Breaking the silence - Ireland.

Over a month ago now, my wife and I went on vacation with her boss and friend and another friend of hers to Ireland...

We took the CIE 'A Taste of Ireland" bus tour, and had an amazing time. This was my first trip to Europe, and unsurprisingly, I found it amazing.

Ireland is definitely a party country, if there could be said to be such a thing :) It seemed like there were Guinness taps everywhere. Being
rather a fan, this could hardly be considered a problem for me :)
Speaking of Guinness, on our first day we visited the Guinness brewery in St. James Gate. The initial 'tour' is kind of neat, although mostly just
multimedia presentations and the like about how it's made. The real bonanza however, and the reason that I feel no Guinness fan should miss a visit,
is the 'Gravity Bar' on the top floor of the brewery. You only get 1 pint of Guinness (probably to cut down on loitering and move people through) but
I have to say it's the best pint I've ever tasted. Most of the other pubs we visited had fine Guinness, but really it wasn't particularly any more
tasty than a pint drawn at a really good pub here in the US that knows how to handle its Guinness.
The bus tour itself was incredible, but a bit grueling. A typical day involved getting up at 6:30 to get to breakfast at 7:30 so we could pile onto
the bus for 8:00. After that, it was a dizzying whirl wind of destinations and picture taking, and usually around 5:30 in the evening they'd dump
us at our destination where we'd be staying for the night, and we'd all crawl away to freshen up and try to recover enough to enjoy the evening's
festivities :) In addition to the sheer endurance required for the trip, we definitely experienced the expected feeling that in a number of cases,
we would have *REALLY* liked to have more time to explore (For instance we never kissed the Blarney Stone because we had exactly 2.5 hours to
have lunch, explore the Blarney Woolen Mills, and visit Castle Blarney!).
I won't detail everything we saw, it would get boring for both of us and there's no point - consult a good travel guide and you'll get better
writing than I can muster anyway. A couple of tidbits I particularly enjoyed were seeing Trinity College and the Book of Kells, a stop we made
at a working sheep farm (You have no idea what it actually sounds like to have 1,000 sheep being herded :) ), and a buggy ride through Kilarney
National Park with a stop at Castle Ross, whose ruins are still in remarkably good shape allowing you to wander around, climb the ramparts, and
generally get up close and personal in the kind of relaxed way I most enjoy exploring a place.
My talented wife took about a billion pictures - I took a few as well but if you see the angle skewed oddly it's probably mine - she has a real
eye for composition! You can look at them on Flickr
if you like.

Maybe we'll go to Italy next year, if I don't convince her that a nice relaxing sunny beach vacation on an island somewhere is the way to go :)

Another whirlwind weekend in Manhattan

This was first and foremost a visit to spend time with my wife's family...

... But as always we managed to sneak some fun in between the cracks.

We had brunch at Vynl. This place is downright fun, from the records decorating the walls to the album jacket menus to the bathrooms each with their own unique theme - The Beatles, Madonna, etc. Happily, the brunch food is actually quite good. We had and can enthusiastically recommend the banana pecan pancakes, the brioche french toast, and the make your own omelette option. The large glasses of tasty fresh squeezed orange juice are also a nice touch.

A quick stop at the Manhattan Apple Store on Fifth Avenue and were amazed at the multi-national throng as we jostled our way in only to decide that the shopping we'd hoped to do for a relative was impossible, and found our way out again (The place was packed - hundreds of people at least).

Later in the day while trolling around for something to fill a couple of idle hours, we ended up at the King Cole Lounge at the gorgeous and elegant St. Regis Hotel. If you're lucky enough to get a table (We only scored one due to the generosity of a couple whose party unexpectedly shrank due to the departure of some friends) you'll be treated to a viewing of a beautiful Maxfield Parrish mural depicting King Cole looking on bemusedly at the festivities. The drinks are stiff, well made and very tasty, and the bar snacks are unusually good. I had a Big Apple Manhattan and the ladies got Pomegranate martinis which both got rave reviews. Apparently, the Red Snapper cocktail they serve here is the ancestor to the modern Bloody Mary.

