Yesterday’s Coffee and Code at Cloud Free Agent Espresso Bar

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I held the first Coffee and Code of 2011 at a venue new to me: Cloud Free Agent Espresso Bar, located in Toronto’s West Queen West neighbourhood (968 Queen Street West, to be precise). It’s a work-friendly café that also acts as the home base for its parent business, Cloud AdAgents, an advertising/marketing/communications/social media agency. Rochelle Latinsky, who works at Cloud, along with Managing Director Tamera Kremer, invited me to host a Coffee and Code at their café, and went so far as to lend me their downstairs meeting room. I’d like to thank them for the invitation and the opportunity.

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The café, located on the ground floor, serves a variety of espresso machine drinks, from “plain old coffee: (a.k.a. Americano) to the cappucinos, mochas, lattes and the like, as well as teas and hot chocolate. Unlike many cafes, whose food offerings are limited to sweet snacks, they serve about a half dozen different types of sandwiches (including some veggie options) and soup and chili. As for their sweet snacks, they had a variety of muffins, scones and three or four different types of cookies. I ordered a tasty turkey and provolone sandwich made with ciabatta bread along with some roasted red pepper soup, and later on in the afternoon, I had one of their nutella-and-chocolate chip cookies – all were delicious.

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It’s a bright, airy space, with glass walls facing south and west, which means lots of light in the afternoon. Most of the seating is at the three bars that ring the café, with the longest one facing the south glass wall, giving you a great view of the passers-by on Queen Street West. Conversely, they get a good view of you, and when I sat at that bar in the later part of the afternoon, there were two instances where a friend saw me at the bar and dropped in for a conversation.

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You might think that a bar might be too narrow a surface to do work, but it was more than enough space to accommodate my 17” “Dellasaurus”, which is a bigger laptop than most. I walk around with an accordion on my back, so I have a warped idea of what constitutes a “portable” computer.

For the curious: the Dellasaurus – that’s the nickname we’ve given it at Microsoft Canada’s Developer and Platform Evangelism team – is a Dell Precision M6500. It’s essentially a kick-ass server machine packed into a 17” laptop body. It has a quad-core Intel i7 chip, 16GB RAM, 1GB video RAM, mechanical and solid state hard drive, and it runs Visual Studio and rips DVDs simultaneously without skipping a beat. To borrow a line from my hero Ferris Bueller: “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”

The bars are great for hanging out or working solo or in pairs. If you’re getting together with a couple more friends, there is a table in the corner:

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This is a work-friendly café. While a handful of cafes have made it clear that they’d rather not have people using their establishments as workspaces (some in a friendly manner, others in more passive-aggressive ways), this place makes it clear in the “Free Agent” part of their name: they invite you to come in and get some work done. Most of the seats are within a power adapter cord’s reach of an outlet, and they offer free wifi. As they say in their page about the café, it’s “designed with the untethered class in mind”.

Whether you’re an indie coder going a little stir crazy in your home office or if you just need to get out of cubicle-land for a bit, you might want to give Cloud Free Agent Espresso Bar a try. I’ve had many a good experience “café coding”, and Cloud has all the necessary ingredients to be a great place for that sort of thing. I expect that it’s going to be one of my regular go-to places when I’m not on the road and I need to get out of the home office.

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In addition to the café, there’s also a meeting space downstairs that they rent out. The Cloud folks were kind enough to loan it to me for Coffee and Code to try out. It’s a nice space, with seating for about a dozen people, a good number of outlets and large wall-mounted screen with webcam. It’s perfect for offsite meetings or small seminars.

They even gave me a free pot of coffee and pitcher of icewater with cucumber slices in it:

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Rent on this space works out to about $40 an hour, and they’ll throw in a $20 catering credit if you book it for 2 or more hours. I’m going to keep this place in mind; the rate’s pretty good, and I’ve got a number of ideas – such as a Windows Phone 7 development jam session –- where a space like this could come in handy. Perhaps it could be useful for your needs as well.

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As for the Coffee and Code? This one got only a handful of visitors, but that’s okay – everyone who came had never been to a Coffee and Code before, and most were people whom I’d met for the first time, and as a result, I’ve got a couple of extra items on my “to do” list. I consider that a success.

