August 2005

The Soundtrack from My Personal Coming-Of-Age Film

by Joey deVilla on August 30, 2005

[via Daimnation!] Damian Penny picked up the meme, and I’m running with it:

…find the Top 100 songs from the year you graduated from high school,

list ’em on your site, highlight the ones you like and cross out the

ones you hate. You underline your favorite, and ignore the ones to

which you’re kind of indifferent.

That’s a tricky one for me: the Billboard Top 100 for 1987 is hardly representative of what I was listening to back then:

  • The Dead Milkmen: Eat Your Paisley
  • The Smiths: Strangeways Here We Come / Louder Than Bombs / The World Won’t Listen
  • Sigue Sigue Sputnik: Flaunt It
  • Indochine: Au Zenith
  • Level 42: True Colours / A Physical Presence / Running in the Family
  • Scritti Politti: Cupid & Psyche ’85

  • Joy Division: Substance
  • New Order: Substance
  • Kate Bush: Hounds of Love
  • Beastie Boys: Licensed to Ill
  • Jesus and Mary Chain: Psychocandy
  • Violent Femmes: Violent Femmes
  • Specimen: Batastrophe
  • Generation X: Kiss Me Deadly
  • Public Image Ltd.: Album
  • XTC: Skylarking
  • Images in Vogue
  • Skinny Puppy
  • Big Audio Dynamite: This is Big Audio Dynamite
  • Ministry, when Alain Jorgensen was still singing with his fake British accent

The CFNY playlist for that year (the former name of what is now “102.1 The Edge”;

it was a better and more eclectic station back then) would be a better

list to work from. Still, here’s my run at the Billboard Top 100, with

a couple of stories to boot.

Scroll down to the end of this entry for a special musical treat!

1. “Faith”…..George Michael

didn’t pay much attention to this song when it came out in 1987. It

would take another three years before it came onto my musical radar.

As I’ve mentioned a million zillion times before, I was from the first generation of regular DJs at Clark Hall Pub, a pub run by the engineering students at Crazy Go Nuts University. With the help of supportive managers like Ryan, George, “Beeker” and other great DJs like “Turner”, Lisa, “Archie” and “Johnny O”, we turned the pub into the place you went to when you were tired of the standard musical fare.

Our strong tendency towards alt-rock didn’t mean that we avoided the

classic rock or pop tunes; we just provided a more interesting mix of

songs. It wasn’t unusual to hear a set in which ABBA’s Dancing Queen was followed by Ministry’s Jesus Built My Hotrod, or have KMFDM’s industrial dance hit Godlike followed by Right Said Fred’s I’m Too Sexy (or to see our resident nice-guy skinhead Glen Sloan and me go-go dancing on top of the DJ booth to both).

Certain cheese-pop songs, like the aforementioned I’m Too Sexy or Boney M’s Rasputin

had wide cross-over appeal. Whenever one of these tunes came on, people

rushed the dance floor, whether they were popsters, classic rockers,

alt-rock snobs or one of our small but loyal contingent of goths. My

friend Leesh (then one of our gang, now George’s wife) used to call

songs that appealed to you despite your knowing better “the secret top

ten — songs you’re too cool to like”.

The big “secret top ten song” at Clark Hall Pub was George Michael’s Faith.

One of the managers had bought the album from a bargain bin at the

local CD store and added it to the pub’s then-small music library.

Someone had played Faith on a lark and it turned out to be an

unexpected hit. A little while later, a tradition had formed: as soon

as you heard the opening organ intro — a pipe-organ treatment of the

Wham! song (I Don’t Want Your) Freedom

— you had to stand on your chair. As soon as the guitar chords

started, you clasped your hands above your head and did pelvic thrusts

in homage to George Michael’s dance moves.

This song brings back happy memories: sitting in the DJ booth (arguably

the best seat in the house), high-fiving the guys, chatting up the

girls and enjoying my favourite cocktail at the time: Crown Royal and

cranberry juice*.

