A look around Boston Harbor

A couple of weeks ago I went out for a ride on the boat around Boston Harbor. While out there I took a few pictures with my iPhone and iPad. Here are a few good shots I managed to get:


Boston Light, probably one of my favorite spots.
The skyline from the harbor.
This beast was on its way out of the harbor, off to ports unknown. I got out of his way.
I have never ridden on Codzilla, but I have heard good things. I just hate him because he throws one hell of a wake, often right on my beam.
One of my favorite places to be…


Why I Don’t Delete

The other day on Facebook I posted a picture of someone dressed rather nerdy, with a comment that he might just be going in to see The Dark Knight Rises.  One of my friends made a pretty tasteless joke referring to the shooting in Aurora, Colorado.  When she saw that, my wife was incensed at the post and was amazed I did not delete it.  I know a lot of people would have done that.  I didn’t even find it all that funny, but I left it up there, and other people commented on his remark as well.

I think I can count on one hand the number of comments I have deleted off of FB, or any of my blogs, and still have enough fingers left to play the bass line for “Crazy Train”.  I just don’t do it, generally.  I believe that people either write something for a reason and I should not delete them just because I disagree with them, or they posted something that might deserve some sort of public discussion or ridicule, as the case may be.

The main reason, though, is I just do not believe in that sort of thing on my page.  If someone posts something or makes a comment, I would like to think people know I am not the one doing that, and I always reserve the right to disagree and argue.  Obviously there are exceptions, something obscene, disgustingly racist or illegal will get the boot.  But I really do believe that it’s not my job to save me from your opinions, or save you from yourself.  I’ve said some really stupid things before, it happens.

It goes beyond that too, though.  I honestly believe in the Wild West approach to the internet.  While it’s really handy to be able to sit on a bench in a park, and order new shoes, a couple of pounds of bacon, and a groupon deal for podiatry, the real power of the internet is connecting people to ideas outside their own.  Whatever anyone has to say, they have the ability to say it to potentially billions of people.  This sort of interaction has proven to be an amazing tool, using the Arab Spring as a great example.  Not that I am comparing my Facebook feed or this blog to any of that, but the point remains that whether it’s a goofy gamer nerd from Boston or a parts salesman in Islamabad, there is the ability to connect to everyone in a way never before seen.

Any and all information should be free and available. Not in the “screw copyright” sense, but freely accessible by anyone anywhere.  This also includes the awful stuff too.  White supremacists, anti-semites, Scientologists and Republicans all have a place on the internet, and it’s vitally important to a free and open society that they are out there.  If they are pushed off to the dark corners where people cannot see them for what they are, that allows them to fester and become even worse, only coming to the surface when they become the next Ruby Ridge.

I truly believe there should be no censorship of the internet.  Maybe I could be convinced that there needs to be some sort of filtering to keep kids from pornography, but I would rather that be taken care of by parents and responsible adults, instead of relying on censorship and institutionalized filters.  Overall though, it’s important for anyone to have access to this sort of information system, but learn how to use it and know there are consequences for certain actions and opinions.

So given that stance, it would be very hypocritical of me to delete comments and posts made on my feed or sites.  If people find things offensive, I apologize, but there is no freedom from being offended guaranteed anywhere.  I don’t have many standards or principles, but this is definitely one of them.

I would like to reach out my hand

Last week I went with some co-workers out to San Francisco for a conference.  I had a great time, learned a bunch of stuff, and met a lot of people from around the world all working in the same sorts of roles.  I’m still going through all the notes and pictures, so I will be writing about the trip soon, but while there I got a phone call from my cousin Eileen, Evan’s mom.  She and her husband asked me if I would be willing to read the post I made about Evan’s passing at a memorial service they were having.

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Monkeys In The Temple

In the early 90s a man contacted my grandfather about writing a book about the China/Burma/India Theater of World War II. It’s an often overlooked part of WWII, and it is where my grandfather served for most of his time in the war. It’s something I have always been immensely proud of, and why in fifth grade I did a big project about CBI in my history class.

