May 2006

Amusing Hockey Films (or: Congrats, Oilers!)

by Joey deVilla on May 31, 2006

Over at my-nhl.com, there are 5 amusing little films about the Oilers/Mighty Ducks series made using tabletop “knob hockey” figures. Enjoy, and congrats to the Oilers on making it to the finals!

Note: this is hockey, so there’s some cussin’ and swearin’. A couple of four-letter words ain’t gonna kill you.

[Thanks to LeROIduPLYWOOD for the link!]

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DemoCamp 6.0

by Joey deVilla on May 31, 2006

DemoCamp Toronto logo

Last night’s DemoCamp was a battle against Murphy’s Law and a stubborn projector which refused to cooperate with the demonstrators’ laptops. It made for some waits between presentations, but at least it wasn’t as bad as Microsoft Live! demo of last November.

I was busy presenting Skydasher and Feedcache and helping host the event with Jay Goldman, so I didn’t get a chance to take any notes. Luckily these people did, so go check out their reports:

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Ethan Discovers Silicon Valley’s Secret

In the comments to an entry from earlier today, Ethan tells me that he has discovered the secret of Silicon Valley: there’s a software engineers’ Fight Club. He points to a Globe and Mail article, Superheroes for a Night.

I wrote about it in Tucows Farm a couple of months back and pointed to a news report complete with hilarious video clips (I always crack up during the fight where they use “Hello Kitty” toilet seats as weapons). Here’s an excerpt:

Never mind blowing off steam with videogames or going to the gym: a group made largely of software engineers in Silicon Valley have started The Gentlemen’s Fighting Club, a group whose activities are similar to those depicted in Fight Club. Unlike Fight Club, which is all about unarmed and unprotected combat, fighters in this club wear fencing masks, gloves and jockstraps and fight with all sorts of improvised weapons, from rolled-up Oprah magazines bound with duct tape to cookie sheets to “Hello Kitty” toilet seats.

Apparently it’s stress relief for these guys, and none of them seem to mind the injuries that come with the territory. If I were a member, I’d dress up exactly like the guy in the “Spongebob Squarepants” t-shirt.

Beat-Downs vs. Boredom

Those of you who haven’t been reading this blog for too long may be unaware that I used to busk a lot more, back when I lived right by the club district. On weekends, I’d bring my accordion along and go clubbing with friends like everyone else. After last call, I’d go to the Amato’s Pizza where everyone grabbed a late-night bite and start playing. On a good night, I could easily get a hundred bucks — going out often ended up being a net gain, money wise — and if I played my cards (and accordion) right, I could get a phone number or two.

Most people who buy a late-night slice at Amato’s usually hang out on the sidewalk outside, which became my busking “stage”. Depending on the night, anywhere from 50 to 150 people would hang out, eat their pizza, chat with their friends, look for another party and sometimes, look for a fight. Sooner or later, in a crowd that’s come from a bar or club, someone will be itching for a fight. In all but one case, the fight involved two guys, and after the fight broke up, they’d be hustled into a car by their friends before the cops came. In every case I’ve seen this happen, the car had a dealership stciker that clearly marked them as from “The 905″ — the area code for the ‘burbs.

In The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs wrote that the way suburbs are designed and laid out results in boredom, and boredom leads to trouble. In the case of the guys fighting outside Amato’s, I’d say that boredom was part of the problem (the other part being that downtown was merely a playground to them); in the case of the Silicon Valley Fight Club, I’d say that their problem was a toxic combination of boredom and some other kind of emptiness in their lives.

That boredom and emptiness is why Dinesh Prasad, a member of the club, skipped meeting his wife for their first-year anniversary and went to the club instead (he’ll be divorced in a couple of years at this rate). Gints Klimanis, the organizer of the fight club, explains the club’s appeal:

“We have to go to work every day. We’re constantly told to buy things we don’t need, and just for a couple hours we have the freedom to do what we want to do.”

This is a complete seat-of-the-pants supposition, but I’d be willing to bet that the guys in the Silicon Valley fight club didn;t work at start-ups, but at large, established tech companies that once were start-ups but now have hundreds, if not thousands of employees and a very well-defined org chart. They’re not in the garage, they’re in the Dilbert Zone: cubicle-bound cogs in a large machine, not living the dream, but the nightmare described in the blog Mini-Microsoft.


Next: The first act of nerd violence I ever witnessed, and how it affected my choice of university.

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Chuck Norris’ Toilet Paper

by Joey deVilla on May 31, 2006

The world’s toughest man needs the world’s toughest wipe:

Feel free to make any “badass” jokes in the comments.

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On "How to be Silicon Valley", Part 3

by Joey deVilla on May 31, 2006

Your Reading Assignment

Paul Graham, whose essay How to be Silicon Valley was the inspiration for this blog entry, has written a follow-up titled Why Startups Condense in America. I’ll write up more on it later.

How to be Milan?

One of the more interesting responses to my posting on Silicon Valley came from Danielle Meder, who comes from a completely different industry: fashion. In her blog, final fashion, she writes:

One of my favourite local characters, Accordion Guy, offers on his blog a recipe for Toronto to become Silicon Valley. It seems that fashion is not the only industry where Toronto struggles to define itself. Despite the fact that it is a city that is liberal, creative and economically strong, Toronto constantly deals with identity issues. Too often we define ourselves by what we are not or measure ourselves against inappropriate benchmarks (we are not New York and never will be) rather than positively asserting what we are.

Danielle points out something that some people from the tech field have pointed out in previous comments: that the Canadian aversion to self-promotion is a problem. Come to think of it, I can’t think of much in the way of my wardrobe that could be described as “Canadian”, save for a couple of dress shirts from Tip Top (who’ve improved a bit over the past few years) a couple of vests from local guys Hoax Couture and some stuff from Mexx Everything else was designed by Americans, Germans or Italians and stitched (or possibly glued) by Indonesians.

Although the stereotype is for geeks to actively eschew fashion, it does matter to a number of us. I’m sure I’ve written at least one decent fashion blog entry, and I’ll be the first to admit that the accordion is a thirty-pound fashion accessory (albeit one that makes nouse and can convert music into free beer).

Consider the DemoCamp “brain trust”: I don’t think I’ve seen David Crow without a blazer or Sutha Kamal or Thomas Purves without a good dress shirt on. I sometimes tend towards the raffish — check out my ties and shoes or the Pants of Power — but I’ll go back to the classics when the occasion demands it.

I’m not up on the state of the fashion industry in Toronto, so I doubt if I can contribute anything useful to the “How can we promote Toronto’s fashion industry?” conversation. (Hey, I haven’t even caught up with this French-cuffs-and-cufflinks trend; I don’t have a single French cuff shirt and one of my three sets of cufflinks are black with silver Playboy bunnies on them — they might come in handy if ever someone throws a Dean Martin theme party). If you’ve got any ideas, drop by this entry in Danielle’s blog and leave a comment!

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DemoCamp 6 Tomorrow!

by Joey deVilla on May 29, 2006

Toronto DemoCamp logo.

Don’t forget: DemoCamp 6.0 takes place tomorrow! For more details, see this entry in Tucows Farm. Ross and I will be among the presenters — we’ll be presenting Skydasher and Feedcache.

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Look Closely, or You Might Miss the S.O.S.

by Joey deVilla on May 29, 2006

[Thanks to “mantid” for finding the photo] Here’s a clever poster design from the PR department for the German branch of Unicef about child labour. The “S.O.S.” is very cleverly worked in:

Unicef anti-child labour ad
The bottom of this poster reads “Children forced into work are calling for help”.

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