* To my father-in-law, who is also an aficionado of Crown Royal: Hey, I was young then.

2. “Alone”…..Heart
3. “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” …..Whitney Houston
4. “C’est la Vie”…..Robbie Nevil
5. “Shake You Down”…..Gregory Abbott
6. “La Bamba”…..Los Lobos
7. “Livin’ On A Prayer”…..Bon Jovi
8. “Here I Go Again”…..Whitesnake
9. “Heaven Is A Place On Earth”…..Belinda Carlisle
10. “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life”…..Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes
11. “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”…..Starship
12. “I Think We’re Alone Now”…..Tiffany
13. “With Or Without You”…..U2
14. “At This Moment”…..Billy Vera and the Beaters
15. “Keep Your Hands To Yourself”…..Georgia Satellites
16. “Heart And Soul”…..T’Pau
17. “Open Your Heart”…..Madonna
18. “Didn’t We Almost Have It All”…..Whitney Houston
19. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”…..U2
20. “Looking For A New Love”…..Jody Watley
21. “Don’t Dream It’s Over”…..Crowded House
22. “Is This Love”…..Whitesnake
23. “Shake Your Love”…..Debbie Gibson
24. “Shakedown”…..Bob Seger
25. “Notorious”…..Duran Duran
26. “I Want Your Sex”…..George Michael
27. “The Lady In Red”…..Chris DeBurgh
28. “Always”…..Atlantic Starr
29. “Head To Toe”…..Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam

30. “Mony Mony”…..Billy Idol

1987, I was the keyboard player in A.K.A., a band made up of my friends

from high school. Our set list had a large number of Billy Idol

numbers, and to this day I retain a lot of useless information about

Billy (some examples: his real name is William Broad, his girlfriend at

the time was Perry Lister, his hit Dancing with Myself is actually

borrowed from his old band, Generation X and in his “unauthorized

biography”, he claimed to be fond of German expressionistic cinema).

Mony Mony was probably one of our better numbers, and as the keyboard player, the instrumental gave me an opportunity to shine.

I have heard a handful of theories as to why one should shout “Hey

motherfucker, get laid, get fucked!” (the north Toronto alternate with

less cussing was “Oy, bubby, zaidy, get bagels, get lox!”) after every

line in the verses. My favourite one is that the original — performed

by Tommy James and the Shondells — was on the radio when Billy lost

his virginity.

31. “Only In My Dreams”…..Debbie Gibson
32. “Land Of Confusion”…..Genesis
33. “Lost In Emotion”….Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam
34. “Should’ve Known Better”…..Richard Marx
35. “You Keep Me Hanging On”…..Kim Wilde
36. “Touch Me (I Want Your Body)”…..Samantha Fox
37. “Lean On Me”…..Club Nouveau
38. “Catch Me (I’m Falling)”…..Poison
39. “I Knew You Were Waiting”…..Aretha Franklin & George Michael
40. “(I Just) Died In Your Arms”…..Cutting Crew
41. “Control”…..Janet Jackson
42. “Somewhere Out There”…..Linda Ronstadt & James Ingram
43. “U Got The Look”…..Prince
44. “Don’t You Want Me”…..Jody Watley
45. “Jacob’s Ladder”…..Huey Lewis and the News
46. “I Heard A Rumour”…..Bananarama
47. “Little Lies”…..Fleetwood Mac
48. “Songbird”…..Kenny G

49. “Breakout”…..Swing Out Sister

cute funky 80’s brit-pop bauble by a competent but otherwise

unremarkable band. It’s probably more notable for the memories

associated with it.

I had completed all my required high school courses by the end of 1986.

In the second half of the school year — the first half of 1987 — a

had only one course on my schedule: THM 5A0, an experimental technical

course called “Pneumatics, Hydraulics and Robotics”. This course had a

class three times a week and consisted of three hours of classes plus a

little extra lab time for labs. (My final assignment: a programmable

deep-frying vending machine. Genius!)

