Snow Job, Part 4

If you haven’t read them yet, you might want to check out part one, part two and part three first.

The Promotion

One morning about two or three weeks into the job, Barry called me into his office. He told me that Sam was going on a cross-country trip with her boyfriend and would be leaving Hawaiian Snow. Even though I was the youngest guy on the team, my sales figures were good and I had a driver’s license with a clean record. After today, I would take Sam’s place as driver, and be assigned her truck (which I could use to get to and from work) and someone to be my runner.

Sam congratulated me with a hug when I left the office. “Nice going, kid. I’m going to miss our singalongs.”

Singalongs were a ritual that Sam and I had. When we were driving in the truck, we’d roll down the windows (no air conditioning), turn the AM radio to full volume and sing along with 1050 CHUM, which was a top 40 radio station back in 1985. We had the narration from Paul Hardcastle’s 19 down cold. We massacred the falsetto parts from A-Ha’s Take On Me and did a decent two part harmony on Honeymoon Suite’s Wave Babies (for you Canadian readers, we also sang along with another CanCon hit of the time, Gowan’s Criminal Mind). We made up dirty lyrics for Tears for Fears’ Shout and Bryan Adams’ Summer of 69. We’d sing Walking On Sunshine to people on the sidewalk while we sat in traffic. And we just bopped along to the two big instrumentals of the time, Harold Faltermeyer’s Axel F and Jan Hammer’s theme to Miami Vice (click those last two links for wonderful MIDI goodness).

She tossed me the keys to the truck. “I want to take it easy on my last day. You drive.”

The Biker and the Missionary

Zach, our born-again Christian friend came by our stand late in the afternoon. Business was pretty good, but there was always a lull just before 6:00 p.m., when people were thinking of dinner and not shaved ice. The “Chessus loves chu, chu stupid bitch” incident hadn’t deterred him from trying to save souls. While he seemed rather naive, I had to respect his tenacity.

“I’m going to witness to that guy over there,” he said, pointing at someone down the street.

“Not the biker?” Sam asked.

“Yeah, him.”

“Uh, Zach, have you seen the patch that says ‘Satan’s Choice’ on the back of his jacket? They’re like the Quebecois Hell’s Angels. You don’t even want to look at them the wrong way.”

“Look at the size of him. Maybe you should try to convert someone a little less…huge,” I added.

“Relax, guys,” Zach said, “it won’t be so bad. First, there are a lot of born-again bikers out there already. They were bikers before they found Christ, which means someone had to convert them. Someone like me, who had faith. Like Daniel in the lion’s den.”

“Well, try and convert him close by so we can get help.,” said Sam.

“Thanks, but it won’t be necessary.” Zach walked towards the biker.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of darkness, I shall fear no evil, for I do not fully comprehend the situation.

Sam suggested that I make a shaved ice and keep it handy.

The biker looked unimpressed as Zach approached him. Zach was wearing one of his “Jesus Is Lord” shirts, so the biker must’ve known what he was in for. “I don’t want to ‘ear your religious shit,” he said with a stong Quebecois accent.

“It’s not shit. It’s the truth.”

“Tell it to somebody else. I’m jus’ trying to eat my ‘ot dog and mind my own business. You should do da same.”

“Have you given any thought about where your life is going? Ever wondered if it had any meaning?”

“Why don’ you jus’ fuck off before I beat da shit out of you?”

Sam turned to me and said “I’m amazed these Bible thumpers manage to convert anyone at all. They’re just not convincing.”

“Look,” continued Zach, “I’m just trying to save your soul.”

“Someone’s going to have to save you if you don’ fuck off.”

“Jesus loves you.”

That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Apparently, if you’re annoying somebody, the thing that will push your target over the edge is to say “Jesus Loves You.” The biker grabbed Zach by the shirt, made a fist with his free hand and prepared to slug Zach. Sam and I, along with some other nearby people slowly and carefully moved towards Zach and the biker. The biker didn’t seem to care. He just stared Zach down.

“If God wanted to,” choked Zach, “he could make a force field in front of me that would stop your fist.”

The biker pull his fist back and got ready to test Zach ‘force field’ theory.

“…but He doesn’t work that way!” he blurted.

He most certainly not work that way that day. Zach took a right cross to the face and dropped to the ground.

Sam cautiously approached the biker with a shaved ice. “We don’t want any trouble. Here, have one on the house,” she sadi as she offered it to him. He took it and nodded, then turned to Zach who was still on the ground, his hand rubbing the spot on his jaw where the biker had connected.

“Next time you give me your Jesus shit, I’ll really fuck you up,” he warned as he finished his shaved ice. He hopped on his bike and turned onto Yonge Street.

