gerry gainford

Someday I’ll wake up.

There’s something about North America that doesn’t seem real. It’s not just Los Angeles and the fake tits, the ass implants, the botox heads. It’s everywhere. Especially the west coast, where buildings are made of wood and plastic, seemingly as permanent as the forts and huts we made as kids. Though maybe not as grand as those castles we fought for.

You miss it, the stone and brick, the old buildings, the old roads, the narrow winding streets. You can spot it a mile off, a building designed exactly for a purpose, function is something I can appreciate, but I miss the permanence. Reuse and oddness makes character. You can pass a building and know straight away, with no signs, that it was a McDonald’s. Maybe years ago but it’s still a pile of wood and plastic that was built just for this. When Burger King take over they’ll knock it and build one of their own

Not like Europe where what was once a grand house is now sixteen flats, a tenement is now a restaurant. No clear lines from the kitchen, the waitress struggles trays of food up narrow back stairs to small ill-shaped rooms.

The almost temporary buildings here are remind you of a movie back lot, just a facade painted to look real.

In LA it’s worse. There’s no real weather, just sun and warm or hot or very hot. No snow, feck all rain. Listening to the Ben Folds sing of “The smell of cold, Car seat is freezing” songs about the weather and they seem real. Not where I am. No, it’s all not quite real. It’s all just fake,

Someday I’ll wake up. In the rain and the cold in a damp room that was built a few hundred years and a few dozen purposes ago. And LA and all of North America will slip away, half remembered like another nameless movie I saw last month.

 

Rain.

It rained the other evening. All the dust from a few weeks rising in the wind, brown clouds against the sunset. Like Armageddon. People running for cover, hair askew, holding anything over their heads. A homeless guy frantically pushing his bicycle and two kiddie trailers of his world to the shelter of a gas station wall.

Traffic going crazy, not the skidding but the sudden rush to get home, get out of this. Weeks of fallen leaves, small branches bounding along the road. Like the Apocalypse has come and gone, a scene from the zombie movie. A flash of lightening, some rain. It will be gone in ten minutes.

Against it all, a girl, hair streaming in the wind, face raised and eyes wide, a newspaper over her head, a smile like it’s the end of a drought.

Days out in LA 4 – Newcomb’s Ranch

Not far from me are the  San Gabriel Mountains and the Angeles National Forest is right there. Even without going on a freeway (cause no one can drive in LA and I’m not quite ready to take a motorbike there) I can be on the Angeles Crest Highway in about fifteen minutes. Then I’ve got long, twisty mountain roads with great scenery and since this is California, great weather. The perfect place for a motorcycle.

You do get some kids trying out their sports cars but mainly you get a lot of bikers.

Why yes that is a double yellow line on a bend just 30 seconds from the next passing lane. Great idea to pass.

Why yes that is a double yellow line on a bend just 30 seconds from the next passing lane. Great idea to pass.

 

The road is closed in parts most of the year but there’s enough open for a decent ride. On Friday I got as far as Newcomb’s Ranch, a log cabin type bar selling coffee, beer and burgers. Outside a line of bikers sipping drinks and smoking cigars.

Anyway, it was a nice ride;

Days out in LA 3 – Palm Springs

OK, it’s a little further than LA but it’s just under 2 hours from Pasadena. Apart from a delay when parts fall off the car. We went Friday night to meet Rachel for dinner. At this Mexican restaurant there was a guy playing music. Think Mariachi Band. But just one guy. And he was playing a harp.

WP_20160205_18_15_28_Pro (2)

Days out in LA 2 – Downey

Downey’s not too far a spin. Nice sunny day to take the motorbike out. There’s the world’s oldest operating McDonald’s. I stopped, got a photo and went to Subway.

McD2McD1

 

The real reason to go there though was for this picture of a street sign.

Gainford St 1

 

 

Days out in LA.

With plenty of time in between hunting for jobs I’ve been bouncing around LA. This was at the California Science Centre in downtown LA. Outside they have an A-12 blackbird which used to fly at Mach 2.

