The past couple of weeks have been busy ones, what with heading out for barbecue, winning a little computer after a meeting at HP, Toronto Techie Dim Sum, the Ladies Learning Code fundraiser, and work in general. Transferring the contents of my iPhone’s camera roll last night, I realized that I’d been up to even more than I’d thought…
A Walk Through Kensington
I’ve had a couple of meetings in Kensington Market over the past couple of weeks to talk to people about working on some mobile development projects. It gave me a little time to wander through its streets and snap some photos. Even though I had time off this summer, I was away for much of it and didn’t get much of a chance to poke around Kensington, one of my oldest haunts.
Exile was around when I was in high school. (That was back in the 1980s, kids.)
If you’re petite and thinking about going as one of the members of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, you might want to grab the jacket above from Exile.
Courage My Love (pictured above) and Dancing Days (below) were also around in the ’80s, and both were great places to pick up a vintage blazer.
I’m not sure I’ve ever need these guys’ services, but I’ll know that if I ever do, I’ll just need to go a little bit south of Kensington:
Ubisoft’s “Captured in T.O.” Party
I was at Ubisoft’s “Captured in T.O.” party, which was a celebration of the game development company’s new location in Toronto’s seemingly unlikely Bloor/Lansdowne (a.k.a. “Blansdowne”) neighbourhood. This new office is a “performance capture” studio, where human face and body motions are recorded to make more realistic videogames.
The food was great, and a fair bit of the credit goes to programmer/chef Matt Kantor (pictured above) for coordinating a number of local chefs, who set up a row of stations featuring a particular dish.
The place had a rather club-like atmosphere. A lot of OONTZ OONTZ OONTZ OONTZ, and at least three different dance-y remixes of Gotye’s Someone That I Used to Know, a.k.a. “Song we used to like”.
I couldn’t get enough of the chocolatey, creamy polenta pudding and had to move away from this station before I ate their entire supply:
Another one of my favourites was the “Fracesinha” pork sandwiches, created by the pork geniuses at Pork Ninjas:
I’ve read Neal Stephenson’s “cyberthriller” novel Snow Crash, but had never experience an actual snow crash — where your computer crashes and shows a display full of static “snow” until recently. As a precaution, I made sure not to look directly at the “snow”.
The Toronto Ukrainian Festival took place on Bloor Street between Jane and Runnymede from Friday, September 14th through Sunday, September 16th. I was pretty busy with work that day — a startup can be a harsh taskmistress — but I managed to catch a couple of hours of it on the Saturday.
My youngest nephew wanted one of the giant stuffed animals on display at the carnie booths set up near Bloor and Runnymede, so I thought I’d give one of the games a try.
As with all carnie games, this one seemed simple. Given five circular plates, you had to completely cover a red circle.
My motto is “If you’re going to get swindled, you might as well smile!”
I was pretty close to getting it right. I watched the guy demonstrate how easy it supposedly was and got a pretty good idea of how to lay down my circular plates. If I didn’t get so cocky with the fourth plate, my nephew would’ve gotten a big poorly-stitched-together stuffed animal which would’ve been mulch by now. Ah well.
Birthday Party, Bridal Party, Sausage Party
With an accordion, you can turn a humdrum Saturday night into something like this:
On one particular Saturday night, my friend and former housemate Paul celebrated his birthday. It started at his house with drinks and conversation, but as the evening an drinks wore on, we switched to dancing.
The girls wanted to go clubbing, and well, we weren’t going to say “no”, were we? Luckily, we were a short hop away from the club zone on King Street West. A half hour later, we were in Cheval.
The girls were quite happy to have a real dance floor:
…and, as the odds would have it, I encountered a bachelorette party. There’s something about a bride-to-be and her bridesmaids having a night on the town that makes them a little more brazen and willing to approach a complete stranger and ask him to play a song on his accordion. Luckily, I have experience in such matters.
I was wearing my accordion on my back, backpack-style, when I noticed one of the bridesmaids tapping on a key, wondering why it wouldn’t make a sound.
“It doesn’t work if you’re not squeezing the bellows,” I told her.
“Could you play something for me and the bride-to-be?” she asked.
“Sure!” I said, and she took my arm and led me to her table where the bride-to-be and the rest of the bridesmaids were gathered.
The table was packed with glasses, carafes of mixer and a Mad Men-worthy amount of booze. I’d just lucked my way into partaking in some bottle service!
I spent a good chunk of the evening chatting, dancing and posing for pictures with the bachelorettes, and letting them try the accordion on. After all these years, I’m still pleased with the good fortune that walking around with the ol’ squeezebox brings.
I had some work to do the next day, so I bade the birthday and bachelorette parties farewell at about 2 a.m. and started making my way home. I wanted to get a pop before making my way home, so I got into line at the hot dog stand at King and Portland. Since it was a warm Saturday night in mid-September, clubland was busy, and so were the places serving food to hungry club-goers.
