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.

Heading south for the winter

Note: This is an old post that has been sitting in draft for a while. I should have posted this in September.

 

After what seems like decades my US Visa has finally arrived and I’ll be heading south for the Winter. Pasadena here I come. After 7 and a half years in Canada it’s time for something warmer around January.

But before I go, thank you Canada. It’s been a fun an crazy time. Thank you to all the people who fed me, introduced me to Thanksgivings, Canadian Football, Canadian Football Cheerleaders, tried to teach me to golf, introduced me to IPAs, craft beers by the barrel, whiskeys and scotch from all over, camping with s’mores, sailing around the Gulf Islands, getting lost on some dirt road in the middle of some mountains on a motorbike.

Thank you for getting swamp monsters home, showing me how to fall off a snowboard, fall off a boat, fall in love. I got to be a lifeguard, a CEO, a painter, a designer, a salesman, an actor, a body double, a teacher, a student, a cat owner servant, a traveller.

In the last 7 years I’ve seen glaciers in Alaska, went scuba diving in a reserve in Mexico, smoked cigars and drank rum in Cuba, saw sharks in Jamaica, and seen everywhere that makes me want to see more.

But thanks to the people in Canada. You’re all so nice to an Irishman who you couldn’t understand. Canada has been good.

And last, a special thanks to everyone who in the last few months of me being homeless, unemployed and waiting for a visa, have given me places to sleep, fed me and returned trucks across the border.

I hope Pasadena is half as nice.

 

Surface Pro 3 and Windows 10

My last laptop died, well the screen did anyway. I’ll maybe turn it into a media centre, but for now I need something I don’t have to drag a monitor around with me for.
Enter the Surface Pro 3 with a nifty purple keypad cover (purple being my god-daughter’s colour of choice which makes this a hit with her too). I got the i5 with 128GB sold state drive option.

It came with Windows 8.1 but once I went through the initial setup it offered to upgrade to Windows 10.

So first on the surface. It’s nice. The 12″ screen is a little bigger than an iPad and but when it comes to using it as a laptop this is great. It’s a very clear screen with great resolution and I’m finding working in most applications it is big enough. It is a little prone to fingerprints though.

The keypad, built into a cover comes separately and isn’t that cheap. However it works really well. The keys feel solid enough and the keyboard is large enough that typing is easy. The scroll pad is ok, not great, not bad, just OK. It also comes with a loop that should stick to the cover to hold the pen but this can fall of easily.

Then there is the pen. This is great, one of the best features. It’s pressure sensitive, works on Bluetooth and you can just draw and write on the screen. Windows can read handwriting. My scrawl doesn’t count as handwriting unfortunately. It’s nice for playing with any design, I’ve been using the pen for web design and it works really well. Also Windows 10 comes with a 30 day trial of the New York Times crossword app. Tablet mode with a pen is the way to do a crossword. Even with Cortana I’m having trouble finishing it.

Cortana is the new search assistant in Windows, it will return results from your files, from the web and parse them like Siri in IOS. So a search for word.doc will return word.doc, word1.doc, word2.doc and all my other files. A search for “emperor who committed matricide” will return a web search and probably a link to the answers to todays crossword. A search for “What’s the weather like” will just return the weather. It’s nice but the mic on the surface pro 3 doesn’t work well with it.

Edge is the new browser in Windows 10 and it’s nice. Better than IE ever was and works well in tablet or desktop mode.

One note is a big feature here, double click the pen and one note opens and can copy from the Edge browser, just clip the page or just a part. It works well. Having the pen with One Note may be the thing that gets me to use the software.

Lastly Windows 10. It’s good. It’s as good an improvement over 8 as 7 was over Vista. With 8.1 somewhere in the middle. However it is a new OS. Don’t get it yet. Let idiots like me be the guinea pig while Microsoft sort out the bugs, and it still has bugs. Edge crashes often enough and when closing tabs they have an annoying habit of opening in a new window.

Other than that it seems pretty stable, it’s very fast to boot (about 6 Mississippi when I counted) to get to the logon screen. I’ve installed some software with no issues but have yet to install printers and start the search for drivers.

There are some scares on Facebook about the invasion of privacy of Windows 10 but nothing new to anyone who’s ever owned a Mac or iPhone.

 

Overall I’m loving the Surface Pro 3. It’s the nice combination of laptop and tablet that works well in Windows 10. It’s what Windows 8 promised but never delivered on.

Highway 20

Highway 20 runs across some of northern Washington through the Cascade mountains. It’s usually only open about six months of the year but it opened early this year as there wasn’t much snow. We left all that shit for the east coast. There’s the Cascade Loop, a road trip along this highway and it’s perfect for a motorcycle. Since herself was away, I could stay home, catch up on tv, mow the lawn and have a beer.

Or there is this option;
Driving through the town of Concrete on the way.

I wonder what that sign is made of?

I wonder what that sign is made of?

I made it to the Skagit River Resort the first night and was the only tent there. Not sure why, I only needed 2 sleeping bags. Why was no one else camping? Woke up to lots of bunnies.

Nice empty campsite for the first night.

Nice empty campsite for the first night.

This guy kept running to me, looking for food. Found out later he had been someone's pet.

This guy kept running to me, looking for food. Found out later he had been someone’s pet.