Having wiled away the aforementioned time in tipsy elegance, we made our way over to
Shun Li Palace where we met up with some other family for dinner. This is perhaps not the most authentic Chinese food I've ever encountered, but wow is it tasty. Also, the atmosphere is decidedly upscale. There is a significant wine list, and the staff are decked out in full suit attire.

Between too many bar snacks and a lovely dinner, we waddled back to our hotel (Yay Priceline. We'd never have stayed there otherwise) and passed out in a happy blissful drink and dinner induced haze :)

Apparently hell froze over - Apple made Safari into a usable web browser!

For a long time I have *wanted* to be a Safari user...

But every time I would try I would end up using it for 5 minutes and then find myself butting heads with a site that's entirely unreadable using it.

My hard core Mac zealot friends would wave their arms and say "BUT THOSE SITES AREN'T STANDARDS CONFORMANT!" which is probably true, but there are times I simply want to be an end user, and web browsing is one of them.

Happily, with version 1.3 Apple seems to have improved the HTML, CSS and Javascript rendering support enough that all of the sites that I tested which used to fail utterly or render useless results under older versions now work like a charm.

Kudos to Apple for having had the sense to bring their default web browser for OSX up to the excellent user experience standards exhibited by the rest of its environment.

Genes, lifestyle, and longevity

So I spent the weekend with my lovely wife and her family celebrating...

her Nanna's 90th birthday. She had another uncle present who is 94 years old and seems more spry and active than some thirty somethings I know.

This led me to reflect a little bit on the fact that nobody in my family lives into their nineties, and damn few live into their eighties (Or have thus far).

There are a number of factors that could readily explain this without too much digging. My family has traditionally been lower middle class, blue collar workers. As I've mentioned here before, my mom and dad meet during WWII while working as mechanics repairing amphibious vehicles (My dad was her foreman :). My uncles and cousins mostly worked in plastic factories and the like, and all but the most recent generation smoked all their (comparatively short) lives.

If longevity could be thought of as a graph with lifestyle, age and genetics all expressed as axes, I wonder what our two families would look like? Add in recent developments in the understanding of how epigenetics effects longevity and by extension how the environment and lifestyle of an organism can effects its offspring one, two or even three or more generations down the line, and you wind up with a dizzying multi-dimensional data structure whose representation I can't even fathom.

Kinda leaves me feeling grateful that we're not planning on having children any time soon :)

This rant (meander? pile of babble? I dunno) has no conclusion per se. Just a bunch of thoughts that have been rolling around in my head for a bit.

Usage peeves I have no business having

I am at best a poor writer. Even so, certain things get under my skin...

  • If I never hear or see the word "the" intentionally misspelled as "teh" again, I will be a happy man.

  • 3lyt3 5p3ak can just GO AWAY too, really.

  • Just sayin'. This may have been effective about 20 years ago when the first person who propagated this meme, but now it's tired. So very tired.

  • ebonics - I like rap. A good friend many years ago in college walked up to me one day when I was ranting at some friends about how I thought rap was just chaotic noise and nothing else, and said "Rap is one of the most politically active forms of music on the planet, and that's a fact.". He was right. All that's beside the point though, ebonics are seeping their way into main stream speech in ways I find most unfortunate. It can stop any time now.

  • Wassssssuupppppp!!! - the original Bud marketing campaign was brilliant, and even funny in spots (I still enjoy the sushi bar version - Wasabii!!!) but this meme is so tired it needs to be taken out back and shot - a mercy kill at that.

  • Calling everyone "Kid" whether they be 18 or 80 - Maybe the denizens of Southie can get grand fathered in on this one, I dunno, but the rest of you should really stop watching those Martin Scorsese.

As I said above, I realize that in truth I have no business at all airing my English usage peeves, because in truth I am a sloppy writer and a downright poor grammarian. But anyway, I feel better having gotten them off my chest :).

This just makes me laugh, and yet it's a damn fine idea.

