Unofficial FutureRuby Guide to Toronto

Developer Dim Sum Lunch at Sky Dragon!

by Joey deVilla on July 10, 2009

The Unofficial FutureRuby Guide to TorontoWhether you’re part of the local tech community or a visitor from out of town who’s come in for the FutureRuby conference, you’re invited to the Developer Lunch taking place today at noon at Sky Dragon restaurant in Dragon City Mall.

This is going to be the 14th developer lunch organized by local developer and video-chronicler of local geekdom, Kristan “Krispy” Uccello. They’re not formal at all – there’s no agenda, set discussion topic or presentations – it’s just people who like writing software or who aspire to write software getting together to enjoy a nice dim sum lunch.

The lunch takes place at Sky Dragon restaurant, which is at the top floor of Dragon City shopping mall, which in turn is at the southwest corner of Dundas and Spadina. If you’re a FutureRuby attendee from out of town, that’s a five-minute walk from the conference hotel.

Map picture

For those of you not familiar with Chinatown, here’s what Dragon City Mall looks like:

Dragon City mall exterior

Use the elevator or stairs in the circular tower part of the building to go to the mall’s top floor, which is where the restaurant is located. We expect that we’ll be a big crowd, so they might put us in one of the private rooms in the back – if you don’t see a bunch of geeks in the restaurant, ask the waitstaff for the large group of computer programmers and they’ll lead you to us.

It’s dim sum, which means the food will be tasty, cheap and plentiful. Everybody pitches in equally towards the final bill and it’s typically $12/person including tip.

See you at noon!

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The Unofficial FutureRuby Guide to TorontoWelcome to the second installment of The Unofficial FutureRuby Guide to Toronto! This is a series of articles aimed at showing out-of-town attendees of the upcoming FutureRuby conference around our fine city. (It’s useful even if you’re not planning on attending the conference).

In case you missed the previous installment, it’s here:

You might find last year’s Toronto guide for RubyFringe attendees useful as well:

  • Where did all the cigarettes go?
  • Getting from the airport to the hotel
  • Boozin’ in Accordion City
  • The lay of the land – part 1
  • Best damn cookie in town
  • Active Surplus aka Hardware Nirvana
  • The lay of the land – part 2
  • The unofficial IRC back-channel

      This article will give you a quick run-down of all the conference and party venues: where they are, what they’re like and how to get there.

      Conference Hotel: The Metropolitan Downtown

       Metropolitan Hotel Toronto

      FutureRuby will take place at the Metropolitan Toronto Hotel, where RubyFringe took place last year. If you attended RubyFringe, it’ll be a happy homecoming. If this is your first conference at the Metropolitan, you’re in for a treat.

      As I wrote in last year’s article series on RubyFringe, Toronto has two Metropolitan Hotels, and they’re a short distance from each other. FutureRuby’s venue is the Metropolitan Toronto, whose address is 108 Chestnut Street, which is behind City Hall, on the edge of Chinatown. If the hotel entrance looks like the photo above, you’re in the right place.

      Soho Metropolitan Hotel EntranceThe other Metropolitan Hotel is the Metropolitan Soho, located at 318 Wellington Street West. If the hotel looks like the photo to the right (click to see a larger version), you’re in the wrong place. Both are owned by the same hotel chain. The Soho is the hip, swanky one near the club district and the Toronto one looks more like a traditional hotel and caters to both business and Chinese clienteles.

      (In this article series, whenever I refer to “The Metropolitan”, I mean the Metropolitan Toronto.)

      The conference setup at the Metropolitan is pretty nice. The conference hall is in the basement, fits the conference’s numbers nicely, and the entryway to the hall is stocked with water, coffee and ice tea throughout the day. There’s a continental breakfast just outside the hall before the conference starts, and the lunch food is excellent – it’s the best conference lunch I’ve seen at a developer conference, with the notable exception of the Fall 2006 Ajax Experience’s venue, the Westin Boston Waterfront, and that conference cost over twice as much. Of particular note was the Chinese lunch, which wasn’t a surprise – the hotel’s main restaurant is Lai Wah Heen, a Chinese restaurant, and it’s a popular venue for Chinese weddings (I’ve been to a couple here, and the food was great).

      The hotel is situated right in the middle of town, which puts it a stone’s throw from a number of places. I’ll write more about these places in a later article.

      You might also want to see my article from last year, Getting from the Airport to the Hotel.

      FailCamp: Queen City Yacht Club

      Aerial view of Queen City Yacht Club

      FailCamp will take place at Queen City Yacht Club on Algonquin Island, one of the Toronto Islands. The Toronto Islands weren’t always islands – once upon a time, they were a peninsula jutting out from the mainland from east of downtown, but a big storm in the mid-1800s separated them from the rest of the city. Most people get to the islands via ferry or water taxi.

