Emerging Technologies Conference, here I come…
I’ll be attending the O’Reilly Emerging Technologies Conference in Santa Clara from May 13th through 16th. I’m flying on accumulated points and am attending the conference on a free pass, so I figure it won’t put too much of a beating on my pocketbook.
I’m certain that I could probably pick up most of what’s going on at the conference without having to attend it, but there is a reason people often follow up stories with the line “you had to be there”. In spite of the fairly tightly-knit clan that a lot of us P2P veterans have on the IRC channel #infoanarchy as well as through e-mail, there’s still nothing like meeting face-to-face, hanging out, exchanging ideas or even just talking guff. I’m looking forward to catching up with some folks I haven’t seen in a while — Cory, Grad, John, Jill, Bram, Bryce, Justin, Roger, Clay, Rael and the world’s coolest geek book publisher, Tim O’Reilly.
It’s a real pity I no longer have the budget of a Director of Developer Relations. I’d love to buy rounds of beer for all you guys again.
By the way, Tim, if you need a closing keynote accordion number (just like the P2P Conference in February 2001), I’ll do one…
Yesterday, I decided to drop by a career expo at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. With the expo a short walk south of my house and with sponsors like by the Globe and Mail and workopolis, it seemed like a good idea to attend.
There was the usual maze of registration booths at the ground floor of the Centre, but it turned out to be for a conference for estheticians and people who work at spas. The career fair, a sign pointed out, was in a single conference room in the basement. The sign also had a noted hastily taped to it that read “No IT firms today”, which left two categories, “Business” and “Engineering”. I could say that curiosity is what kept me interested in taking a look inside, but truth be told, I was more interested in seeing if Laura was still there.
There was a line of about 50 or 60 people leading to a single registration desk. You couldn’t enter the conference room without regsitering first, but I had no interest in putting up with a wait for something I wasn’t really interested in. If this were a conference and I had my accordion, I could do what I’ve done a couple of times: claim to be part of the show and that I was running late. It’s worked at a couple of Linux expos and DefCon.
I pulled my laptop out of my knapsack and walked up to the attendant minding the door. She looked me over. I wasn’t wearing a suit like everyone else at the show, but a vintage work shirt, skater-boy pants and running shoes. I also didn’t have a file folder full of resumes like everyone else.
“Hi. Nortel tech support,” I said, picking a likely company name. “Problem with one of our display computers.”
Please please please don’t ask me for some kind of ID, I thought.
“Can I get in? I’m running late, and if I don’t get that computer up and running, it’ll be bad karma.”
The attendant waved me through with a terribly disinterested look.
I went inside, and there was no Laura, and not much in the way of companies either. In the area for “Engineering” companies, there was a total of five companies. The pickings were evn slimmer for “Business”, where there were only three. I’ve seen livelier booths at a high school science fair. Nortel didn’t even have a booth here.
I decided to look around the “Engineering” section. It was a room full of people in ill-fitting suits carrying portfolios and drafting tubes. Nobody was looking particularly happy. I haven’t seen a room full of people this glum since I sat in the waiting room of a towing company a few years ago.
General Dynamics had the flashiest booth and the highest turnover. Being a weapons manufacturer, their security requirements couldn’t accept anyone who hadn’t been a Canadian citizen for at least five years, which apparently disqualified most of the people in the room, which skewed heavily towards middle eastern and south Asian.
“Damned bin Laden, he is screwing us all out of a job, eh?” said the only guy in the room who didn’t look morose. He must’ve thought I was also applying for work.
“I don’t know about you,” I replied, “but if the career fair’s like this, I’m thinking about opening a hot dog cart.”
If you’ve seen the movie Snatch, you’ll remember this exchange:
U.S. Customs official: “Anything to declare?”
Avi: “Yeah. Don’t go to England.”
Avi, who was played by Dennis Farina, has a gruff swagger that my accountant Syd has. Syd’s been our family accountant for over 20 years, and all of us deVillas swear by him. He works hard to make sure we get the best possible outcome at tax time, and he’s not afraid to get into shouting matches with the folks at Revenue Canada.
He’s a large balding man with a goatee, who often wears a dress shirt over his paunch with the top three buttons undone. Underneath the open shirt, he wears his always-present large-link gold chain, from which hangs a gold Star of David the size of a quarter. If Shaft were Jewish, he’d wear this medallion. If Shaft were an accountant, he’d be Syd.
The deadline for filing taxes in Canada is midnight at the end of April 30th. I normally don’t like cutting things so close when it comes to financial matters, but life’s been hectic for the past couple of months, and in the confusion, filing taxes almost slipped off my to-do list. It didn’t, partly because I have an accountant like Syd.
“Joey,” he said in his basso profundo when he called me last week, “it’s your best friend Syd!”
“Syd, baby,” I said — and yes, I actually did say ‘Sid, baby’ — “I’ve got some file folders for you, all organized nicely in chronological order. Pay stubs, T4 slips, charitable donations, the works. I’ll drop them off at your office.”
