Slice of Life Tampa Bay

Scenes from yesterday’s bike ride

I do a 10K bike ride as often as I can, which can be a challenge.

The weather in Florida tends to turn on a dime this time of the year, and it’s something you have to account for when your exercise involves moving about on a lightning rod in the country’s lightning strike capital. Then there’s my work schedule, which is a finely-tuned balance of ramping up a side hustle LLC and doing the performative contortions required in a senior-level job search (I’ll write more on these topics in a later article).

In spite of these challenges, I’ve managed to squeeze in a bike ride five days a week on average, which I think is pretty good. I’ve been able to combine it with tasks such as the occasional run to the post office and grocery shopping. In fact, unless the store is too far away, the items I need to buy are too large, or if the weather isn’t cooperating, I do most of the shopping on my bike rather than with the car.

Seminole Heights’ seal, which depicts a two-headed alligatorI do enough biking and walking around the neighborhood that my house keys and car fob are separate. This is something that goes back to growing up in Toronto, where transit and taxis were plentiful, even in the pre-Uber/Lyft era, and  stepping out of the house didn’t necessarily mean taking the car.

But I’m living in a place where the car both signifies and determines your station in life, where drive-thru convenience stores and ATMs are the norm, and where the front door of your house is merely the gateway to your car. I don’t think I’ll adopt the local habit of bundling my house keys with the car fob anytime soon.

The first part of my ride took me to that little park where West Lambright street meets the Hillsborough River:

The skies were gray at the time, and I kept an eye on them, just in case I needed to high-tail it back home.

However, that little spot of blue was expanding quickly, and by the time I got to Lake Roberta, barely one and a half miles southeast, the skies had cleared up:

I’ve written about this place before. The road that circles the “lake” — it’s actually a pond — is well-paved and about a quarter-mile around, making it an easy and picturesque way to add a mile to the daily ride.

I had a proper haircut scheduled for later that afternoon at my regular spot, The Heights Barbershop, so I figured it was time to take one last selfie featuring my “Zoom mullet”, a self-inflicted job done with my old beard trimmer:

I’ve been here for six and a half years, and I still marvel at seeing palm trees and other tropical flora, despite the fact I get outside just about every day:

On the way back home, I stopped by the Produce Wagon, who set up shop at 13th and Crawford every Saturday morning (I’ve written about them before)…

…then passed by East Park Circle, which has one of my favorite neighborhood features: the tree in the middle of the road.

One last bit of local greenery…

…and then home sweet home.

Slice of Life Tampa Bay

Produce Wagon: A new gem in Seminole Heights

Wide-angle photo of the Produce Wagon from its left side, with Fabiola in a lawn chair behind the wagon, a large oak tree and house in the background, and Joey’s light blue bicycle on the right.

Produce Wagon. Photo by Joey deVilla.
Tap the photo to see it at full size.

Seminole Heights’ seal, which depicts a two-headed alligator

“Is that new?” I wondered when I first biked past Produce Wagon at the corner of E. Crawford and N. 13th Avenue a couple of weeks ago. The red wooden wagon with the cheerful sign is only a few blocks from our house, and I’d been biking right by it for a few days. Yesterday, I went there when they were open (at that location, they’re open on Tuesdays and Fridays from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m.).

Wide-angle photo of the Produce Wagon from its right side, with Joey’s light blue bicycle in the foreground, and their whiteboard price list to the right.

Produce Wagon. Photo by Joey deVilla.
Tap the photo to see it at full size.

I was greeted warmly by Patti Mars and Fabiola Garcia, the proprietors. I asked them if they’d just started because I hadn’t seem them before (we’ve been in our new house for a year now), and since their wagon and sign looked pretty new. Patti told me that they’d only been running Produce Wagon for a couple of weeks, but that Fabiola comes from a family with three generations’ experience in selling produce.

Closer-up photo of the Produce Wagon, showing its basket of apples, strawberries, eggs, mangoes, oranges, mushrooms, and bananas.

Produce Wagon. Photo by Joey deVilla.
Tap the photo to see it at full size.

According to this article, Patti and Fabiola had been thinking about opening a produce stand for months, but couldn’t find the right location at the right price. They shelved the idea until they heard an NPR report about how people aren’t eating as much fresh produce because they’ve been going to the grocery less often due to the pandemic. That’s when they decided to resurrect the produce stand idea and provide a way for people in the neighborhood to get fresh fruits and vegetables. Their produce comes from the wholesale markets east of here, which they pick up twice a week, very early in the morning.

