentioned my involvement with GamerFeed / GameDaily in the AMCAS application). But more importantly, gaming kept me sane during times of extreme stress with classes and tests so that I didn’t have a meltdown in college. Forget the apple; gaming an hour a day keeps the psychiatrist away.

Written by Protocol Snow

February 20th, 2007 at 6:56 pm

Posted in Games

Fun at the microfabrication lab

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One of the classes I’m taking in my last semester as an undergrad is Micro/Nanotechnology. 4 labs are incorporated into the course, and today my group went into the microfabrication facility for some hands-on experience with photolithography.

First you need to get dressed in the proper gear to go into the clean room.

Then you make something like this:

The above device design is just some random one used for instructional purposes. All the features (the text, lines, etc.) imprinted onto the chip are approximately 1.5 micrometers thick. Compare that to the thickness of human hair, which is 80 micrometers on average. The lines you see on the chip can be used to create 1.5 micrometer thick channels so that you can pump fluids through the channels and study flow on the micro-scale. Pretty neat, huh? A similar process to this is used to create those computer chips we all love, though their methods are infinitely more complex of course.

What I find funny is that this is the third time I’ve done this. I’ve made this same exact chip in Cellular/Tissue Engineering Lab, Biomedical Instrumentation Lab, and now Micro/Nanotechnology. Well, people always say repetition is the key to learning.

Written by Protocol Snow

February 19th, 2007 at 7:25 pm

Posted in School

Let’s give this a shot

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Some quick background information about me to kick things off:

I had a regularly updated gaming blog on GameDaily for the past 3-4 years, but when AOL purchased us, of course some things changed. They relaunched the blog section as GameDailyXL and I stopped blogging there. From what I was told by a superior, there was apparently a corporate issue with having part-timers writing on the blog, and continuing to blog for the site would have involved waiting for them to sort things out. Ultimately I thought it was more trouble than it was worth, especially since the tone and style of the blog section had changed beyond my liking.

So this is version 2 of my former blog “Wolf’s Howl”. The primary focus per usual will be on gaming and gadgetry, but I slip into digressions about other topics like Asian dramas and music often enough. As I start medical school in a few months and begin my professional training, I imagine that will become a frequent subject as well.

As of now, the aesthetic design of this page is minimal, to say the least. I may put some effort into personalizing it some more soon. In the meantime, enjoy the default template, hooray! I’ve been poking around WordPress and I’m happy to call this place home. There’s a quite powerful and intuitive backend available here and I look forward to working with it in the coming future.

Something I’ll definitely miss about blogging for GameDaily: a guaranteed audience. I’m starting from zero here, but I mostly write for my own amusement anyway. If you want to join me for the ride, welcome aboard.

Written by Protocol Snow

February 18th, 2007 at 1:50 am

Posted in News