There is a lot of interesting information about that theater, and there is even a section of the Smithsonian Air And Space Museum dedicated to it now.

The back patch in particular has a lot of meaning to me, as my grandfather’s was one of his prized possessions, and I even got to use it in the report in fifth grade.

Until the author called and interviewed my grandfather, though, I had never really heard the story of his time while MIA. He had to bail out of his plane with the rest of the flight crew, and ended up walking out from behind enemy lines in China. I had heard parts of it, some of it from my grandmother’s perspective of worry, but not like this interview.

My grandfather passed away in 1999, when I was 30. I had been very fortunate to have him for as long as I did, and to this day his absence is very painful. He made me much of the man I am today, and for that I will be forever grateful. I will also be forever grateful for the service that he and so many others in my family gave for the country. He retired in the 70s as a Chief Master Sergeant in the Air Force, and instilled in me not just a love of country and countrymen, but also a love for what this country means and stands for. Freedom, tolerance, acceptance, and that out of many cultures, beliefs, lifestyles, and backgrounds, we are all Americans and deserve to be treated as such.

So now this Memorial Day I want to offer a little bit of insight into one man’s bit of World War II. It’s long, yes, but I think it’s worth it. It makes good podcast listening. A couple of other little trivia bits. During the interview he mentions John Blunt, a good buddy of his who walked out with him.. It was only well after my grandfather’s death we discovered that John Blunt was the father of author John Irving. I think Papa would have been very proud to have known that.

I know we were very proud of him.

The Walkout Club

The Interview

Note: this was captured off of a cassette tape, so is a little hissy and not well mixed. It builds character, so cope.

Wanna see my fish balls?


Instead of actually going shopping or you know, buying food, I raided our cabinets tonight to make dinner. Difficulty level: Gluten free for four.

My raid came up with the following pile of goods:
2 pouches of salmon
Box of gluten-free pasta
Cornmeal breadcrumbs
Bean thread (essentially Chinese vermicelli)
2 cans of green beans
Bunch of spices and seasonings

So I surveyed what was before me, knowing there was some stuff in the freezer but not feeling a desire to defrost anything. So what to do… Then it hit me. Balls!

I mixed the salmon in a bowl with cumin, some breadcrumbs, and an egg. Put a 1/4″ of oil in my tall skillet to heat up, and began rolling the fish into balls, and then coating them in more breadcrumbs. Toss them in the pan, and cook for about four minutes on a side.


But what good are fish balls without something to dip your balls in? They needed a sauce. Remember, I am going for a certain laziness factor here, so it can’t be a lot of work. To the fridge!

Seafood cocktail sauce
Hot sauce

I decide to not use the hot sauce, though next time I think I will. But maybe mixed in with the fish, as it would probably work better there. So a big spoonful of mayo goes in the bowl, followed by a bunch of the rest, along with a lemon and dill mix.

A quick flash cook of the green beans and boom, dinner done. Total time: 25 minutes

And of course I drank the beer. That’s a dumb question.

Fill to me the parting glass

Words fail to capture such moments. I think I swore a couple of times when I heard the news Sunday morning, that my my 19-year-old cousin had died after a reaction to jumping in the frigid North Atlantic in Scotland. My thoughts turned to his family, his parents, his twin brother. Such a good, loving family that had gone through a lot and come out with such joyful attitude towards life. His grandparents were the ones that gave me the name for this domain, true stalwarts against all the pain and bullshit that life could throw at them and yet still smile and appreciate both what they had, and what they had lost.

But to suddenly lose someone so young, happy, full of promise and potential, in such a capricious manner, where do you turn for comfort and logic to explain the one burning question. Why? Some turn to faith, some turn to philosophy, and others look inward for some sort of way to make some sort of sense to such terrible events.

