NEW ACCESS?

As someone who lives in Canada, this nation has struggled with geo-blocking for years. This is when companies, sometimes arbitrarily, block access to content over the Internet based purely on where a person lives. This is especially evident on YouTube, where some videos have the classic, “this video is unavailable in your country” error that pops up when you try to play them.

There are a plethora of videos from Saturday Night Live on YouTube, numbering probably in the hundreds. It seems like most of these were uploaded to YouTube in September of 2013. Most of these videos were unavailable to Canadians until very recently.

Several weeks ago, I noticed that my suggestions on YouTube were filled with SNL videos, some I never knew existed on YouTube and others that I tried to play in the past but was geo-blocked. Now, all of these videos are available to watch for Canadians. Something changed very recently to remove the geo-block.

There are select clips from SNL that I’ve searched for on YouTube in years past, without any success. These clips now show up in my searches. Previously, I’ve had to go to non-YouTube video sites to show some SNL skits in my posts.

For example, the above skit entitled “Evil Boss”, I believe I posted it before but had to settle for a copy that was hosted on a different video sharing site. The above video comes directly the NBC archives.

Depending on where you live and if you’re an SNL fan, there are literally hours of new content to be discovered or re-discovered.

ODE TO THE 1994 HONDA ACCORD

1994 Honda Accord

Picture 1 of 6

As many of you know, I bought a used 2017 Toyota Corolla last month. The transaction also included a trade-in of a 1994 Honda Accord. That Accord has a long history with my family, as you might expect for a vehicle that is 26 years old and still running.

I wasn’t involved with the purchase of the Accord. My father was the one who decided to buy it. He purchased the EX trim level, which I believe was the most luxurious one at the time. After buying ordinary and pedestrian North American designed vehicles like Pontiacs and Chevrolets, this was probably the most impressive vehicle our family had bought ever.

I was in university at the time and living at UBC. I came home one day and there was the Accord in the garage. I thought it was a bit expensive at the time because I think it was over $20k for a new Honda Accord. We weren’t and still aren’t a rich family, so that was a lot of money for us, especially since my parents also had a fairly large mortgage at the time.

While I was hesitant about the cost, I remember driving it for the first time and I could not argue that it was a solid car. Everything about it felt so much nicer, comfortable, and well-designed than anything else I had driven to this point. It was a pleasure to drive and it was a nice looking car as well.

I didn’t drive the Accord a whole lot until 1997. I was in university for undergrad until then, so summers were the only time I was at home. Even then, I would also drive my Mom’s car which I didn’t mind at all. My father hadn’t retired yet, so the Accord was often with him at work.

I took a year off before finding my first and last mechanical engineering job. In 1998, I found a job in North Van. Not having a car, my father graciously allowed me to borrow his car on a daily basis to drive to work. He wasn’t working by then, so he didn’t need it for work. Still, for a guy that didn’t use transit, it was an awfully big sacrifice for him to not have a car during the day. I drove that car five days a week for about ten months to North Van. It was a terrible job so I quit before a year was up.

It was a super reliable car and during those ten months, nothing about it gave me headaches. I guess for a car that was four years old, it really shouldn’t have. I got to know that car really well after having to drive it so much.

After quitting that job, I took another year off, which meant that my father got his car back. So he was able to go anywhere during the day as I mostly just stayed at home to play video games for that year.

When the year was up, I decided to get a job as a video game tester at EA. That meant needing to go from Coquitlam to Burnaby during the weekday. Back then, Skytrain didn’t run out to where we lived yet, so it wasn’t that easy to get to the EA campus. Again, my father graciously allowed me to borrow his car for the daily commute. In hindsight, I probably should have taken transit a few days a week to let him have the car occasionally. Now that I think of it, the route would have been a bus to Lougheed Mall, then an express bus along Lougheed Highway, and then a final change of buses at Brentwood Mall that would drop me off near EA. If I had to guess, it would have taken me about 45-50 minutes, which wasn’t too terrible given the distance.

Alas, I had the car, which was very convenient. I was a video game tester for only 14 months. This would probably bring me to 2001. By then, the car was about seven years old and I don’t remember any major problems with it. I left all the maintenance to my father when I probably should taken some responsibility with it since I drove it for the commute. Again, it never let me down during any of my commute for those 14 months or so.

In 2002, I decided to go back to university for a graduate degree and also to live on campus again. It took three leisurely years to get my degree. I didn’t drive the Accord all that much during those years. If I came home for the weekend, I might have taken it to the mall or gone to see friends. On some rare occasions, I might have driven it to UBC for the weekend and dropped it off back home later.

