The Best Pastries in North End Boston

This Lobster Tail from Mike’s looks amazing, and the flavor is great… But it’s rubbery

In North End Boston there are quite a few pastry shops run by umpteenth generation Italian immigrant families. They’re all serving about the same thing, but one of them served a better “lobster tail” than the others. It was better because of the stupid food science that we’ve all been hearing about for the last 20 years due to food tv, blogging, and snobbish friends who only eat organic vegan gluten.

Jessica and I, because of our love of science, went to the top three recommended pastry shops to eat the pastries and do the food trigonometry so you don’t have to.

Don’t go to Mike’s. Don’t go to Bova’s. Go to Modern pastry. Here’s why: freshly baked or fried breads cannot hold up to refrigeration. The refrigeration traps humidity and breaks down the crispy, structured lobster tails and you get a soggy lobster tail. Or a soggy cannoli. Modern pastry fills your unrefrigerated pastry to order. Crispy mouth delight.

Modern pastry has the best flavor and texture combination we’ve found in Boston’s North End.

On the way to another destination we passed one of these shops and the case was so thick with condensation that you couldn’t see the pastries in the case.

A properly prepared and freshly filled Lobster Tail and Cannoli from Modern Pastry

Don’t. Refrigerate. Your. Cooked. Pastries.

Not So Thankful for the Oil Change Experience

Say, how fast is a “jiffy” lube change supposed to take?  Is there a checkbox, note field or option somewhere for me to tell my local franchise/store/location/entity that I want to not be delayed radically by car repairman theatrics?  I just want to drive up, have them swap out old petroleum bi-products with new petroleum bi-products and send me off in what I think a jiffy is.  I’m not trying to complain, but it feels like it takes twice as long as needed because we have to go through the whole, “Your air filter looks like it could be replaced, do you want us to extort some more money?,” process.

Every oil change place seems to take longer than it should because of this.  It doesn’t matter if I’m getting Penn-soil, Quacker Stat, or STD oil – even at Walmart – something is weird.  I’m pretty sure that a place that allowed customers to feel like they weren’t being messed with would do exceedingly well.

Dear Friends and Family: Stay Away from Windows 8

I don’t normally post a lot of tech advice here.  People ask me for it sometimes, and I give it because they ask.  I’m stepping outside of that pattern to say that you should avoid Windows 8.  It is to user interfaces what being kicked in the face is to life experiences.  In case you didn’t major in analogy in school I’ll put it like this: using windows 8 will be painful, unfamiliar, and they have moved all of your cheeses.

Windows 7 was awesome. I upgraded to it the day it was released on all 4 of my family’s computers.  It was that good.  Windows 8 is a major let down with lots of potential confusion.  Windows 8.5 may be better. They may release Windows 8.1 (remembers Windows 3.1?) that fixes some of the major issues Windows 8 has.  But for now, stay away from it.

Reasons for this, you ask? 1) The move to a semi-tablet focused interface means that a lot of things you know about Windows are gone by default.  There is no small, easy to navigate start menu.  2) The start button is gone if you switch to desktop mode.  If you press the Windows key on your keyboard you’ll be faced with the tablet application picker (AKA: Windows Metro).  3) They’re copying Apple and creating a Windows store just like iTunes and the App Store.  This will mean that over time Microsoft will limit what developers can publish and will censor material based on their corporate needs and drive.  This is unacceptable.

If you make change for change’s sake, you’re just annoying users who have become accustomed to a pattern.  If you benefit the user with these changes, then there’s a trade off that hopefully most people will see the value in.  This is not that positive change, this is just making change to pretend you’re innovating to ‘lead the market’.  Bad move, Microsoft, bad move.

<done ranting, sorry>


I replaced the door between my garage and back yard today.  It was much easier replacing that door compared to the door I had replaced between the house and the garage.  Probably because I had the experience of the first to make the second one more direct.  I don’t love door replacements as a whole, but I learned a few things.  The one thing I wanted to point out which may save some time and money: Many new doors have adjustable/replaceable weather stripping so that if you need to pull the weather stripping out of the crack they’re tucked into just about 1/16th of an inch – you can.  If you pull it out that much to create a better seal you’ll have better energy efficiency AND not have spent $15.00 or more on new weather stripping.  Pretty cool [or warm, depending on the season].