Once again I’d like to thank Rochelle and Tamera for inviting me to Cloud and letting me have free roam of their space. I enjoyed my visit, and I will be back!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Toronto Coffee and Code Today (Jan 26) at Cloud!

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Don’t forget, there’s a Toronto Coffee and Code today at Cloud Free Agent Espresso Bar (968 Queen Street West, at Givins Street, a block west of Shaw, a couple of blocks west of Trinity Bellwoods Park) from noon until 6 p.m.. Join me for lunch – they’ve got a great lunch selection – or a coffee break, or the afternoon!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Weird Al Fixes Road Sign Grammar

Weird Al is living proof that it’s going to be up to the accordionists to save the world:

He’s right: the adjective form of the word is slow, but the word’s being used to modify a verb, so we want the adverb form: slowly.


Coffee and Code at Cloud: Wednesday, January 26th

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The first Toronto Coffee and Code of 2011 takes place this Wednesday, January 26th! The folks at the Cloud Free Agent Espresso Bar (968 Queen Street West, at Givins Street, a block west of Shaw, a couple of blocks west of Trinity Bellwoods Park) have invited me to hold a Coffee and Code at their location. I’ll be there from noon to 6 p.m., working away – if you want to talk about Windows Phone 7, Microsoft, the tech industry in general or anything else that comes to mind, that’s where I’ll be, and I’d be more than happy to chat!

Some quick notes:

  • What is Coffee and Code? It’s me taking advantage of my status as a mobile worker and working in a cafe, where it’s easy to find me and chat, ask questions and let me know what you think. It’s also a lot more fun than having a conversation or meeting in an airless, windowless boardroom.
  • cloud free agent espresso barWhat is Cloud Free Agent Espresso Bar? I’m glad that these guys exist – they “get” the spirit of what Coffee and Code is all about. They’re a cafe designed for they call the “untethered class” – those of us whose philosophy is “have laptop, will work anywhere”. Rochelle Latinsky and Tamara Kremer of Cloud AdAgents, the people behind Cloud Free Agent Espresso Bar, were kind enough to invite me, and I’m looking forward to visiting and working at a new cafe!
  • What’s going to happen? I’ll be “setting up shop” at Cloud Free Agent Espresso bar, and you should feel to drop by, whether for five minutes or the whole afternoon. I’ll be there to get some work done, but more importantly, to be available to you for conversation, questions and input as well as to buy your cofffee. C’mon down and visit!

Once again, it’s Wednesday afternoon, from noon to 6 p.m.. I hope to see you there!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Lazarus Day!

The "Resurrection of Lazarus" painting, updated with a "WTF?", "LOL" and OMGThe Resurrection of Lazarus, by Jean-Baptiste Jouvenet.

After two weeks of being out of action – a week in the hospital, followed by a week under “medical house arrest” – I am back among the living! I’m looking forward to being out and about again, having spent two-thirds of the new year so far in some kind of confinement.

I’m feeling at 100% again. My voice isn’t quite back up to what it was just yet, but I expect it’ll fix itself in a couple of days. What I lack in sound, I make up for in appearance – I no longer look like death warmed over, and a combination of working out often in November and December and being ill (which includes being on an IV/liquid diet for the better part of a week) has left me about fifteen pounds lighter and well ahead of my fitness plan. Even stays in the ICU have their silver linings.

It’s going to be a busy week. I’ll see you out there!


“Ron de Jeremy” Rum

Ron Jeremy in a tuxedo (with top shirt buttons and bow tie undone), holding a bottle of Ron de Jeremy

I’ve got to admit that I’m curious about Ron de Jeremy Rum, (“The Adult Rum”) and yes, it’s named for that Ron Jeremy. According to the blog Uncrate, it’s been “hand crafted by master distiller Francisco ‘Don Pancho’ Fernandez” and “a high-end dark rum that’s oak aged for seven years, resulting in a rich, smooth flavor with hints of vanilla, sugarcane, fruit, and spices.”

My question: is it pronounced “Ron de Heremy”?

Bottle of Ron de Jeremy rum


Sad But True

Sign: Would the lady who dropped her 6 kids off at the rink please pick them up - THEY ARE BEATING THE LEAFS 3 - 1"

Found via TheAaronDouglas.