That’s just the thing, though, there isn’t any sense to be found. Solace, sure. Comfort, yup. But there is no sense to be made. It’s been 23 years since someone close to me passed at 19, again of Random Medical Condition, and to this day I cannot make any sense of what happened.

Instead, I eventually took that experience, however, and learned from it. The lesson is that no matter what some guy in a Roman collar says, or what you read in a book, life is a gift, whether the gift of a creator or the most amazing cosmic accident. Thing is, it has an expiration date. It might be when you are 96 years old, surrounded by a horde of grandchildren and more. It might be tomorrow. You don’t know.

So realize that you get one shot, and it might end at any time, so live. Live the way you want to live, but also make that life worthwhile. In Scouting there is a rule about camping, leave the place better than you found it. That rule applies to life too. Do you make others happy in your life? Are you leaving the world in a better state than when you got here? While people will mourn your absence, will they think of you and smile and laugh? Did you make a difference?

If you can say yes to all of those questions, you win at life.

(If you can answer yes, you may also be a zombie or vampire, so best to get that checked.)

Speaking for myself, I think it is safe to declare Evan a winner at life, despite only being given a far too short time to rack up such an amazing score. My younger son said tonight that he was really sad because he was really going to miss playing games at the Family Reunion with Evan. I look at Evan’s Facebook wall and see all the people posting expressions of grief and gratitude for sharing what time he had with them. I know I will miss the call of “cousin Joe!” and damnit who am I going to win the egg toss this year with? I see on the tv news interviews with teachers and friends who are grieving mightily, not just at the senseless loss, but also a selfish sadness about the knowledge that they will never get to see his infectious smile, and his exuberance, which seems so cliche but is the only word I could think of that even came close to the energy and life Evan brought into the room, not unlike his grandparents in years past.

So no, I still cannot find logic or sense in this tragedy. I will probably never have an answer to why. But I do take some small comfort in knowing that despite it being a shortened game, Evan won at life. In fact it wasn’t even close. He kicked life’s ass. He will be missed, and while there will be a hole in the hearts of those who loved him that will never be filled, there is some small comfort in knowing that he won, and made our world so much better in doing so.

Goodbye, Evan. We miss you already.


Thoughts at 43

So another year is behind me, and I am typing out a blog entry on the iPad I received as a gift this year. It has been about 35 years or so since the first time I ever used a computer, my earliest recollection of technology was going to my father’s office and playing Spacewar on the mainframe console in the giant computer room. In a room roughly the size of my old high school cafeteria, rows of cabinets contained the mainframe infrastructure for the Massachusetts State College Computer Network, providing a network for all the colleges in the state, with a crew of people maintaining it and operating all the different functions around the clock.

I also remember sitting at the desk next to my dad’s office, right by where his secretary sat, and doodling on a pad of paper. It has not escaped me that the mainframe that took up so much room is not as powerful a computer as the device I am using to type this now, which is about the same size as the doodle pad I used back then.

While it may be very stereotypical to talk about the changes in technology over the span of my lifetime, I cannot help but look at my sons and wonder what the dramatic changes they will see over that same span. When I was in eighth grade, I remember talking to one of the kids in my class at a small parochial school about connecting my computer at home through a phone line to computers all over the country, if I wanted. Between the state college system and the beginning of BBSes, I was reading info and playing games on the computer in our house along with people all around the world. There was a girl who was sitting nearby who kinda turned her nose up at me (something that happened a lot, she really did not like me, being all nerdy and not really into the social crap) and said that was impossible, and such a waste of time. She then went back to talking to another girl and they kinda laughed at me being such a nerd. I don’t know whatever became of either of them, and frankly could not care any less, but I like to think about karma every now and then, and entertain the thought that they received some sort of comeuppance in some sort of Revenge Of The Nerds style way.