Wake up in a field of bunnies and they have Eggs Bunnydict on the menu? Count me in,. (No bunnies were harmed in the making of this, it's English muffin, poached egg, sausage patty and biscuits and gravy - very very very 'Muirican).

Wake up in a field of bunnies and they have Eggs Bunnydict on the menu? Count me in,. (No bunnies were harmed in the making of this, it’s English muffin, poached egg, sausage patty and biscuits and gravy – very very very ‘Muirican).

Going through the Cascades the next morning it got a little chilly at the top of Washington Pass, 5,477′ above sea level.

I'm going to mount a snow plough on the bike. At Washington Pass,  5,477' up.

I’m going to mount a snow plough on the bike.

Got to Leavenworth, a Bavarian town in the middle of the mountains.

After the snow, this is what I see? What month is it again?

After the snow, this is what I see? What month is it again?

Starbucks in Leavenworth.

Starbucks in Leavenworth.

There are worse places to wake up on a Sunday morning.

There are worse places to wake up on a Sunday morning.

Maybe I should have used a smaller tent. I could have parked the bike in here.

Maybe I should have used a smaller tent. I could have parked the bike in here.

Somewhere in the middle of nowhere.

Beautiful empty road.

Beautiful empty road.

Who's that handsome guy on a bike. The camera adds 40 lbs you know....

Who’s that handsome guy on a bike?

Foodie bike trip

Anyone watched You Gotta Eat Here?

There are quite a few in and around BC, and the ones I’ve tried so far have all been winners.
Anyone got a motorbike?

Well there are some great routes in BC. Let’s put them together.

Who’s up for a little trip either the weekend of 11/12 of April or 18/19 April depending on the weather.

All about the food and the ride. Stopping at restaurants from You Gotta Eat Here.
bikeroute

Start at the Tomahawk in North Van for breakfast.

On to Mile One Eating House in Pemberton for lunch a little later.

Ride on past Duffey Lake and into Hope for a slice of pie at the Home (this one isn’t on You Gotta Eat here, but I’ve never manged to squeeze in pie here).
Then either the Hilltop Cafe in Langley or Big Feast in Maple Ridge.
Google maps says it’s about 8 hours of driving.

Probably another 3 hours of eating. And a week of indigestion.

For weddings and a funeral.

The Irish Times has an emigration section and I submitted this a few months back. Haven’t heard a thing back so publishing it here. This blog has low standards, I’ll publish anything.

For weddings and a funeral.

I knew there’ll be weddings when I left. Some lad from school would tie the knot and I’d miss the get together with the old gang. One year there were 4 weddings spread over three months, I had to choose one so I made it to the sister’s and missed the close friends. Photos on FaceBook don’t do much.I knew there’d be christenings. Another niece or nephew I wouldn’t see till they were walking and talking. I wouldn’t recognise them the next time I set eyes on them, grown a foot or two and they wouldn’t know me, not remember my last visit.

But it’s the funerals I never knew l’d miss. The early morning voicemail when I turned on my phone. Get home. The doctor said to call the family. The priest was in already.

A mad rush to find a flight, anything heading in the general direction, damn the connections in Heathrow that take hours,  or the layovers in Chicago, the bad weather, the delays holding me here. Just hold on a minute longer. An hour longer. Let me get back on time. Let a tailwind get us in early.

A late arrival at a hospital bed. On time, there at the eleventh hour.

And the clock strikes twelve and one and two and still he’s there. Asleep on the bed he hung on for all he could and my hurried week off work is slipping by and by and I wonder if I’ll have to head back before it happens. Before the end.

It’s then the thoughts slip in, unbidden, unhelpful and shame-filling. If it happened now the funeral would be on Thursday, today he might be buried on Friday. Today and I’d rebook my flight. Today and I’d just miss my flight and get another one.

I arrived at the hospital at six in the morning on the way to the airport. A last minute visit to say goodbye, sure and certain that this is it. There’s no real response, years of fighting cancer and this latest blow leave him to groggy at this early hour. Struggling to remember my name. A brief flash of recognition before he fell back asleep.

My life on the other side of Canada won’t wait. Things were dropped suddenly, work to get back to. I can’t hang around forever, I don’t think the dole would have me.

Will he be ok? Will I get home again? Will I make it on time if I get the phone call again? Or will I be sitting at thirty thousand feet with a tiny beer watching bad moves while my voicemail fills up to tell me I went an hour too early. A minute too soon. Should have stayed another day.

If it’s next week, or next month, can I drop all and get home again? Will I end up sitting wondering if this is the time it will happen. Should I be on a plane or will or will I get the phone call too late. Be stuck. No flights. Life keeping me from getting there.

I knew I’d miss the weddings, I never thought of the funerals.

Can we all leave ya a picture of Jesus?

I’ve been catching up on Breaking Bad. A whole lot of people are getting shot, beaten up, run over and disposed of in tubs of acid.

Sitting alone in the house (just after a particularly violent shoot everyone scene) there’s a knock at the door.

It’s a quarter to nine. It’s dark outside.  I’m not expecting anyone. Someone’s head is bleeding on the TV. I nervously open the door, phone fingers poised to dial 911.

There are 3 guys. In suits.

Mafia?

“We’d like to talk to you about Jesus.”

Oh thank fuck I’m not going to die horribly.

“No thanks.”

They ask about my t shirt. It’s from the Big Bang Theory. I’m about to close the door.

“Can we all leave ya a picture of Jesus?”

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