This incredibly light schedule meant that I had copious amounts of

spare time. Some of it I spent working part-time as a clerk in the

Investigations department of the Investment Dealers’ Association of Canada,

preparing reports on deliquent investment brokers. I learned more about

the strock market in those six months than I did in several business

courses at Crazy Go Nuts University.

The rest of the time was spent partying at McGill University, where my

sister did her undergrad studies. About every two or three weeks, I’d

roadtrip to Montreal with my sister’s then-boyfriend Boober (his real

name was Robert; he didn’t like the nickname “Bob” and I thought “Rob”

was too pedestrian for him). Boober would then spend some quality time

with sis, while I’d party with her floormates. I would often facilitate

their partying by doing their Thursday night computer science

assignments while they got primped to go out.

I got involved with one of these floormates, which constituted my


serious relationship, which led to my first relationship near-disaster

and was quickly followed by my first

I’d-do-it-again-although-it-was-probably-ill-advised relationship. (It

was with her younger sister. Long story. I should blog it.) The

whole experience was bittersweet — thankfully more sweet than bitter

in the end — and it gave me some experience dating American girls,

which would eventually pay off.

Getting back to the inspiration for this bit of nostalgia: Swing Out Sister’s Breakout was a hit around that time.

50. “Someday”…..Glass Tiger
51. “Bad”…..Michael Jackson
52. “In Too Deep:…..Genesis
53. “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”…..Michael Jackson & Siedah Garrett
54. “La Isla Bonita”…..Madonna
55. “Let’s Wait Awhile”…..Janet Jackson
56. “Luka”…..Suzanne Vega
57. “You Got It All”…..The Jets
58. “Who’s That Girl”…..Madonna
59. “Don’t Mean Nothing”…..Richard Marx
60. “Come On With Me”…..Expose
61. “Will You Still Love Me?”…..Chicago
62. “Wanted Dead Or Alive”…..Bon Jovi
63. “Don’t Disturb This Groove”…..The System
64. “Change Of Heart”…..Cyndi Lauper
65. “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You”…..Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine
66. “Casanova”…..Levert
67. “When Smokey Sings”…..ABC
68.”Is This Love”…..Survivor
69. “The Finer Things”…..Steve Winwood
70. “Rock Steady”…..The Whispers
71. “Big Time”…..Peter Gabriel
72. “Point Of No Return”…..Expose
73. “We’ll Be Together”…..Sting
74. “Something So Strong”…..Crowded House
75. “Victory”…..Kool and the Gang
76. “The One I Love”……R.E.M.
77. “Causing A Commotion”…..Madonna
78. “Sign O’ The Times”…..Prince
79. “Carrie”…..Europe
80. “Mandolin Rain”…..Bruce Hornsby and the Range
81. “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight”…..Genesis
82. “Can’t We Try”…..Dan Hill with Vonda Sheppard
83. “Diamonds”…..Herb Albert
84. “Heart Of The Night”…..Bryan Adams
85. “Let Me Be The One”…..Expose
86. “Brilliant Disguise”…..Bruce Springsteen
87. “Midnight Blue”…..Lou Gramm
88. “Just To See Her”…..Smokey Robinson
89. “Doing It All For My Baby”…..Huey Lewis and the News
90. “Valerie”…..Steve Winwood
91. “Cross My Broken Heart”…..The Jets
92. “Ballerina Girl”…..Lionel Richie
93. “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You”…..Glenn Medeiros
94. “It’s A Sin”…..Pet Shop Boys
95. “I’ve Been In Love Before”…..Cutting Crew
96. “Wipeout”…..Fat Boys & Beach Boys
97. “Big Love”…..Fleetwood Mac
98. “Respect Yourself”…..Bruce Willis
99. “Who Will You Run To?…..Heart
100. “Right On Track”…..Breakfast Club

The special musical treat: Billy Idol and Simple Minds make up part of

the soundtrack of my youth and the impressive tape collection I kept in

the Deathmobile (my 1983 Volvo wagon). How’d you like to hear the two

of them in one song? Here’s Billy Idol’s cover of the Simple Minds hit,

Don’t You (Forget About Me) [4.5MB, MP3] taken from his “Greatest Hits” album released a couple of years ago. Enjoy!