I look at my boys, however, as yesterday they huddled together watching videos on my wife’s iPhone, and compare their worldview to mine, and I wonder what sort of thing that they dream of experiencing that would be laughed off as impossible now will be ubiquitous in thirty years. Hopefully I will get to see it too, but it still won’t be the same, I will be like my grandmother was, seeing the introduction of radio, tv, space exploration, the Internet, medical science going from discovering penicillin to somehow allowing a baby born at 26 weeks gestational age to survive and now be taller than most of his family. I will be the guy telling my grand kids about tumble tuners, rabbit ears, rotary dial phones, and having to plug a wire into the back of my computer to connect to broadband.

I’m 43 now. I have a job that still makes me shake my head and wonder how the hell I ended up in something so unique and amazing. I have a family of my own, and two kids that amaze me with not only their minds and personalities and potential, but just by their very existence. I have friends that I would never want to replace, both locally and around the world. That greasy-haired hyper-shy 8th grader is long dead, as people find it unbelievable now that he even existed,not having known me then. There have been many bumps on the way, some events and decisions for good or ill that will haunt me for the rest of my life. But also moments of great joy. I also know there are more of all of these things ahead of me.

I am ok with that. And really, that’s the main thought I have at 43. Change happens, life moves forward, and it’s going to be great at times, suck at others. I am prepared to be amazed at technology and science. Disappointed by a lot of the rest of humanity. But overall I still have a hopeful outlook and look forward to seeing how it all plays out.

Also, we better have some friggin jet packs soon.

Chicago bound

I am going to be traveling to Chicago next week for work, and while I am actually looking forward to the trip, there are a couple of things that are making me a little hesitant to go.

First, the airplane. I usually fly JetBlue, but this time going out on United, which is ok, but nowhere near as comfortable for a guy who is 6’4″ and a, shall we say, large-framed gentleman. United is especially bad, but it’s only about two hours so I can suck it up for a quick trip. One thing that is guaranteed however is that the person in front of me will lean their seat back making it impossible for me to do anything. It’s almost impossible to even read a book when that happens, and so far it has happened on EVERY SINGLE FLIGHT I have taken on United.

Another issue is eating. I will be staying at an apartment but the temptation to go to the awesome restaurants all around downtown Chicago will be hard to resist and I will end up doing that instead of cooking something back at the apartment. I know it will work out that way, it is inevitable. Chicago has far too much really good food and I am weak in the face of such awesome.

On the upside though the commute is much better, since the apartment is right across the street from the office I will be working at. So yay for sleep!

Scapegoating is as bad as bullying

This is going to be an unpopular statement and I know there are a few people that are going to be a little pissed off at me for saying this, but I feel sorry for Dharun Ravi. He is the Rutgers student who was convicted on several charges related to his videoing (and streaming on the Internet) a sexual encounter that his roommate, Tyler Clementi, had with another man. Clementi shortly thereafter committed suicide by leaping from the George Washington Bridge.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not condoning or justifying the acts that Ravi committed. It was mean, bullying, and a terrible invasion of privacy. He was a stupid kid doing a stupid thing. He did not cause Tyler Clementi to commit suicide, however. He contributed, sure. Maybe his act was the proverbial last straw. But he could not have reasonably thought that the next day Clementi would kill himself. That demon was already clawing at Tyler, and this was what put him over the edge.

Dharun Ravi is now going to jail, and may be deported. He deserves punishment. But the past few days it has been really bothering me that this kid has now been demonized and is sort of being a scapegoat being served the justice and anger that people have against a much larger problem. Like I said, Ravi was not the sole cause of Tyler’s suicide. Or any of the LGBT kids that have committed suicide because of the loneliness and despair brought being ostracized, bullied, told by parents, teachers, churches, and many other adults that they are abominations, freaks, sinners, and deserve to catch AIDS and die.