Windows 8, Internet Explorer 10 and Web Developers

I just got done reading the specs on Internet Explorer 10’s tablet ‘features’ in Windows 8.  This new set of features is incredible on the surface, but as a developer I’m flabbergasted that Microsoft has decided to ignore the de facto standards and now has created yet another touch/tablet interaction model.  I’m not flabbergasted a company would do that, because Apple did it with the iPhone and iPad to create the de facto standard that RIM (disclosure: I work for a subsidiary of RIM) and others have followed.  What this means for developers who are trying to reach the widest possible audience is that their web applications are going to have to choose between:

  1. Lots of branches in their code to handle every possible variation of event detection
  2. Send users away
  3. Attempt to use some open source or home rolled equalization library that tries to mask the differences (this way could lie madness)
  4. Give the users a lesser experience
  5. Create multiple versions of the same thing, each with their own special ‘per device’ sauce (this way also lies madness).

Maybe there’s another option, but I just don’t get why Microsoft has done this to devs.

Today BDConf wrapped up.  It’s targeted primarily towards mobile development and I had a chance to go to their first event in Grapevine, TX in March.  One of the things that they talked about was writing for an ever changing web audience that accesses your site/web application through any number of devices.  However, this sort of added complexity from a major player in the OS department means that one of two or three things is going to happen, and one of them isn’t going to be developer buy in.  I’m convinced that Microsoft is going to have to either adopt some method for giving developers a smaller amount of effort to reach their audience on a Windows 8 tablet, or they’re going to really hurt their end user experience.

I want to create interactive, 3D-space enabled applications with rich interactions that happen to live in a browser, but Microsoft is definitely not reaching out to developers to create a “bold”* new experience in IE10.  They’re not making it easy for end users to have a great, familiar experience.  If you’re switching from an iPad 1 or 2 to a Windows 8 tablet you’re going to get fed up, and move back to the iPad.  If you were to switch from the iPad to the PlayBook you’d be comfortable.  Microsoft has created a barrier to entry, and this is not a good move.  They’re distancing themselves from developers, and they’re distancing their users from rich content.

(update:) Don’t misunderstand me to think that all of what they’ve added to IE10 is a move in the wrong direction, but it’s just not cool that they added a bunch of new HTML5 standards support, and ripped the mobile/tablet market a new hole to support.

* Microsoft employees used the term “bold” numerous times during their announcement presentations today and many people in the media and on twitter noted this.

Today I Called My Mortgage Company

They sent me some mail telling me that they needed to increase my rates ever so slightly to compensate for an increase in my property value.  I’ll refrain from giving you my opinion about this only to say that their ‘helpful’ voice recognition software was annoying, painful, and completely frustrating to interact with.  Worse: the computer took on a personal tone that implied it was human and was going to assist ‘us’.  Creepy.  I kind of wanted to unplug the server 🙂

One Angry Muchacho

I’m pretty ticked at my bank right now.  I won’t tell you which one it is I’ve been using, but since I’m switching to pretty much any other bank I will hint at their name: despite their name, they did not pursue me as a customer.  Instead of treat me like a valued customer they treated me like a faceless number with the needs of a used radish.

Good-bye crappy bank, I’m going to go find anywhere else to bank – preferably one with staff that think I’m human.

Apple: Even Missing Features is Feature

The new Apple iPod Nano is missing an internal gyroscope (or 3) to know which way is up.  Never fear: it’s a feature.  Steve Jobs demoed the device this week and was saying how cool it was you could use your hands to rotate the display.  They should have used the ‘3D’ technology from the Nintendo 3DS to make the display render in all 4 directions.

Four Tired

I’m sitting at my favrite tire store. The staff are friendly. I’m thankful Jessica noticed the rear left tire was low. It had a screw in it. I’m waiting about 45 minutes for Discount tires to repair it. And I’m thankful this tire was not flat next week, we’ve got a long road trip planned.