A-12

Inside they have lots to see, an Apollo Spacesuit, Mercury and Gemini Capsules. A model of the Wright Brother glider along with a flight simulator for it. Lots of exhibits for kids showing how things work, wings, air, materials and construction. Get to feel what an earthquake is like. There’s lots on nature, habitats, sea life and ecosystems.
I could have gotten pictures but I was distracted by getting to see Endeavour.

They have a huge exhibit, a mock up of the Mission Control showing the last take off for Endeavour. A movie showing the trip through LA as Endeavour came along the streets. Then you get to go in an see it.
Endeavour
Yeah, the picture is pretty poor, my phone’s not good, but this place was amazing. There’s something about this huge huge machine that went to space and back so many times. My jaw dropped when I went in. Some old guy that worked there (they have people all over the museum demonstrating experiments and answering questions) just smiled at my open mouth awestruck face. When I was leaving you could see it on people coming in. That whole sense of wonder, of awe and almost reverence.

If you get a chance the Museum is in downtown LA and is free in.

Changing my coffee

Aeropress

The Best Wife Ever ™ got me an AeroPress for Christmas. This is to replace the Keurig she got me a few years ago.

Why change? The Keurig is nice, makes decent coffee, easy to use. However the AeroPress makes better coffee, still easy to use and I wont fill the landfill up with plastic cups. Also next time I go camping I wont be using instant and the Keruig is a little big to drag around on the back of the bike with me.

It’s also much easier to use your own coffee with than the Keruig, I had an EkoBrew cup and Keurig’s reusable cup but neither worked great and were a bit of a hassle. This is much easier to use. Easy to clean up as well.

So, on another note, I have a Keurig for sale, anyone want one?

 

The most important article I’ll ever write

Yes this is it. After decades of research (am I that old, really?) I am now able to present after exhaustive testing….

… Wait for it….

…Drum roll please…

 

A hangover cure.

That works.

A while back I did a half marathon, quite proud of myself really. Anyway while I was training for it I got recommended Vega Accelerated Recovery Powder (I should get a commission for this, hey Vega, wanna give me some cash?). This works pretty well after a long run. Ok, well after a 15k jog. OK, slow jog.

Then I read an article about scientists testing electrolytes as part of a hangover cure and I thought “hey, I’ve got some of them electro-yokes.”

So, you know you should drink water before you go to bed after a night drinking? Yes, well do that, but also take a scoop of this stuff. Really. Trust me. It works. A scoop of this and a pint or more of water. You’ll thank me in the morning.

No, you won’t be completely fine, you’ll still be tired and a little slow. But you wont be vomiting up that curry that seemed like a good idea at 3am and vowing to never drink again. Your head wont feel like North Korea is testing nuclear weapons in it.

You’ll think you deserve it. It’s weird, you know you should be unable to get out of bed but no, you’re just a little off, a bit tired really. No leaning over the toilet and wondering what the hell you ate last night. No trying to open the child proof bottle of pain killers. Just a little off.

 

You’re welcome.

Cutting the cable

Here’s the guide to how we’re getting TV now without cable.

So I wanted a few things. A media centre to run as a PVR while also giving me a NAS box with RAID for backups. For the non technical this is a TV box which will play music and also act as a backup for my computers and run some small server things for me. RAID means it has 2 hard drives that are mirrors of each other so if one dies I don’t lose all my backups.

I started off at Tablo TV where it tells me what channels are available over the air. There are lots available in Pasadena, I can see lots of antennas on the San Gabriel mountains close by. These can be picked up with rabbit ears.

For the main computer I used a Windows 10 Kangaroo. They’re available on NewEgg here. It’s small, cheap and only uses about 12W of power, so perfect for this.

I needed rabbit ears and something to connect those to the computer. I used an Amazon Basics antenna, which looks like a sheet of card with a wire hanging out. This sits in the window. This connects to a Kword USB ATSC Tuner ($45 on Amazon). That’s it.

Install Kodi and NextPVR and get them set up. There’s a guide here and also lots on Youtube. It’s all pretty simple.