I shaved some ice to make a snowball and handed it to Zach, who was being helped up by Sam and a few nearby street vendors.

“Isn’t there a prayer,” said Sam as she helped Zach into a folding lawn chair, “asking for the wisdom to know the difference between the things you can change and the things you can’t?”

“Yeah,” said Zach, “but I never really understood it until now.”


The Voice of MSNBC

Tiffany and Debbie “Really, it’s ‘Deborah’ now” Gibson aren’t the only eighties stars making small comebacks today…

Dee Snider, former vocalist for 80’s glam-metal band Twisted Sister is doing MSNBC’s voice-overs.

If GG Allin, who wrote and sang such wonderful tunes like Legalize Murder, Sleeping In My Piss and the unforgettable Needle Up My Cock were still alive today, I’m sure FOX News would have approached him to be their voice. Unfortunately for them, he died the classic rock star way.

FOX might be willing to settle for the original dirty rapper, Blowfly.


Snow Job, Part 3: The Hassles

In 1985, the City of Toronto didn’t set a limit on the number of street vendor’s licenses they granted. The sidewalks were crowded with all of us — the shaved icers, the Dickie Dees (ice cream), hot doggers, chip trucks, the t-shirt, sunglasses and fake Rolex people. In spite of the crowding, there was generally goodwill and camaraderie between us; we’d often trade with them, exchanging things like shaved ice for french fries, or watch each other’s carts while we ran to the bank or bathroom.

The people with whom we didn’t get along were the shopkeepers and storee owners. They saw as freeloading competition, taking away their business (even when they were unrelated businesses like book and clothing stores), blocking the line of sight to their storefronts and not having to pay any rent. They harassed us and tried to have us arrested on the flimsiest of charges. One particularly angry souvlaki shop owner managed to convince a cop to charge me with “fouling the sidewalk”, a real charge that carried with it a fifty-dollar fine.

“You’ve got to be kidding, sir,” I protested to the shop owner, “I spilled some water.”

“You poured stuff on the sidewalk that wouldn’t naturally be there if you weren’t here. I know the law.”

Yeah, I thought, but you gave up a promising career as a lawyer to run a greasy spoon, right?

“Sir,” I said, trying to keep civil, “it’s the same stuff as rain. Who do you press charges against when it rains, God?”

“Don’t talk about God that way, sonny-boy-smartass.”

Souvlaki Guy wasn’t going to listen to reason, so I tried the cop next. Until that summer, my experience with the police was limited to when they’d visit my class in grade school and give us presentations on how to cross the street and why we should stay far away from the guy offering free candy in the park.

“Officer,” I said, pouring myself a cup of the substance and drinking it, “it’s water. Nothing but.”

The cop kept writing me a ticket. “Keep it complaining and I’ll throw in obstructiuon fo justice,” he said. He tore the ticket from the pad and gave it to me. “You see that man?” he said, pointing to the triumphant-looking souvlaki guy, “He pays his rent and feeds his kids with his business, and he pays my wages with his taxes. You’re just some kid making money so you can buy beer for your under-age ass.”

That may have been true, but dammit, I was entitled to make a wage too!

As the days went on, it seemed as though the all shopkeepers had learned about the legal issues of street vending and used the confusing and often contradictory set of laws against us. Back then, Toronto was a city made up of different boroughs and sub-cities (Etobicoke, York, North York, East York, Scarborough and the City of Toronto proper), each with their own mayor. Each city or borough had its own bylaws and the amalgam of all the cities and boroughs, Metro Toronto, often had laws that contradicted them. The shopkeepers knew this; on some streets the laws of “Metro Toronto” applied, while on others, the laws of the “City of Toronto” did. If you were at the corner of a “metro” street and a “toronto” street, a few feet made the difference between being charged or not.

We Hawaiian Snow folks had it worse. The generator that powered our ice shavers and microwave ovens was noisy. Whenever we could, we tried tucking them into back alleys or behind garbage cans so that the noise was considerably less than that made by the traffic. However, if a shopkeeper wanted to get rid of us, all they had to do was file a noise complaint and we’d get a ticket and be ordered to leave.

One day, we were set up outside a store called Alan Cherry, an upscale men’s store where my Dad shopped often. I had tucked the generator far away, but the store had decided that we were unwelcome competition and sicced the cops on us. A cute policewoman and a short, unkempt little putz with a cloth measuring tape slung around his neck.

“Look at the cute cop,” I said to Sam.

“What is it with you boys and girls in uniform?” she asked.

“I dunno. They just look good.”

I walked from behind the cart to meet them. After a couple of weeks street vending, I’d learned that approaching shopkeepers and cops directly worked better than waiting for them to come over.

