Friday, December 31, 2021

The 2022 Resolution

When it comes to the New Year's resolution some say it does not work and ignore it. Some say that you always can have a resolution. It does not have to be before a New Year. I like the idea. This year's resolution was very easy and it's accomplished. The next year's won't be as easy:

1- Get the hell out of this shithole that I have been calling workplace for a little more than two years now.  I've had it with these fools. Get a real job.

2- Enter in a long-term and meaningful relationship.

3- Travel outside Canada at least once.

4- Buy a new vehicle.

5- Practice calm 

6- Do as many hikes as possible.

Less than 8 hours left to 2021. Happy New Year everyone and tell me if you have anything in mind in regards to this post

(Photo: There're losers in the world who even for a simple picture such as above, would go after you, if you use it for yourself! Copyright infringment!)

Thursday, December 30, 2021

An Incident just before the New Year

I left home this morning almost at the same time as every day. By the time I reached the main road, I had three lights on my dash! Check Engine, which had come up earlier and I've written about it, ABS and Hand Break!! I check my hand break and it was not engaged and my car isn't even equipped with ABS (Anti-lock Breaking System) but because it's an standard Toyota dash, the light is there and it proves that it only is a malfunction. Two of the lights were turned off after a few seconds and I continued with the only one on. The drive seemed normal to me but when I pulled into a spot in the parking lot of work, someone called me and pointed at one of the tires! The rear passenger tire was completely deflated! How didn't I feel anything? And why didn't the car's dash show anything?! Another proof that the dash system is mingled up! 
When I pulled into a spot in the parking lot of work, I was shown the back of my vehicle! What did I see? A flat tire!! How the hell didn't I feel anything during the entire drive! I talked to a few people at work and everyone offered help but then I went out by myself later and replaced the tire with the spare. Then I called a nearby shop and they squeezed me in. I drove to the shop, left the car and they were nice enough to send me to work on Uber! getting the car was a different story, I could ask people to give me a ride because it's close but just like the way I changed the tire, I thought I should get the car by myself. So I bundled up and stepped out. Although it was only 15 minutes or a little more, I have to admit that it was not such a pleasant walk! The sidewalks were not cleared. I had to walk by the street and although the drivers were careful, if anyone had lost control, they would have hit me from the back. My hands were only spots which were cold but then my face started to be cold and I was there! 
When I get the car back, they didn't even charge me! It was amazing while the bill read $35! I thanked them and left. It was something that almost never happens! 
(Photo: Different warning signs on a Toyota dashboard. I don't know how old this guide is and I don't know if I have all in my old car)

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Is this the most Wonderful Time of the Year?!

The temperature has gone down so much in the past ten days or so that my Check Engine light came up for the first time in the past 11 years that I have been driving this car! The worst was yesterday that when I started the engine it was -28 ℃ (-18.4 ℉) and I let it run for a few minutes to warm up, something I normally don't do if it's not this cold. Then I head to work and while I was only couple of minutes from the highway, I looked at the thermometer and it was showing -34 ℃! (-29.2 ℉)! I guess it was where the light came up! All these years living in Canada I have never experienced something like that. 
At the time I had no choice to drove to work. I know if I take it to a dealer the first thing they ask for is a $90 or anything around that, just to look but I know I need to do that. If it breaks down on a road, it would not look pretty in this weather. I think it's probably the time to get a new car. 
(Photo: The car thermometer showing the outside temperature regardless of windchill)

Friday, December 24, 2021

Useless Phone

One of the things that bothered me at the first day of travel, after I landed in IAH and got my rental car, was that my telephone was not working! It was working but I wasn't able to make any calls! There was this stupid message on the top: " Emergency Calls Only "! My plan is a good one which enables me to call and text all across Canada and the US without any limit, for a little money! Now I was in the US and the telephone didn'r work! I went to my hotel and then from there I found an AT&T store clsoeby and talked to the guy about my problem. It appeared that a simple phone, with a handset would cost about US $75. I went back to the hotel and I realized that there was no long distanc call available!!!! I had never seen something like that! In fact when I was in Munic I had a similar situation, not quite teh same: There was no telephone set in the room! Anyway I got on a chat with my service provide through my notebook but he was not able to do anything.
A map at a local McDonald's shows the source of their coffee. I was greated in Spanish when I was ready to order and that was not the last time! Hispanics constantly mistaken me for one of their own! Had not seen the map before
The next morning, on the way to downtown Houston, I saw a T-Mobile store and stopped. I got a SIM card for US $45 and I got fixed for the rest of the trip! When I later contacted the service provide I was told that the roaming feature had been locked and I had to call before the start of my trip! 
(Photo, top: I stayed at Staybridge in NW Houston in my first night of my Texan trip, almost half an hour, if not more from downtown. I think I selected that because it was only 20 minutes drive from the airport. Not a bad hotel. It was more than half empty at the time!)

