June 2010

Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked

by Joey deVilla on June 28, 2010

Joey deVilla playing "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked" on accordion at Loser Karaoke

One of the songs in my MP3 collection that’s on heavy rotation is Cage the Elephant’s Beck-ish, slide-guitar southern-rock-y ode to “doin’ what you gotta”, Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked. It practically begs for an accordion version, so I’m learning it in order to add it to my repertoire, which could stand a little refreshing.

Joey deVilla playing "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked" on accordion at Loser Karaoke with Jason Rolland in the background

While I haven’t learned the song well enough to perform it unaccompanied, I’ve had just enough practice to do it as an accordion karaoke number, which I did at last week’s Loser Karaoke. Loser Karaoke is a regular Thursday night event at Tequila Sunrise where having a good time trumps singing ability. It helps that Jason Rolland is an entertaining karaoke host. As an added bonus, it’s where a lot of the people from Accordion City’s high-tech, startup, social media entrepreneur scene come to cut loose. For more on Loser Karaoke, check out their Facebook page.

I should feel ashamed to say this, but a decade’s worth of public accordion playing has attenuated my ability to feel shame: the reason I know about Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked isn’t because I’m dialed into the alt-rock music scene. Thanks to middle age, I used to be with it, but they’ve since changed what “it” was. I know about the song because of…well, a video game. Namely, Borderlands, which uses the song in its intro sequence:

For the curious (and the fans), here’s Cage the Elephant’s official video for Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked. Enjoy!

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Conflict Minerals and Blood Tech

by Joey deVilla on June 27, 2010

conflict minerals

Say the word “silicon” and chances are, you’ll think of technology. After all, silicon’s relationship to tech – it’s part of what makes transistors and chips – has been part of popular culture for decades, from the “Silicon chip inside her head” opening line from the Boomtown Rats’ song I Don’t Like Mondays to “Silicon Valley” as the nickname for the suburban expanse between San Francisco and San Jose.

Silicon is only part of the equation, however. The chips that drive our computers, mobile phones and assorted electronica are actually a “layer cake” consisting not only of silicon, but also oxide and metal.

There’s also the matter of key non-chip components like capacitors, which momentarily store an electrical charge. They’re made of thin layers of conductive metal separated by a thin layer of insulator. We use their “buffering” capabilities to smooth out “spiky” electrical currents, filter through signal interference, pick out a specific frequency from a spectrum of them and other “cleaning up” operations.

One of the metals used in the manufacture of capacitors is tantalum, which you can extract from a metal ore called coltan, whose name is short for “columbite-tantalite”. About 20% of the world’s supply of tantalum comes from Congo, and proceeds of from the sale of coltan are how their warlords – the scum driving the world’s most vicious conflict, and who’ve turned the country into the rape capital of the world – are bankrolled.

Nichloas Kristof of the New York Times wrote about metals like tantalum purchased from Congo – conflict metals – in an op-ed yesterday:

I’ve never reported on a war more barbaric than Congo’s, and it haunts me. In Congo, I’ve seen women who have been mutilated, children who have been forced to eat their parents’ flesh, girls who have been subjected to rapes that destroyed their insides. Warlords finance their predations in part through the sale of mineral ore containing tantalum, tungsten, tin and gold. For example, tantalum from Congo is used to make electrical capacitors that go into phones, computers and gaming devices.

Electronics manufacturers have tried to hush all this up. They want you to look at a gadget and think “sleek,” not “blood.”

Yet now there’s a grass-roots movement pressuring companies to keep these “conflict minerals” out of high-tech supply chains. Using Facebook and YouTube, activists are harassing companies like Apple, Intel and Research in Motion (which makes the BlackBerry) to get them to lean on their suppliers and ensure the use of, say, Australian tantalum rather than tantalum peddled by a Congolese militia.

He also points to the Enough Project’s latest video, which used humour and a reference to the “I’m a Mac / I’m a PC” TV commercials to draw the public’s attention to conflict metals and to encourage them to contact electronics manufacturers and ask them to be more vigilant when sourcing components:

The Enough Project says that auditing component supply chains at the smelters to see whether the metal was sources from “clean” places like Australia or Canada instead of lining the pockets of Congolese warlords would add about one cent to the price of a cellphone, and that this figure originates from within the industry. I’d happily pay a thousand times that for each of my devices – a mere ten bucks – to ensure that I wasn’t bankrolling rape and murder.