      The current strike by city employees means that there is no ferry service to the island, but that’s not going to be a problem. Queen City Yacht Club has its own launch – they call it a “tender” – that can carry just under fifty people at a time.

      Queen's Quay TerminalThe launch typically picks people up from the dock just east of Queen’s Quay Terminal (207 Queen’s Quay West, the building pictured to the right). If you’re facing the front of this building, the dock is just to its left. I don’t know the exact details, but if you’re going to FailCamp, I suggest arriving at Queen’s Quay Terminal early, going to the dock to the left of the building and looking around for FutureRuby people or signs; I’m sure they’re going to take care to make sure that they’re really obvious.

      I believe that the launch will be running continually throughout the night to shuttle people between Queen City Yacht Club and the mainland, but there’s a water taxi nearby, just in case.

      Queen City Yacht Club clubhouse, as seen from across the lagoon

      The venue will be Queen City Yacht Club’s house clubhouse (pictured above), a large place with a nice large outdoor deck overlooking the water and the city. It offers some great vantage points for taking photos of Toronto. There’s a large barge permanently moored to a nearby dock; it’s also a good place from which to shoot photos or just stare at the lake.

      Unlike the other FutureRuby events, you should bring some money for drinks and get a bite to eat before FailCamp (your FutureRuby registration fees cover the food and booze at the other events). The Yacht Club’s bar will be open during the event; I recall that they generally have pretty good beer on tap. As for getting food prior to FailCamp, there are lots of places near the Metropolitan Hotel and in the Queen’s Quay Terminal building.

      Friday Night’s Party: Unspace HQ

      Unspace’s offices are the venue for FutureRuby’s official opening night party. It’s located above the Lululemon store, which functions as both a store for sportswear and a temple for whatever religion is practiced by skinny blonde women in yoga pants. Apparently the store also sells clothes for men, but I reckon that a guy wearing a Lululemon logo is asking to have his manhood challenged, A Boy Named Sue-style. Unspace’s door is just to the right of Lululemon and leads to a steep set of stairs leading up to the third floor. I’m sure that there will be FutureRuby officials outside to make sure people find the place.

      Unspace is located on Queen Street West (342 Queen Street West, to be precise), a long-time destination for people looking for someplace cool to go. Mike Myer’s character “Dieter” from his recurring Sprockets skits on Saturday Night Live was based on a real guy named Dieter who waited tables at The Rivoli (“Your order is boring me. I shall dance now”), a popular bar on Queen West. Perez Hilton needled Will.I.Am from the Black Eyed Peas and got (justifiably) clocked here. I’ve had many busking adventures on this street. It’s a fun, lively place.

      Lululemon store on Queen Street West

      Unspace has a gorgeous office, with exposed brick walls, a vintage pinball machine, Pete Forde’s “I am a villain in a classic James Bond movie” office and a large rooftop deck that’s been the venue for a number of excellent parties.

      Saturday Night’s Party: Pravda Vodka Bar

      View of lower room and staircase at Pravda Vodka Bar

      Saturday night’s festivities will happen at Pravda Vodka Bar (44 Wellington Street East). This is the one party venue for which my first-hand knowledge is lacking owing to these factors:

      • I’ve been there only once
      • It was fairly late in the evening, the bar was packed, and I was already quite crispy from drinks at Biff’s, a nearby French restaurant with a lovely bar of its own.

      Upper floor bar at Pravda Vodka Bar

      I do remember a pretty good selection of vodkas. That’s to be expected; it is a vodka bar, after all. I had a couple of fingers of the Polish stuff straight up – the kind with a blade of grass in the bottle – and a pretty dirty Dirty Martini (a Martini seasoned with not just an olive, but olive juice).

      I have vague memories of the room: lot of red velvet, gold trim and pre-Glasnost kitsch, a contradictory mash-up of imagery of from the Russian Revolution and a set designer’s ideas for a stage adaptation of Anna Karenina. It made a nice backdrop for the crowd, who were by and large ranged from twenty-somethings in clubwear to forty-something well-dressed professionals. I remember dancing and playing the accordion along to the DJ, who was playing Deee-Lite’s Groove is in the Heart (a song which turns twenty this year!).

      "Sitting room" area in Pravda Vodka Bar

      The Saturday night party is the “dress-up night” of FutureRuby. Bring something nice and nightclub-appropriate!