Again, I wasn’t aware of any major problems with the Accord. Everything still worked as it should and I didn’t notice any deterioration of features or components. My father is pretty meticulous with maintenance so I’m sure that prevented a lot of issues.

In 2004, I was changing residences so I was driving a ton of stuff home from my place at UBC. I borrowed the Accord and on the way back from UBC, this was the first and only time that the Accord let me down. I was still in Vancouver when the car starting acting weird. I would press down on the accelerator but it didn’t respond like it usually would. It hesitated. I pulled it over, turned it off, then restarted it again. When I put it drive and went to go, it just refused. I didn’t know what was going on. This was the first time I’d ever been driving and had a car breakdown on me. It was a bit of a nervous experience for me. I didn’t have my cell phone on me. I wound up having to go to a business and borrowing a phone and a Yellow Pages. I randomly picked a towing company to get them to tow the car.

The tow guy showed up and asked me where I wanted the car. I didn’t even know. The only thing I could think of was to tow it to the dealership where my father bought the car. That’s where he always brought it for service. It was really far from where I was, so the tow wound up being over $100, which in hindsight, was fairly reasonable.

I can’t even remember how I got home that night. I didn’t go with the tow guy. I probably took transit home. The dealership looked at the Accord the next day and they told us the transmission had died. It wasn’t repairable, so the only other option was to get it replaced. At this point, the Accord was about ten years old and I believe the powertrain warranty would have only been five years. So this transmission failure was well outside the warranty period. These days, some manufacturers have powertrain warranties that last ten years.

The dealership gave us an option of replacing the transmission with a used one, which saved us a ton of money. I believe the estimate for changing out the transmission, including the used transmission was at least $3,000, which seems cheap to me, so it might have been more. It wasn’t really an option to get a new car, so my parents decided to go with the used transmission.

The used transmission was installed and the Accord was back up and running. This turned out to be the only major repair that had to be done on this vehicle. The transmission never was an issue again. Yes, it was an expensive repair but it was one that allowed the Accord to function for another sixteen years and beyond. For a used transmission, we probably lucked out.

After I graduated in 2005, I began my career as a software engineer in the video game industry and almost all my jobs were in the downtown Vancouver area. It wasn’t practical to drive everyday and it was just faster to take Skytrain (as it had expanded to Coquitlam now). I only drove the Accord on weekends if I had to go anywhere. It was eleven years old at this point but it still drove fine. Driving it was a comfortable pleasure. At this point, I knew exactly how it would respond in any situation.

In 2010, I bought my apartment and moved out of my parents’ home. I did not take the Accord with me. My new place was over a Skytrain station and a retail complex. I did shopping downstairs and with the convenience of transit, I had no real reason to use a car. My commute to work downtown was easy and quick with Skytrain. I would borrow the Accord if I needed it to transport large items, like if I was going to Ikea or something. This was rare though, so I would go long stretches without driving.

Back at home, my parents had the Accord and my Mom’s Honda Civic, which they bought in 2002. I believe they started driving the Civic more because by then the Accord was sixteen years old. The Civic was newer and also was better with gas mileage.

A few years after I bought my place, my Mom decided she didn’t want to drive anymore. I believe she barely even 60 years old at the time. I think driving just stressed her out and since she was semi-retired now, there was no real reason to drive. Anywhere she went, she went with my father, so he just drove. They told me since they only needed the Civic, I could take the Accord and just borrow it indefinitely.

I still didn’t need a car but I decided to help with paying the insurance, so I paid half. The Accord would sit in my parking spot sometimes for weeks at a time without me driving it. I would also drive it back to my parents’ place so that my father could take it in for a tune-up or some other maintenance. I’d leave it with him for weeks and months. My parents would ask if I wanted to take it back but I had no need.

Around 2015, I decided to permanently take the Accord and park it at my place. I guess it just made sense for me to have the car since my parents only had one driver and two cars. I began paying the insurance for the Accord all by myself, which was the least I could do. At this point, the Accord was twenty-one years old, older than most cars on the road. By then, its age was showing. I’m not sure when this happened but the antenna for the radio stopped retracting. So back in the days of 1994, cars still had those old style long and thin metal radio antennas. Because this was a premium car, the Accord was designed with a motor that would extend the antenna from the body when the car started and it would retract it when it was turned off. As you might imagine, there had to be an enormous number of cycles where this mechanism was operated. After two decades of use, it failed. I believe my father got an estimate for a repair and it was several hundred dollars. He decided against it because it was too expensive and luckily for us, the antenna was stuck deployed, which meant the radio still worked.