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

A Difficult Interview

I had a very difficult interview yesterday. I had not thought it would be as difficult as it was! I had applied for this Government position, I think, back in June or July and received a couple of e-mails in regards to that in my Spam folder! I was lucky, I guess I should say that I checked my Spam because I normally don't! 
It was written that the interview would take place through Microsoft Teams, a sort of software that I had not even heard of prior to that! I have heard of Zoom but apparently Teams is more professional. So I had to purchase(!) a headset and a Webcam because the damn Chromebook was not able to handle the program! Every time I would click on Join Now, it would crash! 
The good thing I was able to get help from friend, Newlywed, although he's no more, until I find another nickname for him, I'd stick to that. His daughter is now 6! I called him and he said that he had experienced working with Teams and sent me an invitation. I got connected with him through my cellphone and that was not bad but I knew for a better result I needed to attend the interview at my PC. That's why I spent nearly $90 on the items which is fine considering that would be a job with The Federal Government
I, of course, would not reveal any of the questions but they were sent to me half an hour before the interview. There were 7 questions and as soon as I saw them I started taking notes rapidly because they were not easy questions at the first glance. Newlywed had done a sort of mock interview but none of the questions he asked were amongst the ones that I received. 
I wrote so fast and tried to analyse every question in a manner that my hand hurt and when it was only 2 minutes left to the half an hour I had, I took a break and then the interview started. There were two guys and one lady, all from their home and when they introduced themselves it was really impressive that they had been on the job for such a long time and it was obvious that there were not the type of people who could be easily convinced. Each of them asked one of the 7 questions, one by one and they all listened and at times, made notes. I think I did well on most of the questions but not all but at the end everything would be up to them. I was told that I would hear about the result in January and asked if I had any questions. They also asked me if I could go back to any of the questions and provide completion. I knew I would not be able to contribute more in such a limited time, so I thanked and said no. I response to their question that if I had any question, I asked them where the selected candidates would work. The lady responded that there would be a pool of candidates and then they would be dispersed all around the country. I thanked them for the opportunity and mentioned my time in Oil Sands projects and added that I was very flexible and would work anywhere in Canada.
(Photo: Oil Sands projects have been part of Canadian economy but they have suffer tremendously due to environmental challenges and crude price drop)

Saturday, December 18, 2021

The Weird Florida Lad

I bumped to a strange fella on my drive to western Texas during my trip. I stopped at a resting area to stretch my legs and have a little walk. The weather was nice. Not too cold, not too hot. no wind. Just a breathe. I snapped a few shots, as usual and then noticed someone was backing up towards my parked rental car very slowly. I first paid no attention and kept getting away from the car and looking for photography options. 
When I came back I saw someone kneeling in front of my rental car doing something to the grill! That was the driver of the backing car! His car was parked a few feet away from mine. I asked him what he was doing and he jumped up and walked to his car and got in! I didn't realize what detrimental act that was at the moment! It could've been deadly! I was in the States! Everyone could be armed! I could've been lying dead there even now after a few weeks! So I chased the guy and asked him what he did to the car. He said nothing and I threatened him that I would call the police and took a picture of his licence plate. He kind of stepped out and said something about bees, went back in and drove off.
I didn't know whether I should call the cops or drop it. Walked back to the car and examined the front. I didn't notice anything but a couple of giant bees! Nothing has happened so far(!) but I remember it was a tall and thin Caucasian fella in a white short sleeved t-shirt, shaved head and face and nothing else. Still cannot figure out what the hell that was about!
(Photo: My Rental Camry. Such a wonderful car which I enjoyed driving from east to west of Texas and back. It was here in this resting area where that lad looked like he was tampering with the car! I do have a photo of his licence plate but I don't think there's a need to post it here unless someone has gone some similar situation and suffered a loss and needs my help) 

Sunday, December 12, 2021

The Gulf (of Mexico) Area

I drove to the gulf area, or to be clearer, the
Gulf of Mexico is in the south part of Texas on my second day of the trip. The major point in the south is the Town of Galveston which is about an hour south of Houston. You know how every province or state has a town (or two) which is very attractive to tourists. For example Banff in Alberta, Whistler and White Rock in British Columbia, Aspen in Colorado and many more. I think Galveston in a way plays that role in Texas: Lots of restaurants and hotels, endless beaches, nice shops, etc. 