      Sunday’s Party: The Boat/Hotshot Gallery/Augusta Street, Kensington Market

      Montage of photos of Kensington Market

      Kensington Market is where the closing party will take place. It’s a lovely mishmash of secondhand clothing stores, fresh food markets, quirky shops and restaurants, patios and people’s homes. Here’s a slideshow of shots I took in Kensington Market last year; it should give you a “feel” for the place:


      Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

      It’s the home of a couple of great nerdy places, too:

      • Function 13, a funky store catering to arty nerds, with lots of books on design and design-oriented technologies such as Processing and Flash (maybe I should see if they stock Silverlight books, and help them if they don’t). It’s also where a lot of people take lessons on multimedia programming.
      • HacklabTO, Toronto’s very own hackerspace, where local nerds work on both software and hardware hobby projects, and where I sometimes work. It’s the home of the famous laser that does etching, cutting and even music playing.

      Hotshot Gallery

      The final party of FutureRuby will take place on a stretch of Augusta Avenue in Kensington Market. Augusta Avenue. Known venues for this street party will include:

      • The Boat (158 Augusta Avenue), a Portuguese restaurant that also doubles as one of Toronto’s best “secret” party spots.
      • Hotshot (181 Augusta Avenue) a gallery owned and run by my friend Karlen Chang, a spot that serves both excellent coffee and visual art.

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      The Unofficial FutureRuby Guideo to Toronto

      Last year, for RubyFringe – the offbeat conference for Ruby programmers hosted by the local Ruby heroes at Unspace – I wrote a series of articles about Toronto for people who were coming to the conference from out of town. In the series, I pointed out places of interest near the conference hotel (the Metropolitan downtown) and little tidbits of information that might be useful to an out-of-towner.

      This year, Unspace is holding another conference for Ruby programmers. This time, it’s going by the name FutureRuby and once again, I’m posting a series of articles that collectively will make a quick little Baedeker about Toronto for the non-locals attending the conference. My hope is that even people who’ve live in this city all their lives will find it useful and entertaining.

      Upon arriving in Toronto, you may notice a certain funk hanging in the air. The strength of said funk will vary from block to block and will come from one of two probable sources.

      Probable Source Number One: Gene Simmons’ Man-Musk

      gene_simmons

      The first probable source of the smell lingering around town is Gene Simmons. Yes, that Gene Simmons. Gene has bedded many women:

      • His current long-term partner, Playboy Playmate Shannon Tweed
      • The woman with whom he cheated on Shannon in that video that popped up on the internet last year
      • Former live-in partners Cher and Diana Ross
      • “Over a thousand women”, if his interview on NPR is to be believed

      While his Rock God status helped him land the ladies, I believe that what really draws them in his the musky aroma he exudes.

      Gene will be in town on the FutureRuby weekend in his capacity as Grand Marshall for the Honda Indy, which will take place around the Canadian National Exhibition, a short drive west of the conference hotel. An event featuring fast-moving, big, throbbing machines needs a grand marshall to match, and who could fill the role better than he?

      The Honda Indy will run from Friday, July 10th through Sunday July 12th, and it might affect you in the following ways:

      • You may be exposed to Gene Simmons’ man-musk.
      • It may take longer than usual for you to get downtown if you’re flying in from Toronto’s main airport, Pearson International Airport, on Friday. Lakeshore Boulevard, one of the major roads leading into town from the west, will be used as part of the Indy track and will be closed.
      • You will hear the echoes of race car engines all weekend. It’ll be a constant hum in the background during the day – not too annoying, but I thought you might want to know what that sound was.

      Probable Source Number Two: The Garbage Strike!

      wrapped_trash

      The even more probable source of the smell is the garbage. As of today, Friday, July 3rd, the strike by Toronto’s municipal workers is in its 11th day. It affects a number of services, including Parks and Recreation, services at City Hall and garbage collection. There little to no smell downtown, but as you go to neighbourhoods where food makes the lion’s share of the trash, such as Kensington Market (where Sunday’s post-FutureRuby party is taking place), it sometimes gets a little ripe.

      If the strike goes on for another week and into FutureRuby:

      • Consider yourself warned about some potential stink.
      • If you’re from out of town, walking around the city and have some trash, please don’t litter or stuff it into our Saran-wrapped garbage cans; hang onto it and dispose of it at your hotel.

      How Will I Get to FailCamp if the Ferries aren’t Running?

      FailCamp, one of the events associated with FutureRuby, takes place on the Toronto Islands (Queen City Yacht Club on Algonquin Island, to be precise). The problem is that the island ferries are run by the striking city workers and are out of commission.

      Worry not – Queen City Yacht Club has provided the use of the Algonquin II, a launch that can shuttle almost 50 people back and forth between Toronto Harbour and FailCamp.

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