Along the way, the power lock for right rear passenger door stopped working. If you wanted to lock or unlock that door, it had to be done manually. We never got an estimate for that because you could still lock and unlock that door, and I rarely even had a passenger in that seat. The display for the radio started working just intermittently as well. Back then, a fancy car radio had LCD segments that would show you what station you were on. This was a digitally tuned radio. The segments would light up randomly or in weird patterns. It would be hard to tell what station you were on but with station identification being shouted out every few minutes, it didn’t really matter. After a while, the display just stopped showing anything.

There was also some rust that began showing up near the right rear passenger door. We were lucky, because the rust was in a spot that wasn’t critical to keeping water or the elements out. I think my father tried putting some extra touchup paint he had on the rust. I like to believe that stopped the rust or made it slow down that it never got too bad past a certain size. This was another thing we never got an estimate for. For a car two decades old, it just wouldn’t make sense to replace a large part of the body like that. Where would we get a panel like that? We’d also have to paint it. It would be thousands of dollars for a cosmetic thing that had no structural benefit.

Around two years ago, the Accord started to run hot and temperature gauge was all the way to the red side. I was lucky the radiator didn’t blow and I knew I could help it by turning the heat up all the way. By doing so, I was able to get the temperatures down a bit, enough where it wasn’t on the verge of dying. In hindsight, I probably should have got it towed to the dealership or some other repair place. I decided to drive it there though. It turns out there was a problem with the coolant pump. This wasn’t something you couldn’t fix. I believe the estimate was about $500. I paid it because I just wanted to keep driving the Accord.

Unfortunately, even after the repairs, the Accord didn’t seem the same again. It’s very bad for the engine if you drive it when it’s overheated. You can do damage to it and I think I might have done that. The Accord didn’t accelerate as well anymore afterwards. It also struggled to get up hills with any speed. It felt like an old car now. As old as it might be though, it still drove. It still got me to the places I needed to go. It may have gotten too hot or didn’t go as fast but it never broke down on me.

In the summer of 2019, my father took the Accord in for a tune-up at the dealership. The mechanic returned with a long list of problems that he found. The Accord was leaking oil in places and some of those places weren’t feasible to fix. The steering mechanism needed some repairs. I had noticed that the steering had become kinda loose. There a few other issues with the Accord, some of which would require major repairs. To the mechanic’s credit, he suggested we just fix some of the critical things that he deemed necessary to keep the Accord running safe. That included some of the places were he could stop the oil from leaking. He also fixed the steering issue. It wound up costing about $2,000 in total. That’s a lot of money but I paid it. He said that those repairs would keep the car running in a safe manner for about another year and then we would have to face those other repairs he mentioned.

At this point, I was happy to have the Accord tuned up and running a bit better than before. It made me feel a bit more re-assured. The steering was tighter and more responsive. It didn’t pull to one side like before. At the same time though, I kinda knew the Accord’s days were numbered. The mechanic said it had about a year left. So, I decided I’d drive it for another year and see how it would go. If I could get another year out of it, I’d go buy another vehicle in the summer of 2020.

I certainly did get another year of service from the Accord, and then some. It never gave me any problems. All the basic things you need from a car, it delivered for more than twelve months. It started, the windshield wipers worked, the heater worked, the defrosters worked, the windows opened and closed, and the doors locked and unlocked (even if you had to manually).

For the last few months, every time I went to drive the Accord, I had some sorta expectation that it might breakdown one last time. That the cause would be so expensive to fix, it wouldn’t be worth it. It caused me a bit of stress but the amazing thing is, it never did break down again. Each time I pulled into my parking spot at home, I marvelled that this car, now a quarter of a century old, had returned me safely home again.

Last month, the Accord that my parents probably paid close to $25k (after financing) to buy was traded in for $250, a hundredth of its original value. I have to say, we as a family got a tremendous value out of this car. Yes, there were a few repairs along the way but we never had to repair the same thing twice.

We owned the Accord longer than any of the homes that our family has lived in. It was a constant in our lives, especially mine. We may have moved homes but it was still with us every step of the way. I was barely out of my teenage years when this car was bought and I was still driving it last month, and I am in my 40s now. What an incredible accomplishment. A car that was able to last twenty-six years and drove us over 260,000 km. We could have driven around the equator of the Earth six complete times with that mileage, all with the same original engine.