I’ll close this post with the closing paragraph from Kristof’s op-ed:

We may be able to undercut some of the world’s most brutal militias simply by making it clear to electronics manufacturers that we don’t want our beloved gadgets to enrich sadistic gunmen. No phone or tablet computer can be considered “cool” if it may be helping perpetuate one of the most brutal wars on the planet.

This article also appears in Global Nerdy.

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A Last Minute Sweetup (Saturday, June 26th)

by Joey deVilla on June 26, 2010

come to the sweetup

Yes, the G20 conference with the protests that go along with it have turned downtown Toronto into “Torontonomo Bay” and the weather’s been bouncing between rainy and gloomy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a nice Saturday evening in Accordion City! The Missus and I have decided to hold a meetup at Sweet Flour Bake Shop (2352 Bloor Street West, just east of Jane) – a sweetup, as she calls it – to enjoy some frozen yogurt and made-to-order cookies.

sweet flour interior

Sweet Flour’s specialty is made-to-order cookies in no time at all. You pick the dough and the “mixins” – from chocolate chips to nuts to fruit to smashed-up Snickers bars – and they’ll bake it into a custom cookie for you in a couple of minutes. There’s also  frozen yogurt, and you can take the mixins for cookies and have them as toppings. They also have other stuff – check out their site for details.

mixins

We’re going to be there tonight (Saturday, June 26th) at 8:00 p.m. and we’d like you to join us! See you there!

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Typically, one – but during the G20, with heightened security turning Toronto into “Torontonomo Bay”, it takes ten.

We were sitting on the patio at The Rhino (Queen Street West, west of Dufferin) when a guy started calling out to the patio-dwellers, announcing that 4 cops were writing him a jaywalking ticket:

01 g20 cops

One of his friends was wearing an Anti-Flag t-shirt, another wore a t-shirt with the words “Action Now” and another was wearing an anarchist-themed T-shirt. They looked like the protester type, which probably drew the cops’ attention.

He committed Big Mistake Number One: he got a call-and-response going with the bar patrons on the patio: “What do we say to the cops?” “FUCK YOU!

02 g20 cops

At this point, the cops started getting on their cellphones and called for backup (a particularly interesting thing to see, having just come from a conference on the iPhone):

03 g20 cops

The backup came remarkably quickly. It couldn’t have been more than a few minutes before 6 more bicycle cops arrived to form a phalanx around the jaywalker and his cohort.

04 g20 cops

Take a close look at the panniers on the back of the cops’ bikes: those are riot helmets. These guys are ready for some serious G20 hellzapoppin’ action. So this is what a billion dollars’ worth of security investment buys you:

05 g20 cops

In the end, the cops showed great restraint, considering the circumstances and the high emotions, letting our young anarchist friend off with a ticket.

You’ll probably see a lot more photos of this incident. A number of people and passers-by, upon seeing the commotion, whipped out cellphones and cameras and shot still photos and video.

Welcome to Torontonomo Bay!

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Meanwhile, in Korea…

by Joey deVilla on June 15, 2010

a group of Korean students are learning the more (ahem) colourful parts of the English language [not safe for work; swearing]. My friend David Matte, who lives in Korea, should consider teaching a Master Class in English swearing and charge top won for it.

By the way, you should buy some prints from David so he can buy a new Nikon.

Found via Certified Bullshit Technician.

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The Missus and Me

by Joey deVilla on June 15, 2010

Wendy Koslow and Joey deVilla, dressed up nicely

The Ginger Ninja uses this as her Facebook profile photo. It’s a little blurry, but it does show that we clean up nicely.

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“I’m Comic Sans, Asshole!”

by Joey deVilla on June 15, 2010

"I'm Comic Sans, Asshole" -- John Marston from Red Dead Redemption pointing a gun

That most hated of typefaces, Comic Sans, gets anthropomorphized and bad-assified in Mike Lacher’s piece for McSweeney’s titled, (in)appropriately enough, I’m Comic Sans, Asshole.

This article also appears in Global Nerdy.

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