"Impudent! Impudent! Impudent!"

by Joey deVilla on August 29, 2005

Request you denounce and prevent the American DuPont impudently forcibly occupy intellectual property of Mr.Huang!

impudent DuPont CO.!

impudent Holliday!

impudent! impudent!! exceeding impudence!!!

DuPont and CEO Holliday are transnational scoundre!

Seek response from E-mail:

Does DuPont dare to deny openly? It does not dare, absolutely does not

dare. With ironclad evidence before it, what qualification does it has

to deny? There is a proverb saying “Qui non improbat, approvat”.

Without open objection, DuPont is openly admitting itself to be a

transnational scoundrel, trampling on the human and national dignity of


repudiate a debt + vilify = scoundrel          

repudiate a debt + vilify + threaten = impudently forcibly occupy

Ladies and Gentlemen:

My friend, Mr. Huang, is patent holder of a highly efficient and

nontoxic farm pesticide production technology of People’s Republic of

China. However, in 1995, without negotiating with Mr. Huang, DuPont

Chemical Company of the United States has unilaterally worked out a

“1995 Agreement” and took the patent technology solely as its own, and

has been refusing to pay Mr. Huang any technology transfer fee or “full

compensation”. More despicable is that DuPont Board Director and CEO

Holliday has for three times vilified Mr. Huang as a scoundrel and the

People’s Republic of China as a country of scoundrels on the obverse

side of Mr. Huang’s “refused” envelope, and said Mr. Huang, as a

citizen of the People’s Republic of China, is not entitled, as citizens

of other countries do, to claim his right with DuPont according to laws

of civilized countries and practice of civilized people. Since the

summer of 2000, Mr. Huang has time and again produced sufficient

factual evidences and irrefutable legal basis for DuPont to perform the

agreement or conduct full compensation by way of writing letters,

sending facsimiles, making telephone calls and face-to-face

negotiation. And contrary to this, DuPont is unable to produce any

factual evidences and legal basis neither for not performing the

agreement nor for not conducting full compensation, but takes the

attitude of “”absolutely” not performing the agreement nor conducting

full compensation, and “you may do as you like”. Here I want to ask who

is the scoundrel (a transnational scoundrel)? What kind of

qualification has Holliday obtained to do so? In summing up, Holliday

and DuPont are undoubtedly scoundrels. Or more correctly, Holliday is a

transnational scoundrel, while DuPont is a multinational scoundrel. In

order to safeguard the basic economic order as well as the basic ethics

in the world, Mr. Huang here sincerely request all ladies, gentlemen,

CEOs, experts and men of noble characters to let it know to Holliday

and DuPont that laws of civilized countries cannot be trampled on, the

basic ethics of the society cannot be ruined, respect and equal

treatment to China and the Chinese people are necessary, and to

repudiate debts cannot fatten itself. DuPont must observe the

obligations it has promised in the agreement, let alone the commitment

it made initiatively. It must pay patent fee and license fee to Mr.

Huang and may by no means go back on its words. If it dares to take

goods and does not pay, it certainly dares to take the money and does

not deliver the goods, or deliver fake products, or deliver products of

inferior quality. Who will be the next victim? At what time? And what’s

the amount? Who can guarantee? Therefore, Mr. Huang request all of you,

CEOs, technical experts, men of noble characters, and Chinese

compatriots: guard your property and wealth against Holliday and

DuPont. Though you are fully capable of smashing the scheme of Holliday

and DuPont, it is a waste of time, energy and money to do so; keep away

from them and avoid various exchanges with them. Mr. Huang sincerely

suggests you check whether you have fallen into the trap of Holliday,

or the trap of DuPont? If you have, go straightly to them and get even

with them. Otherwise you will be taken as automatic disclaimers of

power once the “validity of legal prescription” passes.