Dharun Ravi is now the face of that bullying and hatred and people are celebrating his conviction and bemoaning that his punishment is not more severe. That is unfair. What he did was wrong but pales in comparison to what goes on day after day, in schools, churches, homes and even on the news. Presidential candidates espousing the kind of rhetoric is more insidious, more damaging than what Ravi did, and drives more and more kids into despair. Passing laws making it illegal to even mention homosexuality in a school environment, even when necessary. A nine year old kid said (with no preceding context) to my son, “Lesbians are gross”. That is not something he came up with on his own, nor is it a conclusion a nine year old would come to on his own. He heard it somewhere and parroted it.

That is the real villain here, not an eighteen year old kid who did something stupid and mean. That is what we should focus anger and resolve on, not a dumbass freshman.

My travel in time to 2004

So back in 2004, I worked at a company that decided to have a St Patrick’s Day party that was meant to be fun during a stressful work cycle, but all it did was serve to really tick me off. So I wrote a blog entry about it, venting about the things that really got under my skin about St Patrick’s Day as a person of proud Irish heritage. Somehow it got discovered by an Irish cultural blog, was linked to and reposted a few places, and suddenly I had what would be the second-biggest influx to my blog in its history.  Several thousand people read the entry, and probably even more at the places that reposted it.

Unfortunately, I unexpectedly lost the domain the entry lived at a couple of years ago, and going through a database backup is a pain in the neck for both me and my hosting provider, so I hadn’t been able to find that entry for a long time.  Thanks, however, to the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, I was able to find a good copy of the the entry, and I think it is a good thing to repost here at Pog Mo Thoin.  I have mellowed a little over the past eight years, but not a lot.  And the final sentence is still as true as ever.


Beannachtai na Féile Pádraig oraibh!

March 17, 2004

I started my St Patrick’s Day off right, by shoveling my car out after we got seven or eight inches of sneachta overnight. This put me in the exact frame of mind to post a little diatribe called “Why I Hate Saint Patrick’s Day”.

My office is having a mini celebration including a “Who Can Wear The Most Green” contest, a “Guess The Number Of Gold Coins In The Pot Of Gold” thing, and I’m sure there will be drinking. In the past fifteen years, I have had exactly one alcoholic beverage on March 17th, and that was a pint of plain at a pub listening to some traditional Irish pub music. There are a number of different reasons I don’t drink on this day, and actually a fair number of them have nothing to do with St Patrick’s Day, at least not directly. But nothing gets under my skin faster than seeing a bunch of people wearing god-awful green outfits and buttons and flowers and plastic hats and drinking green beer, getting shitfaced, and calling that “celebrating the Irish”. A friend of mine told me that one of his co-workers was planning to do a pub crawl starting at 6 this morning. And of course, the ever-popular “Kiss me, I’m Irish, As Long As You’re Straight, Otherwise Get The Fook Out Of Our Parades.”

So as a good Irishman, I’m proposing the following: during events we import from other cultures, I’m going to commemorate the occasion by celebrating those cultures.

February is Black History Month. I’m going to wear a bunch of minstrel show blackface, eat a lot of watermelon, fried chicken and wash it down with a 40 ounce Colt 45.

Octoberfest? I’m going to wear a military uniform, beat up some Jewish people, and maybe invade the local Polish neighborhood.

Bastille Day? Striped shirt, beret, wine, condescending attitude, and I think I’ll cower in fear at anyone that even looks at me menacingly.

Rosh Hashannah? That one’s tricky, but I think I’ll grow those cool curls at my temples, wear a big fake nose, complain about how badly the world treats me, and raise your interest rate.

Anyhow, instead of going out and just getting shitfaced while wearing a shirt featuring a mooning leprechaun, take a little time and learn about the history and culture of Ireland. Read about Cúchulainn,Brian Barou, and Easter 1916. Find out why 1847 has such a perky nickname in Ireland. Hell, go watch Michael Collins.

Oh, and if I catch you drinking a green beer, I’m knocking your ass down.