“Arrest that boy!” exclaimed the putz. “He’s interfering in my honest business. The noise from his machine is making me cra-zay!

In a fit of teenage braggadocio, possibly inspired by bad teen movies, I thought I’d try to impress the cute cop by taking the putz down a notch or two.

“Officer, if Mr. Alan Cherry himself [the store was named after its owner] has a complaint, I’d be glad to see what I can do. But I’m not going to do it for one of his errand boys.” A little assertiveness always impresses the ladies.

The cop stifled a laugh. I couldn’t figure out why.

“I am Alan Cherry, you schmuck!

Oh, crap.

“Uh…I thought you’d be taller,” I said.

Oh, crap. At least the cop was laughing out loud.

Sam saw all of this and assured the cop and the now apoplectic-with-fury Alan Cherry that we’d be gone in twenty minutes. That was the fastest we’d ever packed up.

A few weeks later, Dad and I were buying new suits for a wedding we were going to attend. He decided that he wanted to see the suits at Alan Cherry’s. As luck would have it, Mr. Cherry himself was minding the store that day. I avoided direct eye contact with him whenever possible, and he didn’t seem to recognize me.

Next: bringing a biker to Jesus and dating the boss’ girlfriend’s sister. (Promise.)


I’m sensing a trend here…

First there was the guy who tried to compliment a woman on her good looks by asking her if she was a hooker. Now we have someone who applied for a job at the BBC and made an even worse faux pas (no small feat). This rejection letter says it all.

Never mind the War on Terrorism; we’ve got a War on Tact!

(This one came from bOINGbOING).


So what is this “Peekabooty” thing I’m working on, anyway?

My friend Paul Baranowski (who often goes by his nickname, Drunken Master, for obvious reasons) is the leader, architect and lead programmer of the Peekabooty Project. On the evening I was sacked, he asked me to join the team to do some programming and accordion-powered developer relations work. Paul’s making the underlying engine, I’m making the user interface and graphics, and our friend Chris Cummer is maintaining Peekabooty’s Web site.

Paul and I will be speaking at CodeCon in San Francisco next weekend. We will deliver a presentation of Peekabooty and demonstrate the software in action. I also expect to be playing the accordion a lot. I’m looking forward to this trip for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which is to catch up some friends who are also the bright lights of peer-to-peer computing: Jillzilla, Lisa, Bram, zooko, Jim, Coderman, Fawn, Luke, Ry4an and Fred, to name a few (if you’re going to be there and I’ve missed your name, drop me a line and give me hell).

I’ve been working on a little blurb that describes what Peekabooty is. While what’s being described is technical, the blurb is meant to be understood by the “average person” (keeping in mind the adage “the average person has one tit and one ball). Give it a look and tell me what you think.

About Peekabooty

Our mission

The goal of the Peekabooty Project is to create a product that can bypass the nation-wide censorship of the World Wide Web practiced by many countries.

The free, easy and quick exchange of information possible on the Internet is seen as a threat by governments in countries where a free press and freedom of expression are not considered to the parts of their people’s rights. Such a government would have two options. The first would be to completely ban use of the Internet. This is an impractical measure, as it would close off that country to business opportunities and technological innovation. The preferred option is to make use of filtering computers and software – called firewalls in technological parlance – that make only those Web pages approved by the government available to their citizens.

In layperson’s terms, firewalls act as intermediaries between users and the rest of the Internet. In countries where the Web is censored, the only way to access the Internet is through the firewalls. A user enters a URL – the “address” of a Web page – into his or her browser. This URL gets passed to the firewall, which checks to see if it is one of those banned by the government. If the URL is not on the list, the firewall forwards the request for the Web page and the contents of the page are relayed back to the user, who can then read it. If the URL is on the “banned” list, the firewall refuses to forward the request and sends a page back to user indicating that the page he or she requested cannot be viewed by order of the government.

In addition to barring access to specified Web sites, firewalls can also monitor the data that passes through them. They can be configured to look for content that the government considers inappropriate or subversive and either make a note of who requested the content or simply break the connection.

21 countries currently censor the World Wide Web. These countries are populated by a hundreds of millions of people who have been denied access to information by their goverment. We want to create software that will give these people the free access to information on that Web that we enjoy.

How it works

Peekabooty is software that enables people inside countries where the Web is censored to bypass those censorship measures. The theory behind it is simple: bypass the firewalls by providing an alternate intermediary to the World Wide Web.