With best regards

Empowered person: SXF


 Heartfelt thanks for your reading my E-mail and your mail of

attention to this matter. I would like to make some replenishment

concerning the matter, for you to judge and decide.

I Abstract

1. At the request of Du Pont, Mr. Huang has for 10 times submitted

written technical materials to Du Pont from April 1993 to 1994, for

expert group of Du Pont to conduct feasibility analysis.

2. On February 22, 1995, Dr Robert F Sklar, Technology Transfer

Licensing Manager of DuPont arrived in Shanghai in China, to “sign many

agreements” with Mr. Huang. Mr. Huang insisted DuPont examines samples

first before signs any agreement. However, as samples were still in the

process of purification at the time, no agreements were signed then.

3. On March 28, 1995, Mr. Huang sent the first batch of samples to Du Pont by post.

4. On September 7, 1995, Mr. Huang received “Biological Evaluation

Agreement” (1995 Agreement) sent by Du Pont, requiring Mr. Huang to

sign this agreement and again provide samples. Mr. Huang signed the

agreement and sent second batch of samples as requested by DuPont.

 DuPont admit in Article 5 of the “1995 Agreement” that Mr. Huang

will be entitled to claim patent and licensing fees. DuPont states in

Article 8 of the “1995 Agreement” that Mr. Huang may not cooperate with

any universities or enterprises in any form before and after signing of

this agreement (for this reason, Mr. Huang has refused cooperation

request of several companies).

5. On September 10, 1998, DuPont sent a letter to Mr. Huang, asking for third batch of samples.

6. In 1999, DuPont carried out a month-long insecticide screening on

the third batch of samples (in fact, it has carried out weeds killing

test and mould killing test in the meantime), and required to keep all

these tests a secret.

7. On June 8, 2000, DuPont sent a letter saying it was not interested

in samples provided by Mr. Huang, and refused to pay Mr. Huang patent

and licensing fees.

8.The mail signed by DuPont on June 2th, 2005, threaten  Mr.Huang ,and prevent Mr.Huang send the







求证E-mail:杜邦中国 ,

   杜邦总部Contact Us:






西方谚语:“不反对就是赞成! ”




 无理顽固赖帐 + 无耻污蔑  = 强横无耻型的无赖

无理顽固赖帐 + 无耻污蔑 + 威胁-恫吓 = 





















学会不要践踏文明国家的法律,不要败坏社会最基本的道德,学会尊重、平等对待其他国家和其他国家的人民;教训Holliday和美国杜邦,顽固 赖






家们,一切道德高尚的君子们,一 切有民族自尊心的人士:千万警惕和严防Holliday和美国杜邦侵夺您的















  1. 从1993年4月起到1994年,黄先生应杜邦要求,向杜邦提供了近10次文字技术资料,供杜邦专家组进行


  2. 1995年2月22日杜邦技术转让与许可证经理Sklar博士 (E.I.DU PONT DE NEMOURS AND COMPANY Robert  

F. Sklar Ph. D. Manager,Technology Transfer Licensing)来中国上海,要与黄先生“签订许多协议”。黄先生坚持要在让杜邦看了样品后再签协议,而当时样品尚在提纯过程中,故未签协议。  

  3 1995年3月28日黄先生向杜邦寄出了第壹批样品。  

  4. 1995年9月7日黄先生收到杜邦寄来的《BIOLOGICAL EVALUATION



(黄先生为此而谢绝了几家公司要求合作的 请求)。

  5. 1998年9月10日杜邦发信向黄先生要到了第叁批样品。

  6 1999年杜邦对第叁批样品进行一个多月的Insecticide Screening(际实上,同时进行了杂草杀灭试验和霉菌杀灭试验。杜邦要求对这些试验全部保密)。

  7. 2000年6月8日杜邦发信称对黄先生的样品不感兴趣,拒绝向黄先生支付专利费和特许证费。  8.2005.06.02. 杜邦签署信件,对黄先生进行威胁-恫吓,阻止黄先生发此E-mail。


On the Tucows Blogs…

by Joey deVilla on August 29, 2005


  • Blogging Katrina: A list of blogs covering Hurricane Katrina.
  • The CBC Lockout Blog:

    A pointer to Tod “I Love” Maffin’s blog devoted to the

    lockout at the Canadian Broadcasting Corportation, Canada’s public TV

    and radio broadcaster.