I picked up some dinner fixings from them: zucchini, mushrooms, a vidalia onion, and a can of coconut milk. They also have cans of red, green, and Massaman curry paste, which I’ll keep in mind, as the nearest Asian grocery store is a couple of miles away. They’re understandably a little pricier than my usual produce market, Bearss Groves, but they can’t be beat for convenience and the opportunity to get to know another neighbor. I think I’m going to be a regular!

Produce Wagon’s whiteboard price list.

Produce Wagon’s price list. Photo by Joey deVilla.
Tap the photo to see it at full size.

Produce Wagon is currently open at these locations and times:

To find out where they’ll be and what they’re selling, check out their Facebook page.

Slice of Life

Slice of Life: A Small Gallery of Hand Sanitizers

While walking about the TechDays Montreal conference, I couldn’t help noticing that there were hand sanitizers dispensers everywhere, a sign of these H1N1 flu-obsessed times. Since I thought it would be amusing to do so, and since the Internet is a perfect place for the obsessive cataloguing of oddball minutae, I thought I would take photos of the dispensers scattered throughout the conference venue (the Centre Mont-Royal) and post them here. Enjoy!

01 hand sanitizer

02 hand sanitizer

03 hand sanitizer

04 hand sanitizer

05 hand sanitizer

06 hand sanitizer

07 hand sanitizer

08 hand sanitizer

09 hand sanitizer

Accordion, Instrument of the Gods It Happened to Me Slice of Life

Slice of Life: Playing Accordion on a Calgary Street Corner

Rodney Buike took this photo of me on Tuesday evening. I look as if I should be backing up Tom Waits or playing in a cojunto band:

playing accordion in calgary

It Happened to Me Slice of Life

Slice of Life: Going After the Dungeons and Dragons Market

While going out for brunch with our friends Liz and Keith and their kids on Roncesvalles, I saw these signs promoting Kennel Cafe’s services. If you never played Dungeons and Dragons, the jokes are totally meaningless, but if you have, they’re pretty amusing:

Kennel Cafe sign: "Cats add a +5 modifier to all persuasion and intimidation skill checks. Adopt a cat!"

Kennel Cafe sign: "Cats provide 15% base mana cost reduction for all spells -- even Lay on Hands!!!"

Geek It Happened to Me Slice of Life

Slice of Life: Me and Steve B.

I bought a fuzzy “Cat in the Hat”-style raver hat with a Canadian flag pattern on a whim earlier this year, thinking that I’d probably find a pretty good use for it some day. That day, it turns out, was yesterday, where I turned it into what I believe was yesterday’s only Steve Ballmer photo-op with a non-management Microsoft Canada employee:

Joey deVilla and Steve Ballmer, wearing Joey's Canadian flag raver hatPhoto by Barnaby Jeans.

Yesterday was a busy day at the Harbour Castle Convention Centre, where we had an all-day Steve Ballmer-rama. In the morning, Steve keynoted an event showcasing Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2 and Exchange Server 2010 for the media, key customers and partners. This was followed by an employees-only “town hall” where Steve did a short presentation followed by a Q&A session. On a whim similar to the one that led me to buy it, I took the hat (along with the accordion) along with me.

Following a suggestion from my co-worker Damir, I arrived very early for the town hall, grabbed a seat by the stage and donned the hat. When Steve made his appearance, he did so in classic Ballmer style, running and whooping, high-fiving people as he made his way to the stage. As soon as he saw me, he yelled “Hey!”, put the hat on and posed with me for the photo above.

I’d made a decent splash at Microsoft in my first year, and I’d been wondering if I could match it in my second, which began on Monday. This isn’t a bad start.

This article also appears in Global Nerdy.

Accordion, Instrument of the Gods It Happened to Me Slice of Life Work

Slice of Life: Official Photos from Techdays

For the TechDays conference’s stops in Vancouver and Toronto, Microsoft hired Vancouver-based photog extraordinaire Kris Krug to take photos of the Developer and Platform Evangelism team, which includes Yours Truly. The photos were taken during the conference, which meant that most of us were wearing the official TechDays shirts, which were colour-coded to match the conference track in which we were leading or participating. The track that I lead is Developing for the Microsoft-Based Platform, and its colour is orange. Luckily the folks who made the shirts had a pretty snappy shade of orange (the label refers to the colour as “Spark”) that I can rock.

Most of our photo shoot was on the promenade outside the Vancouver Convention Centre, looking out over the water. He just had me play tunes on the accordion while he shot photos, so they’re all pretty candid shots. Here’s one of the photos that Kris took of me.


There are more of me and the rest of the DPE team in Kris’ Flickr photoset.

This article also appears in Global Nerdy.