Peekabooty takes advantage of three things:

  • Fast computers and Internet connections are becoming increasingly available at prices that ordinary people can afford. The speed at which ordinary computers can process information and access the Internet is such that ordinary people can run Web servers and services on their home computers and home broadband connections. Today’s home computers are so fast that they can perform many simultaneous tasks with little, if any, perceived sluggishness.
  • National firewalls allow partial access to the Internet. It would be harmful to a country’s economic and technological well-being to block out the Internet entirely. Firewalls prevent access only to Internet addresses that appear on their “banned” lists. A government running such a firewall would have to be aware of a Web site that had content they did not want their citizens to see and then add it to the list. A government would likely be aware of high-profile sites run by large media organizations and human rights groups; it may also be aware of lesser-known sites, such as those run by their former citizens living in exile. However, it is unlikely that they will block access to an Internet address of a home computer they’ve never heard of.
  • Concerned citizens around the world have embraced the philosophy of “thinking globally and acting locally”. Now more than ever, people are concerned about matters “beyond their own back yard,” such as the environment and human rights issues. They are giving to charities, taking part in demonstrations and joining or contributing to activist organizations. We are offering a way for concerned people to make a difference with minimal effort.

Peekabooty is software run by “global-thinking, local-acting” people in countries that do not censor the Internet. A user in a country that censors the Internet connects to the ad hoc network of computers running Peekabooty. A small number of randomly selected computers in the network retrieves the Web pages and relays them back to the user. As far the censoring firewall is concerned, the user is simply accessing some computer not on its “banned” list. The retrieved Web pages are encrypted using the de facto standard for secure transactions in order to prevent the firewall from examining the Web pages’ contents. Since the encryption used is a secure transaction standard, it will look like an ordinary e-business transaction to the firewall.

Users in countries where the Internet is censored do not necessarily need to install any software. They merely need to make a simple change to their Internet settings so that their access to the World Wide Web is mediated by the Peekabooty network. Installing the software makes the process of connecting to the Internet simpler and allows users to take fuller advantage of the Peekabooty network.

“Global-thinking, local-acting” people in countries that do not censor the Internet install Peekabooty, which can run “in the background” while they use their computer for their day-to-day work. It doubles as a screen saver that displays its status as well as information about human rights and censortship.

Peekabooty can be classified as a distributed or peer-to-peer application. This means that its actions are the result of several computers working collectively rather than a single computer doing all the work. The distributed nature of Peekabooty makes it harder for a hostile government or group to shut it down. Given enough users, it would be almost impossible to block access to or otherwise disable all the computers in the Peekabooty network. Each computer in the Peekabooty network “knows” of only a few other computers in the network. This makes it more difficult for a hostile government to discover the Internet addresses of Peekabooty machines and add them to their “banned” lists or target them for “cracking”.


I’m sure he meant it in the nice sense of the word

This personal ad appeared on craigslist (a community news/bulletin board/on-line classified ads site started in the Bay Area) not too long ago:

I was just thinking about this afternoon and think we may have had some miscommunication.

When I asked if you were a hooker I didn’t mean it like it might have sounded or how I think you may have taken it. I didn’t mean that you LOOK like a hooker just that if you wanted to be one that I’m sure you could do very well at it because I think you are gorgeous. I meant it as a compliment but somehow I don’t think you took it that way.

Now that I think about it maybe I should have used the term “call girl.”

Wanna try this again? I promise the next time we see each other I won’t be so goddamn drunk.

Yeah. “Call girl” is soooo much better. There’s a reason why the sonnet starts with “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” and not “Shall I compare thee to a skanky ho?”

(Thanks to Dan, who in turn got it from Jamie Zawinski.)


Tommy Lee, Accordion Player (yes, that Tommy Lee)

Before Methods of Mayhem, before making all those charming home movies with Pamela Anderson and even before playing with the Crüe, Tommy Lee was an accordion player. Here’s an excerpt from an interview with You’re one of the world’s most respected rock drummers. Did you ever think you’d be doing an interview about your guitar playing?

Tommy Lee: I didn’t! But I’ve been playing guitar in the closet, so to speak, forever. My first instrument was guitar… no, accordion, actually! The funny thing is, it was an electric accordion; you could plug it into an amp. And I was like, “Oh, the accordion is so gay, but I can plug it into this amp and get distortion.” I plugged it in and would play the guitar line from “Smoke on the Water.” I would crank it up!



Today (Friday, February 8th) is last day you can vote in the Anti-Bloggies. I’m asking you to vote for these blogs:

  • The Adventures of AccordionGuy in the 21st Century for Best Heterosexual Weblog and Weblog of the Millennium
  • Naked Pope: The Movie for Dumbest Name
  • Salad With Steve for Most Likely to Eat a Cheese Sandwich

The voting page is here. Remember, you can vote once an hour, so vote early and vote often!

Worry not…

…the next installment of Snow Job will be posted later today. If you haven’t read it yet, check out part 1 and part 2.