The Farm:


Lost Conversations #5: Quick Boys Revisited

by Joey deVilla on August 29, 2005

Lost Conversations is the title of a series of blog entries that have

been sitting in draft form for too long; it’s my attempt to do some

“spring cleaning”. This is the fifth in a series — the other three are:

I started this post near the beginning of August.

I was away for the long weekend (the first Monday of August is “Civic

Holiday” in Canada), so I didn’t get a change to respond to any of the

comments to the Quick Boys story posted last Friday. Of all the

comments, one in particular stands out. If you’ve read them all, I

don’t even need to tell you which one, but for the purposes of this

article, let me reprint it below:

Re: At Last, My Blog Lands Me in Hot Water!

by Anonymous on 2005.07.29 06:00AM EDT


You are getting married soon and you have your whole life ahead of you.

Why mess around with a bunch of Eastern European thugs like this?

When a person’s livlihood is messed with, they can get really nasty. I

think the last thing you should do is expand the story. Think of you

fiance, your future children, and yourself.

Expanding the story is only going to mess up their google search even more and enrage them further.

Forget all this macho stuff and be a real man.

You may not know this, but in the control panel of the

blogging application I use — Tucows’ own Blogware — the IP (Internet

Protocol) address of the machine used by the commenter is reported.

This particular comment was submitted from a machine whose IP address

was A cursory reverse DNS lookup identifies this address as “”, a server that belongs to True Internet, an internet service provider that is — as you might have guessed from the top-level-domain — in Thailand. (“TH” is the ISO two-letter country code for Thailand, and “.th” is its country code top level domain.)

I have made the assumption that the commenter is not

remotely accessing a machine in Thailand in order to obscure its

origin, but actually using a Thai ISP. This would confirm my belief

that the comment was a critique of my ability to assess risk and not a veiled

threat. Hello, my reader in Thailand!

After doing the reverse DNS search, I was reminded of the last time I

received unusual comments from someone in Thailand: on July 28th, for this blog entry. All the comments posted on the 28th come from the 203.144.160 block of addresses, which leads me to believe that the commenter is the same.

There are two ways to interpret the comment:

  1. Concern for my safety and a

    probable investor in the company for which I work? This person can’t

    be too bad — s/he’s already scored two points in my good books.

  2. “Dude! You’re one of the highest-profile employees of the

    company I’m investing in! Please don’t get yourself killed — well, at least not until it’s

    trading at $2.50!”

I’m a nice guy. I’ll go with interpretation 1.

As for Quick Boys, the most threatening thing they’ve done is play the

“we’ll sic our lawyers on you” card. It’s a far cry from sending a goon

squad my way. It’s also bit of a leap from having an Eastern Euro

accent to being cosy with the Russian mob.

[Additional note, August 29th, 2005: I have never heard from Quick Boys since their two phone calls at the end of July.]

I would hardly characterize myself as “macho”. In fact, people who know

me will say that I’m a pretty easygoing laid-back kind of guy who’d

sooner negotiate a solution than resort to fisticuffs. However,

I refuse to be an easily-bullied pushover.

After contributing to the development of software that routes around Chinese censorship

and expecting people inside China to risk arrest and torture by Chinese

authorities by using it, it would be hypocritical and just plain wrong

of me to take down comments I believe to be true just because a moving

company nastygrammed me. At their core, most bullies are craven cowards

who attack only when the odds are clearly and overwhelmingly stacked in

their favour. The world would be a better place if more people called

their bluffs and stood up to them.