I know a car is just an object but it’s hard not to get sentimental about the Accord. How many things are part of a family for more than a quarter of century? This wasn’t just a piece of jewellery sitting in a box somewhere. That sort of thing is easy to keep. This was a car that got us places and back home safely. It faced sun, rain, and snow. It was out there in the elements, with all its complex parts working together. It did so for twenty-six years.

If I have any regrets about the Accord, it’s that I didn’t take care of it better in its late years when I was driving exclusively. I probably shouldn’t have left the maintenance to my father. If I had to do it over, I would have taken it in every six months for an oil change. I would have stopped driving it immediately when it overheated two years ago.

I firmly believe that had I babied the Accord a bit more, it would have lasted a few more years. I didn’t do a whole lot to help it stay running smoothly. Who knows how much longer it could have gone?

I know that in the last ten years or so, I put in a few thousand to keep it running. Most people would have thrown in the towel and bought another vehicle at some point. That was probably the smart thing to do but I admit I was lazy. I was often faced with a choice of either paying say $1,000 and I could drive it again or I could be without a car and have to go through the hassle of finding and buying another vehicle. The repairs were the path of least resistance, even if it did cost me more money in the end.

In a perfect world, I would have kept the Accord for sentimental reasons. Like I mentioned though, it’s a car, not a piece of jewellery. You can’t just tuck it away somewhere. I only have one parking spot. My parents have two spots but to keep it would mean I’d have to buy storage insurance. Is that practical or economical? Probably not.

This is one of the longest posts I written in a while but its length reflects the longevity of the Accord. I wish there was some way I could have kept it but I have pictures and my memories. I don’t know where the Accord is now. I doubt it was sold to someone else so the harsh truth is it’s probably scrap now. That’s ok, it served us well for so, so long. I cannot think of anything else that I’ll own that I’ll be able to use on a daily basis for twenty-six years.

It may have been just a car but thank you for everything you were able to do, our 1994 Honda Accord.

COLD

The low tonight will be 1 degree above freezing. It has gotten quite cold very early for Vancouver this year. Normally it doesn’t get this cold until at least November. On Friday, someone on Slack said it was lightly snowing in downtown Vancouver. I can’t verify that as no one else reported the same and I didn’t see social media mentioning that either. Nevertheless, the chilly weather put it in the realm of possibility.

It was cold enough that I turned on the heater in the driver’s seat in my car. I’ve never owned a car that had such a feature, so the novelty of it all amused me. It felt very nice, warmed me up quickly. I know people have experienced this luxury for years but I’m still getting used to driving a modern car.

At home, I actually wore a toque and a light North Face jacket this evening while I watched TV. I steadfastly refuse to turn on the heat, so this is the next best thing to keep warm. As some of you remember, I don’t have any heating in my living room. The fake fireplace I removed some years ago was the heating. Before the pandemic started, I was receiving quotes from electricians on getting a new baseboard heater installed in the living room. The original plan was to have all of this done before the cold months began again. I need to contact the electricians again to see if they’re now willing to do residential work again. I understand see their hesitation. Going into people’s homes, not knowing their status, level of hygiene, and the amount of air circulation is a risky proposition. It’s risk for both the tradesperson and the home owner.

Of course, perspective is always useful in situations like this. While I complain about temperatures that just above freezing, Saskatchewan is already experiencing -15 degrees Celsius weather. It ain’t all that bad I guess.

SIMPLE PLEASURES

I bought a Pyrex measuring cup today. It has a two cup capacity. I’ve owned a plastic measuring cup for years now but that one now leaks from all the cracks in it. It developed cracks because I kept pouring boiling water into it. It wasn’t really designed to hold a liquid that hot. The quick change in temperature caused stress in the plastic and now the whole thing is covered in leaky cracks.

It started leaking during the pandemic. Instead of going to Starbucks, I began making my own coffee from instant. I used the plastic measuring cup to dole out the correct amount of boiling water. I guess the daily stress of hot water was too much.

So my new measuring cup is made of Pyrex, which isn’t invincible, but should stand up to the heat stress a bit better than the plastic. I was genuinely excited to get this new measuring cup. When you get old, things like a new measuring cup can make your life easier and more satisfying.

Ok, I’m going to bed early tonight.

YOU CAN GO

A co-worker and I were discussing the United States this afternoon and we were both surprised to see that one could theoretically fly to the state of Arizona and attend an NFL football game. To be clear, we would be able to enter Arizona without the requirement of a quarantine period. This means we could go straight from the airport to the football stadium if we wanted to. It’s even highlighted in red on the Arizona tourism web site with “As of October 2020, there are no travel restrictions for individuals visiting Arizona”. Perfect! For completeness, I will just say that on Tuesday, Arizona reported more than 1,000 new cases.