You then set up a remote control on your phone (check the Play or Apple store for Kodi remote, they’re free) and that’s it. You can watch TV, pause, record and then fast forward through the ads. It works pretty well and uses very little power.

Things to also do;

  • Add a micro SD card to the Kangaroo as it doesn’t have a lot of hard drive space. A 64GB card can be got for less than $20.
  • Do all the Windows updates to the Kangaroo and then disable all updates. Also set your wifi to be a metered connection as this disables more updates. The updates tend to slow down the computer too much.
  • I will also be adding a RAID external drive dock that I can turn on when I need storage and NAS.

Overall it’s really easy to do and works well. When you’re not watching TV you can also sign up for Netflix and Hulu. The money you save on the cable bill will pay for the streaming services and leave you some money over for dinner and a movie.

 

Update January 11th.

I had some trouble with Kodi freezing when fast forwarding or rewinding. I uninstalled 15.2 and installed 15 and it seems to work much better.

Still having trouble recording NBC. Not sure why.

Hulu and Netflix aren’t fantastic in a browser but I installed the free apps from the Windows store and they’re fine there.

 

 

The Irish Wake

Note: Another post that has been sitting in draft for quite some time.

 

Let’s face it, death at any time isn’t nice and the world over people have weird and wonderful ways to deal with it. The Irish, they have a wake which is one of the weirdest out there, but strangely beautiful.

My dad died back in June. I’d come home for a few weeks in between contracts since he hadn’t been well and ended up staying most of a month. It’s my first adult experience of a wake. For most of the recent family deaths I’d been away, Australia, USA, Canada and not made it back. I’d been to some, in and out as a visitor, but not intimately involved.

For those not familiar with it, the body is taken back to the house and set up in a bedroom. Family and friends call by to see the body, dip a finger or a palm leaf in holy water, and bless the body. Some prayers now and then. Mirrors are covered, clocks are stopped. This goes on till the morning of the funeral when the coffin is closed and brought to the church and buried after mass.

So that’s what happened. My dad arrived back in a coffin the day after he died and we up his bedroom. A decade of the rosary was said and a notice went on the internet and on the local radio. “Reposing at his residence”. It sounds like sleeping.

Straight away that’s when the greatest things about the Irish wake kicked in. I’ve seen death in other countries and it’s quiet. It’s so fucking quiet, l0nely even. I wondered where was the support, where was the comfort? Where were the constant cups of tea?

Before the hearse had came from the hospital, family, friends and neighbours were there. Kettles were boiled, coffee pots brought in, a large tea urn borrowed. Plates of sandwiches arrived, boxes of cake, cupcakes by the dozen. Women filled the kitchen and no one could get in or out without a cup of tea. If you’ve seen Father Ted it’s like a hundred Mrs Doyles were telling you to go on go on go on and have a cup of tea.

People came. They saw the body and sat, in the same room, drinking tea, eating biscuits, chatting, socializing, talking not about death but about every day normal things. When you stand back to look at it all, it’s fucking weird.

But it’s also beautiful. The family are not left alone. There’s always some one there. Taking care of everything else while you pick yourself up. Some one got a huge pot of soup from a restaurant in town. I heard later they never charged. People I have never met shook my hand, came with food, arranged little details. Checked on the local Community Centre where after the funeral people would gather for more tea and sandwiches. Checked on the grave being dug, found out who we should talk to about the little details that need to be taken care of, drove people around. Took care of us.

There’s a strange tradition that the body is not left alone. My cousin sat with me and my brother till 4 or 5am the first night, keeping us company till some one would arrive to take over.

After the funeral, after everything is done, there is a sense of closure. Maybe I’ve been abroad too long that I use that word. Closure. That it’s all done. It’s all over.

But that’s the wake, it’s people holding you up, in a really shitty time, giving you a chance to deal with it so when it’s over you’re better than when you started. It’s a whole community coming together. It’s how the Irish deal with death and it’s strange and beautiful and part of what makes us great.

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