I’ll close with something I wrote a couple of years back:

The other thing to keep in mind is that life, as The Stranglers

song goes, shows no mercy. Sooner or later, you’re going to be sitting

in the back of the Metaphorical Pickup Truck of Life and realize that

there’s a guy in a Pikachu costume smoking crystal meth in the driver’s

seat. His foot is jammed hard on the accelerator pedal, he’s drenched

in sweat, he has the look of death in his soulless eyes, he’s slashing

his own leg with a stilletto knife and screaming “PAIN WILL BRING ME


Lesser people — those who can only thrive when the cards are dealt

in their favour — will curl up in a ball and wait for the truck to

eventually go off a cliff or slam into a bus of orphans and puppies and

explode John Woo-style.

Those who know that winning isn’t in the cards you’re dealt, but how

you play them, would hop over the cab and onto the hood, Indiana

Jones/T.J. Hooker style, smash through the windshield, pummel the

driver into submission and bring the vehicle to a complete stop. And

then take everyone out for ice cream afterwards.

I hope to be one of those people.


My Portrait in the Park

by Joey deVilla on August 26, 2005

Rannie’s “Portraits in the Park” project — in which he visits a different Accordion City

park every week and takes portraits of anyone who wants one — has been

going quite well and has produced some nice results. Case in


Photo: Joey deVilla poses with his accordion in High Park for one of Rannie Turingan's 'Portraits in the Park'.

Those are no ordinary pants — those are the Pants of Power!

(You can see a larger version on Rannie’s blog as well as in his Flickr set.)

Thanks, Rannie!


On Various Tucows Blogs Today…

by Joey deVilla on August 25, 2005


The Farm:



Lost Conversations is the title of a series of blog entries that have

been sitting in draft form for too long; it’s my attempt to do some

“spring cleaning”. This is the fourth in a series — the other three are:

Please note: this one’s rather high in technical content. It’s also been cross-posted to The Farm.

Hindsight, Guy Kawaski and Ice

One of my favourite speeches is a high school commencement address titled Hindsight, which was made at Palo Alto High

School by one of my role models (especially given my line of work):

former Apple evangelist Guy Kawasaki. It was a “top ten list” of

advice to the graduating class, and item number eight was “Challenge the known and embrace the

unknown”. It went like this:

One of

the biggest mistakes you can make in life is to accept the known and resist the

unknown. You should, in fact, do exactly the opposite: challenge the known and

embrace the unknown.

Let me tell you a short story about ice. In the late

1800s there was a thriving ice industry in the Northeast. Companies would cut

blocks of ice from frozen lakes and ponds and sell them around the world. The

largest single shipment was 200 tons that was shipped to India. 100 tons got

there unmelted, but this was enough to make a profit.

These ice harvesters,

however, were put out of business by companies that invented mechanical ice

makers. It was no longer necessary to cut and ship ice because companies could

make it in any city during any season. These ice makers, however, were put out

of business by refrigerator companies. If it was convenient to make ice at a

manufacturing plant, imagine how much better it was to make ice and create cold

storage in everyone’s home.

You would think that the ice harvesters would

see the advantages of ice making and adopt this technology. However, all they

could think about was the known: better saws, better storage, better

transportation. Then you would think that the ice makers would see the

advantages of refrigerators and adopt this technology. The truth is that the ice

harvesters couldn’t embrace the unknown and jump their curve to the next curve.

Challenge the known and embrace the unknown, or you’ll be like the ice

harvester and ice makers.

You Couldn’t Give Away Visual Studio Here

A couple of weeks back, I placed an order for the beta evaluation version of Microsoft

Visual Studio 2005, which consists of the upcoming version of the

Visual Studio IDE, the Visual Studio Team Server (which I assume is

some software to assist with versioning and collborative programming)

and Microsoft SQL Server 2005. For those of you who aren’t terribly

into techie stuff, this is the Microsoft equivalent of a fully loaded Snap-On Tools truck, minus the free calendars with the girls in bikinis holding wrenches.