While waiting in line, I became aware of an argument that was getting louder as it went along. One of the voices was a guy’s voice — a frustrated guy’s voice, in fact.
It was this sort of frustration:
The people he was yelling at sounded familiar. No wonder — they were two of the girls from the bachelorette party.
“Look, all I want to do is talk to you!” said the guy. “Why won’t you talk to me?”
“We just want to get a hot dog in peace, is that all right with you?” one of them said.
“What is wrong with you bitches these days?!” he said, his face turning a little more flushed.
Looks-wise, there was nothing wrong with the guy. He was reasonably handsome, had a nice shirt and slacks on, and could’ve gotten someone’s phone number had he not been so unhinged. It was obvious that he was having a bad night and had had enough. The girls were unfortunate to be around when he decided that this was his hour of retribution.
There’s a little trick I use when I have the accordion in these situations. I unstrapped the bellows and expanded them as I stepped in to intervene. It’s not unlike a cat raising the fur on its back to look bigger or a puffer fish ballooning.
In my best “radio voice”, I asked “Is there a problem?”
Angry Guy looked at me for a moment and then said to the girls “Oh, I see what you’re doing. You’re going to talk to…to…PSY over here and not me.”
“That’s Accordion PSY to you, buddy,” I said, before realizing that an “Accordion Guy” pun would be lost on him. He didn’t know me from Adam.
“We hung out with all night, and he’s cool,” one of the girls said, and that didn’t please him one bit. He looked me up and down with an unhappy grimace, noted that I had a couple of inches an twenty pounds over him, and walked off in a huff.
With the situation resolved, I said “Well, that’s done. Ladies, can I buy you a hot dog?”
Scenes from the Office(s)
My startup, Comprehensive Technology Solution, rents out an office at Regus‘ airport branch. For a monthly fee, we get a furnished office with a great reception desk as well as shared boardroom, lounge and lunchroom space.
When you exit the elevator on our floor, there’s a set of signs listing all the businesses, and our sign finally got installed:
That makes us real now!
Another Regus perk is that we can use the common areas in any Regus office anywhere in the world. There are eighteen such offices in the Toronto area alone. We had a downtown meeting one day and decided to make use of the First Canadian Place branch.
It was a nice day, so we decided to emerge from the subway a short distance away from First Canadian Place to take a walk, passing Old City Hall along the way:
While in First Canadian Place’s elevator, we noticed that it had a “Shuffle” button:
“What’s it do, take you to random floors?” asked Jesse.
A little Googling revealed that it’s a maintenance utility for Otis elevators serve odd-only or even-only floors in tall office buildings.
Here’s a shot of our computers as we worked side by side in the business lounge. You get three guesses as to which one’s Jesse’s (the suit) and which one’s mine (the geek):
Later that afternoon, set of presentations put on by Rogers, Wavefront and their partners about M2M — that is, machine to machine — solutions for business. I prefer to call it “hot machine-on-machine action”, but not in front of customers:
Lovely Drinking Establishments
Even though I live a reasonable walk away from The Bar With No Name, I hadn’t set foot in it until recently. More’s the pity, because it’s like a strange fusion of neighbourhood pub and the Bovine Sex Club, one of my old Queen Street West hangouts. The staff are great, the beer and food are nice, and the crowd is freaks and geeks (seriously — they hold Magic: The Gathering tournaments there!) who just happen to live on Bloor West. I’m going to have to make this a more regular destination.
My friend Hillary has decided that her regular will be The Queen and Beaver, which is the very model of what a British Pub should be — except that the food is much, much better. I recently caught up with her there to have their cottage pie and top it off with their excellent sticky toffee pudding. We didn’t want the drinking to end, so we made our way to Annex to see if we could get into Guu, but it was packed. Luckily, we had plan B…
…Victory Cafe, which has been a reliable Mirvish village destination for some time. Cute waitstaff, too.
Being in a startup means that you sometimes have to take Saturday meetings. Luckily, you can do them in places like Crema Coffee Co., one of the handful of excellent indie cafes within striking distance of my place.
Toronto Underground Market
This past Sunday marked the first anniversary of Toronto Underground Market, a monthly “night market” for local foodies where they can sample dishes made by Toronto’s upcoming and indie chefs, caterers and food trucks. Even a year after it first opened, this gathering still sells out its advance tickets in a matter of hours.
Since it was their first anniversary, they celebrated by inviting the “all stars” to return. I’d never had a chance to try Bistro Filipino’s food, and after checking out their menu:
…I decided to get in line for some Kwek Kwek, which are battered, deep-fried quail eggs with dipping sauce.
The batter was nice and crispy, and the eggs were soft-boiled with a nice creamy yolk, which made this dish my favourite of the evening.