The interesting thing is, I believe there are people who look at this risk and are willing to take the chance. I personally don’t know of any Canadians who have willingly traveled to the United States for tourism/pleasure since mid-March but you just know there are some people who can’t resist going south for some fun. I don’t want to say these people live in Alberta or are from Kelowna because that would be stereotyping, so I won’t say that. That would be bad.

In comparison, if I wanted to visit Atlantic Canada, I could but I would require a 14-day quarantine. It’s smart, decisive, and the type strong, public health leadership that these trying times require. I am proud of the residents of Atlantic Canada for doing their part. As a reward, life is nearly normal there. No NFL football games but I think it’s a fair trade.

NEXT-GEN

Next month both Microsoft and Sony will release their new gaming consoles. I know many people will buy them as soon as they are able to but I’ll be waiting for a while.

There are a few reasons for this. First, I have a huge backlog of games I still need to get through on my PlayStation 4 and on my PC. These games have been bought and paid for, so it doesn’t make sense to spend more money when I have existing entertainment that I can consume. Second, these new consoles will probably be best experienced with a 4K TV that has high dynamic range capabilities. My current TV is a plasma display with a 1080p resolution and is about ten years old now. It works perfectly fine and I’m still happy with it but if I were to get one of these new consoles, it would require me to get a new TV to make the most of their abilities. So, it would be more logical to get like an OLED TV first before the console. Lastly, consoles are at their most expensive at launch. You pay for the privilege of being one of the first group of people on the planet to play games on the latest hardware. By waiting, you can probably save a few bucks when they’re discounted. Also, by then, all the launch issues should be ironed out, the game libraries will be larger, and the games themselves should be discounted as well.

It’s cool to be an early adopter but I have lots of reasons to wait.

FILL ‘ER UP

I went to fuel up my car for the first time last week. As expected, it seems to be great with gas. Having bought the car in mid-September, it went almost a month without needing to visit the gas station. Yes, I don’t drive every day, so that helps but that first tank did get me to the airport and back, a few trips to my parents place, and some random jaunts to get food and supplies. My car’s computer tells me that my current fuel efficiency is 7.2L/100km, which is good if you compare it to my old vehicle. My 1994 Honda Accord, according to the Internet, would consume 10.2L/100km and that’s for a brand new one. With the aging Accord I had, I’m sure it guzzled more than that.

Not surprisingly, the tank capacity on my Corolla is less than on the Accord. The Accord had a 64.5L tank compared to a 50L tank in the Corolla. With a more fuel efficient car, I should be able to go farther on the same amount of gas or fuel up less, depending on how much I drive.

FIFA 21 CREDITS

Earlier this month FIFA 21 was released for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. I had a very tiny contribution to this game and for that, my name was put into the credits, along with other people who did much more work than I did over the last few months.

This is my first time working on a FIFA game and I didn’t realize how many people are involved in its development. The credits list rolls on for more than an hour and a half. That’s by far the longest credits list that I’ve been a part of. Did half the company have a part in this game somehow?

I don’t expect anyone to watch the credits above but if you’re curious to the various groups that get included, feel free to explore. Also, by total luck the person who made the above video used a thumbnail frame that just happened to have my name in it.

COLDER

A few weeks ago I wrote how I was surprised at how the warm weather was sticking around as we approached Thanksgiving. That has now changed as you can feel the autumn weather has taken hold. The multi-day rains have begun. In particular, it rained quite heavily during parts of the long weekend. The thermometer in my apartment shows a four degree Celsius drop from the sunnier days in September. Outside, the lows now drop into the single digits. On Sunday, the low is supposed to be three degrees. That’s chilly for Vancouver in October.

It’s really not practical to wear shorts outside now. If I’m outside after the sun has gone down, I need to wear a jacket. I had to turn on the heat in my car on the weekend as well.

Of course, this is going to be an autumn like no other as the pandemic is still on-going here. I supposed it’s going to be more of the same, just with colder temperatures, worse weather, and less going outside. There’s also the fast approaching cold and flu season. Speaking of which, I’m getting a flu shot this year. My employer is offering it this year. I have to go into the studio to get it done. It’ll be all very controlled and the same protocols as when I went to pick up my personal items will be in place. That’s happening next month.

For those in the southern hemisphere, I envy you as the spring weather approaches and things get warmer. Trust me, the pandemic is slightly more bearable during the sunnier months.