I received the discs a couple of days after placing the order and


sent out an office-wide general notice to my co-workers saying “Hey, if

you want to try out the Visual Studio 2005 beta, come by my desk and

I’ll loan you the discs.” Not only is it my job to make sure that the

tech world is aware of what Tucows is doing, it’s also to ensure that

Tucows is aware of developments in the tech world.

The response: almost none, save for two comments.

One comment came from a sales engineer who passed by my desk and said “Heh. Good luck getting anyone interested in that.”

The other was a short and perfunctory email from the IT department

reminding me that it is a violation of company regulations to install

unauthorized software onto company machines.

(Of course, the joke’s on IT — I brought in my own Windows box. As

someone who isn’t in the development department of the company, I got

issued a non-developer machine. It’s quick enough for writing TPS reports,

but not up to the task of development. I use it as a monitor stand. I

did what any half-decent hacker would do — I brought in my own box.)

COBOL for the 21st Century

Of course, I installed Visual Studio 2005 on my machine. A number of

our customers build their web services on the Microsoft platform and I

should at least maintain some passing familiarity with Windows

development (in a former life, I wrote VB apps for small-to-mid-size

businesses). I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t install it and

build some basic apps, both desktop- and web-based.

However, for the development of the Tucows platform — our domain name

registration service, email and email defense, Blogware, Blogrolling,

Start — there is no compelling set of reasons to switch from the LAMP


On an even more fundamental level, there’s a reason for a lack of

interest in Microsoft’s languages (C# and Visual Basic) and even their

Sun-based kissing cousin, Java: they’re not where the interesting stuff

is happening.

C#, Visual Basic and Java are going through an “ice maker” or “ice

harvester” phase. The improvements to these languages are now

incremental and seem to be aimed at making sure that they have more

items on their feature lists than their rivals. Improved IDEs? Nice,

but nothing major. Generics? After trying to improve away from C++,

both C# and Java went back and aped the unwieldiness of C++’s

templates. These new features are knowns; they’re the software

equivalent of ice harvester thinking: faster ships, better ice storage,

sharper saws.

The really interesting stuff is happening with open source dynamic

languages, namely PHP, Python and especially Ruby, all of which are

pushing little-known possibilities of programming, such as

metaprogramming, generators, higher-order functions. These languages

are more about getting things done and less about getting in your way.

Consider the difference between the code required for the Order class

in this developerWorks article. In the Java version, you need this XML:

01 <hibernate-mapping>
02 <class name="models.Order" table="ORDERS"
03 dynamic-update="true" dynamic-insert="false"
04 discriminator-value="null">
06 <id name="id" column="id" type="java.lang.Long"
07 unsaved-value="null">
08 <generator class="identity"/>
09 </id>
11 <set name="items" lazy="false" inverse="false"
12 cascade="none" sort="unsorted">
13 <key column="id"/>
14 <one-to-many class="models.Item"/>
15 </set>
17 <property name="name" type="java.lang.String"
18 update="true" insert="true"
19 access="property" column="name"/>
20 </class>
21 </hibernate-mapping>

…and this Java code…

01 public class Order {
02 private Set items;
03 private String name;
04 private Long id;
06 public Long getId() { return id;}
08 public void setId(Long id) { = id;}
10 public Set getItems() { return items;}
12 public void setItems(Set items) { this.items = items; }
14 public String getName() { return name; }
16 public void setName(String name) { = name; }
17 }


XML is necessary in the Java implementation because it allows you to

change the Order object without having to recompile the Java.

Now let’s look at the equivalent class in Ruby:

01 class Order < ActiveRecord::Base
02 has_many :items
03 end

Note the lack of XML and “scaffolding”. Note the lack of code, for that matter.

Which would you rather code? Which would you rather maintain? Which

method seems like archaic ice boats and saws, and which seems like a


Yes, I’ll keep up with the Visual Studio and Java worlds, and maybe

crank out an app or two using them, but for me — and my fellow

developers here at Tucows — the really interesting programming tools

are elsewhere.