Using hip hop as a teaching tool for English.

Go take a look at Flocabulary

The piece that actually left me chuckling on this snowy wet morning was this. A Hip hopped up Cliffs Notes version of Romeo and Juliet.

I love the idea - speaking to kids using a medium they're comfortable with. In no way do I think this should replace a full and careful reading with explanations by the teacher, but for some children there's a lot of ground to cover before they're able or ready to be successful in such an endeavor.

Kudos to The Mighty Red Pen for coming up with this. For those who don't read it, I highly recommend it. It's funny and educational - it doesn't get much better than that!

Semi obscure music question

Read no further if you think Phish is just a misspelling of those things with fins and scales......

Does anyone know which Phish album and song contains an A Cappella version of the mourner's kaddish?

I know it's out there somewhere because I've heard it multiple times, I just can't for the life of me remember which album it's on.


The answer is that it's not the mourner's kaddish, but is instead a Jewish funerary song called "Jerusalem, City of Gold" and is included at the end of the song "Demand" on Phish's "Hoist" album.  View most of the details over  here.

Ah, a real New England Winter. Now if only people could cope.

Every year, when the first real snow storm hits, people allow the media to whip them into a fine frothy frenzy...

I never cease to be amazed at this phenomenon. You would think that the hundreds of thousands of people who live here year in year out would get the hint, see the pattern, clue in, or something!

In addition to the usual rounds of closures, hubbub and horrendous traffic jams (Induced by said closures and media frency) people also somehow managge to forget, ignore, or otherwise avoid the simple expedient of shoveling their side walks.

The problem is exacerbated by absentee land lords who write clauses like "Tenant is in charge of snow removal" into their lease (Which I'm told is of questionable legality to begin with, but I'm hardly a lawyer so I dunno). Your average college kid simply isn't going to feel motivated by a sense of civic duty enough to get his/her butt out there on a winter's day and start shoveling.

I am told that there was a time when, if you didn't shovel your walk, you would be fined by the city. I whole heartedly approve of this practice and wish they'd bring it back. If you are elderly, infirm, or otherwise unable to shovel your walk, you should hire someone to do so.

If you can't afford it, I would question whether or not you should be owning property. This is somewhat harsh, but the truth is that when you own a house in the city, you are sharing space with the rest of us, and some responsibilities to the community come with that. Elder care and charity should help pitch in for those truly needy cases.

Anyway, on a positive note - aside from the impassable, icy sidewalks, I am actually very much enjoying this winter. It's almost a relief in a weird sort of way to see the kind of snow I'm used to seeing having grown up here in New England (An hour away actually, we get even more snow there.).

Enough with the rant. Have a good day everyone!


cropped-2017-01-15_13-53-02_000.jpegMy name is Chris Patti and I'm a DevOps engineer for a thoroughly awesome company - Amazon Web Services. Note that my opinions are mine and not my employers (That should go without saying, but anyway).

In the off hours I enjoy spending time with my lovely wife, playing games of all kinds (but especially those involving face to face human interaction like board games or tabletop RPGs), reading (I have a rather severe case of bibliophilia which I've had to throttle back quite a bit now that I'm sharing my life with someone. Thankfully, she's very understanding :), and dabbling in digital art.

Ah, Sweet Sanity!

Woo. So, as I indicated in my old blog, I have switched to Wordpress. Typo is nifty and all, but it's still hackerware and seems unlikely to veer from that course any time soon.

Much as I love Ruby, I am still clueless about Rails and truthfully, even web development in general (I have now learned the basics of CSS - but apparently not enough to be dangerous yet, and I *still* don't know Javascript.)

WordPress does everything I need with a modicum of hassle, so that's the direction I'm moving in now.

This does mean you'll need to update your RSS links. The new link is here:

However being Wordpress, it also supports Atom, and a bunch of others.

Anyway, look for more and more interesting bits in this space now that I can stop wrestling with the infrastructure and actually say something for a change!

Merry Christmas, Happy (belated!) Channukah, and a happy new year!