A structure in the middle of the sea which looks like an oil rig but no activity can be seen from here. I used a telephoto lens to bring it much closer

The road to the gulf area, after I found myself on Gulf Highway was just amazing! Another US highway that you cannot stop anywhere until you reach your destination and if you make a mistake, you'll either lose your vehicle or your life and maybe even both! I really wanted to stop and snap a shot but that would've been detrimental! I just wanted to have an idea of the area. A real trip requires at least 2 to 3 days to stay and enjoy. While the temperature was good, on a mild autumn afternoon in southern Texas, I didn't see anyone in the sea. The area was not overly crowded but it was okay considering Covid-19 was a concern. The thing that I was not expecting was free parking at the beach which has been signed clearly. It's very good for the businesses. I parked at the side of the road and took a short walk for photography. 

I happen to catch this lone bird on the beach but I have no idea what species it is

As my destination that night was Austin, I left the area after about half an hour. On the way back, while I was still in the Galveston area, a big pickup truck with a trailer missed me probably with about 3 feet only but in less than 200, w meters (you see here that I mix Imperial and Standard!), while I was in the parallel road and leaving the area, hit an SUV and threw it down the road! I was lucky that first I wasn't driving too fast and secondly the SUV didn't roll down the road and stopped. Otherwise I would've hit it and would've been a disaster. The road got crazy the closer I got to Houston. Everyone is in such a rush that a new driver like me who doesn't know much about the area, if makes a mistake, ends up in Dallas instead of Austin

I fortunately was very careful both about the signs and the other drivers and was able to get out and find myself on Interstate 10 toward the west without any problem.
9Photo, top: a beautiful row of palm trees at the side of the road, called Seawall Boulevard)

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Hilton DoubleTree, Austin, TX

I stayed one night in downtown Austin. Don't be alarmed! I payed that with Air Miles! I drove to the gulf area, Gulf of Mexico or to be exact the Town of Galveston on my second day of my trip to Texas and it was not such a wise idea(!) because I had to be in Austin the same night and you can't see much of the gulf area in a few hours but I went anyways and will have a post for that. My destination on that night was a luxury hotel in downtown Austin, called Hilton Doubletree.
I reached Austin when it was dark and considering the autumn (or as they say here, fall) it must not have been later than 18:30 because there was still traffic in the area. I pulled in front of the main entrance and tried to find a spot to park. I was told that only Valet Parking was available! I asked about the alternatives and I was told by the receptionist that I could park a block away, on the street but I would have to feed the meter as early as 07:00 next morning! Imagine you're on vacation and want to relax but you gotta wake up early, put your cloths on, go many levels down, walk on the street for 5 to 10 minutes to insert coin in a meter (or pay by card) and come all the way back! That would extremely stupid and totally unacceptable. Valet Parking would charge US $40 which I didn't want to pay. So I asked for another option and I was told that there was a covered parking just at the other side of the street for US $20
I had a few minutes to visit The State of Texas Capitol the next morning after my stay in Hilton Doubletree. This interesting statement is on the wall of one of the buildings. I think it was the library. There's so much to see and read in this area and it's highly recommended to the visitors to the State of Texas
I chose that which eventually cost me a little more than CAN $24. My suite and it actually was a suite was on the 7th floor and not bad but I could have been given a better place with a better view. I don't know why I didn't ask for it. Not sure if I would have been given. The suite was huge. Bigger than many one-bedroom apartments you see people here live in: A big living room with television, coffee table and everything else, a big bedroom with a king size bed, a set of drawers and another television and a big bathroom which was bigger than my bigger bathroom in this house! The guests in the hotel were all wealthy ones who didn't care to pay US $40 for a night of parking and although it was not very busy at the time, I saw a few. I, unfortunately, stayed only one night at the hotel and I must add that breakfast was not included but the hotel has a bar and possibly a kitchen for serving food. I left early because I had to go to my next destination but if you don't care about money this is a good hotel to stay at and everything is nearby. I in fact would love to stay in the hotel one more night and be able to take a few photos from the top levels. 
(Photo, top: This was taken from my room in the hotel. I had never heard of this bank. Perhaps it's the one which only operates in this state. The state's flag is on the top. I parked my car, or to be correct, the rental car in the parking of this building which one I saw the bill in my credit card statement, is named as Wells Fargo Building. I know Wells Fargo is a big financial company in the states. I think the Future Shop card had been issued and supported by this company, one it existed! Many probably don't even recall Future Shop)

Friday, December 10, 2021

Strolling in Austin

I had two days in Austin, TX before heading back home and although it became a bit stressful because of the damn PCR Test that I had to take, in order to be allowed on the plane, I had a chance to check a few places and I gotta say, I liked the city and if any chance presents itself in future, I'll visit the city again. The thing is I was supposed to see the Little Pika in there but he was on a trip to the old country and despite the fact that he gave me his son's and his wife's number (which was his own number but she was using it at the time) I changed the entire plan which basically was paying for two nights hotel! I told him that I was not going to the city and that was because I sensed and I'm sure I was right, that he and/or his family didn't want me to go there while he was away. I tried the damn number of his a few times and his wife never picked up! 
Nevertheless I went to a park in downtown and take a few photos on the first night. The interesting thing is unlike Calgary there are spots in downtown that you can park for free and go for a walk. Calgary used to be like that when I arrived here first and then was changed. Now you need to watch the assholes of Calgary Parking Authority as they might sneak on you any time to tag you! That put aside, I also had a chance to check two major retailers that I had not been to: H. E. B. and Whole Foods. Although it was Black Friday, I didn't aim for any major shopping though.
Texas Red Grapefruit, I had been told is the best. I've never seen it in any grocery store here in Alberta. 

Whole Foods is a very big (as usually everything is in the US) supermarket which mainly, as far as I realized, sells the sort of food which is not chemically changed, I'd say. I only bought a bottle of Organic Tea and something else, which I don't remember but when I asked for Whole Grain Pizza, they didn't have it. The customers of Whole Foods are wealthy people or the ones who put a budget for safe food aside, every month. I don't know anything about other parts of Canada but in Calgary we have Community Natural Food and Blush Lane which both provide Organic Food. If I go to Austin again, I'll make sure that I will shop at Whole Foods. The other supermarket which was bigger and I had never been to was H. E. B. This one was a good store as well. Something like Safeway but much bigger. I bought a bag of Texas Grapefruit, a  clam of Mexican Guava and a calender, all for reasonable prices. 
I didn't try any restaurant or even a fast food joint during my stay because I uusally get by without them but if I go to the city again I"m certain that there're many places that I can try. The hotel's breakfast was not too bad in comparrison to the other ones that I had been to but not very healthy. So I skipped that after the 2nd night of stay. 
(Photo, top: Downtown Austin at Colorado River. It was a cloudy evening and rain had just been stopped but desirable temperature. 

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

2021's Christmas Party

My employer decided to have the Christmas party on the premises this year and for that, they did a little decoration, put chairs, tables, speakers and even a screen in the main work area! That, of course seemed ridiculous but imagine how much money they saved in comparison to renting a venue! But that was not it! We were expecting at least edible food but it was beyond bad!  Then snacks were brought in and added and we were told that food would be provided as well. But what was the food? Food from a food truck! I have never tried a food truck in my entire life but I didn't know it could be that bad! I'm the kind of person who barely eats out because I don't believe majority of restaurants provide healthy, nutritious and delicious food and I have to say the food provided by this food truck, which is not necessary to say its name, was one of the worst that I have ever had in my entire life, anywhere in the world! And I'm glad that I'm not the only one who thinks that way. Even the Filipinos and the Chinese, who normally eat everything you give them for free(!), complained about the damn food!
That was not the highlight of the so-called party! We had singing and dancing by employees as well! Singing, basically, was performed by a number of losers(!) who lip-singed a number of songs from the text!! Can you imagine that?! Imagine a loser, who can not sing and only lip-sings and then add the person reading the lyrics from a screen that everyone can see! 
A few loyal(!) employees were given an award after that. It was for their long service at the company. A group dance was the next entertainment(!) and finally the prize draw which I think was the part that everyone was waiting for! One food sucks and dancing is even below average, what else is left but a prize that you can take home? The draw is designed in a way that the majority of the employees win a prize and then there're three main items, the most expensive ones, which is kept at the end and everyone could win. my buddy, The Stout won the last prize which was a big (but cheap!) television. I won a nice H. H. windbreaker which I later checked and realized that it was worth $120! I was quite surprised and happy although I have 2 at home! The rest was some other nonsense which is not worth even writing but despite the food which  was a total disappointment and the entertainment which was lame, I think the gift compensated for all! 
(Photo: The food truck plate! I'm not writing the price because I don't wanna reveal the truck but I am shocked that people who own this so-called business are in fact in business! I mean who eats this expensive, ugly, tasteless crap?! Apparently there're losers who do!)

Saturday, December 04, 2021

Wild-dead more than Wildlife!

One thing that I noticed a lot during my long road trip in Texas last week was the number of dead animlas on the state's highways. It was aweful. At times I couldn't say what it was because it had been hit so many times and some badly that nothing was left to recognize but from the numerous pieces I saw there was anything from Deer, Armadilo and Rakoon to other smaller annd bigger creatures. 
I do, however, came across a few beautiful wildlife including a mammale with long, sharp horns, Zebbra(!) and a few more but unfortunatrely there was no safe spot, mostly at the side of the road to pull over and snap a shot or I was in a hurry! I'm sure that I'll go back to Texas one day agaion and I will make sure I will look for good opportunities to catch wildlife. What I'm not sure about is whether the State of Texas does anything to prevent this masacre or not! Everywhere I drove, every road, it was fenced but animals do jump to go to the other side. This problem, as far as I know has been looked after in Alberta. I guess what we have here is called a Safe Cooridor and governments have spent millions to protect wildlife. You come accross a dead animal though, once in a while but not to the extent of Texas but we need to keep in mind that Texas, the biggest state of the US but only a few squre kilometers bigger than Alberta. The difference is Texas is streatched from west to east and Alberta from south to north.
(Photo: This deer was in the middle of Texas Highway # 290 when I was driving east somewhere between the town of Harper and the town of Fredricksburg. The road was so quiet that I had the chance to stop and take this shot. It looked like it had been hit just recently, perhaps the night before)

Thursday, December 02, 2021

Release of 50 Million Barrel

The price of gasoline was a hot topic when I was in Texas last week, all across the US, of course. It was Thanksgiving week and many people were on trip, either flying or driving. President Biden decided to release 50 Million barrels from the US strategic oil reserve to fight the soaring crude price! It was obviously a dive in vein and I heard that on the radio that this action was criticized because that much of oil only equals to the US's total consumption for only 2.5 days! It was also said that the Biden administration had engaged in negotiations with allies(!) to find the solutions to the problem.

This map show the approximate location of storages. I might have driven pass one because of went to Gulf of Mexico area
The US created the reserve in response to oil supply shortege/blockage of 1975. The major oil suppliers turned the tap off to the world after the US supported Israel in their fight with Arab countries in 1973, Yum Kippur War. The blockage was led by Saudi Arabia which was being ruled by King Faisal. He was later assassinated by a member of family. Many spaculate that it had something with him denying oil to the world, and of course the US, as part of it.
I don't know how effective that action was but I doubt it played a major role in price change, at least, when I was there. One thing that I'm sure about is it didn't affect the driving habits of Americans! The highways were as busy and the drivers as crazy as ever! There was no chance in hell that I could come back to Canada in one piece, if I didn't have a GPS and at one time I had two on a the same time. I paid a lot for gasoline because I was crazy enough to drive 1439 miles (approzimately 2316 km!) but I don't regret what I did except the part that I could take it slopwer, I mean, not on the road, because I would've been killed! I could have driven shorter segments but it's alright. I plan better for the next trip.
(Photo, top: Price of gasoline in Exxon gas station in the twon of Katy, about one hour from Houston, Texas. For the one's who are not familiar with American pricing method of gasoline I should say that it is $2.83 Cents of a US Galone and a US Galone equels to 3.75 litters)