“All right. And don’t just leave ’em and then fuck off — make sure I come out and say ‘hi’ to you.”
“Sure thing, Syd.” I find it reassuring that Syd swears more than most gangsta rappers. I’m not sure how Mom deals with it — she hates profanity like the dickens.
When my parents first used Syd’s services, his office was located in Greektown, a reasonably central location. It was possible to get to his office by subway, and it was a good excuse to go and get some souvlaki and walk through one of the more colourful parts of town. About ten years ago, he moved to Markham, a dreary accessible-only-by-highway suburb consisting of cookie-cutter housing projects, industrial parks, office complexes and open spaces punctuated by electrical transmission towers.
As coincidence would have it, his office is a five-minute drive west of my old workplace.
The tax deadline is Wednesday at midnight, which meant that Syd’s office was incredibly busy. Still, Syd managed to break away from number-crunching to have a little conference with me.
Syd (going through the folders I brought): All organized. Chronological order. Very nice. Not like your dad. He usually gives me two shoeboxes six hours before deadline.
Me: Generosity’s his strong suit, not organization.
Syd: A fuckin’ saint, your dad. Hey, you goin’ grey?
Me: Syd, I’ve had grey hair since I was thirteen.
Syd. No shit. You got nearly as much as me. So…you still a computer…guy?
Me: Yup. I got laid off in January and I’m thinking of going back to being an independent contractor for a while. I’ve got clients lined up without much trying on my part.
Syd: Good, good. Notice I didn’t call you a computer geek. I didn’t want to offend you. You see, I consider myself a fucking accounting geek.
Me: Geek isn’t an insult, it’s a badge of honour. At least in computer circles.
Syd: Fuckin’ A. Hey, has that deadbeat yutz housemate started paying you back yet?
Me: No. He keeps saying he’s working on it…
Syd: You know, we have ways of persuading to pay their fucking debts faster.
Me: We? You mean [the accounting firm]?
Syd: No, I mean my people. Like payback for Munich 1972.
Me: But that doesn’t have anything to do with owing money.
Syd: No, but it taught them that you can’t fuck around with us.
Me: I dunno, the yutz is worth more to me alive than dead.
Syd: Yeah, and fuckin’ contract killing isn’t deductible.
Me: Hey, Syd, I need your help with getting incorporated and setting myself up as an independent contractor. Can we talk soon?
Syd: Of course! Just make it next week — after Wednesday,
I’m going to fuck off for a couple of days which a big bottle of Chivas. I can’t incorporate you, but I’ll hook you up with the best fuckin’ lawyer I know. Then I’ll walk you through getting your GST and PST shit. Fuckin’ piece of cake.
Me: Cool. Monday then. (I get up and shake Syd’s hand). Thanks, man.
Syd: No fuckin’ sweat. Say hi to your mom and dad for me!
Syd fucking rules.
I was a bad boy and didn’t file my taxes in 2000. I was a good boy and filed this year.
For the year 2000, I earned a nice, healthy tax refund from Revenue Canada. However, for the year 2001, I owe Revenue Canada about half of 2001’s refund. A combination of lower deductions from my former place of employment, coupled with a certain deadbeat housemate’s failure to pay rent for half a year (which in turn made me unable to make a decent RRSP contribution) did this. While the net result still puts me ahead, I’d rather have at least broken even with the tax folks this year. That 2000 refund would’ve been enough to buy me that new iBook.
I’m off to the gym to work off my annoyance. More tax stories later.
I am David Hasselhoff
I’d been thinking about splitting this weblog into two. The Adventures of AccordionGuy in the 21st Century would have all my stories and observations about life in general while another blog would be more technically oriented.
One of the names I was considering for the tech blog was “Happiest Geek on Earth”. This turn of phrase is actually Cory Doctorow’s; he came up with it by altering the Disneyland slogan “The Happiest Place on Earth”. He’s used it to describe both himself (in many places, most notably this Industry Standard article from October 2000) and me (in a recent bOINGbOING entry about my becoming a go-go dancer). I decided to run a Google search for the phrase to see if someone was already using it as a title for a web page.
The result was a single page of entries, and they were stories about either Cory or me. Of the two about me, one was the bOINGbOING entry. The other was from a German blog called Der Schockwellenreiter (in English, that’s “The Shockwave Rider”). He’d seen the story in bOINGbOING and decided to link to The accidental go-go dancer. Here’s the entry in the original German:
[Der glücklichste Geek der Welt]. So könnte ich mir mein Leben auch vorstellen. Tagsüber ein wenig hacken und bloggen und abends durch die Musikkneipen tingeln, schräge Songs auf dem Akkordeon spielen und dabei immer von hübschen Frauen begleitet werden. Joey ist jedenfalls the happiest geek on earth.
Google’s translation feature offered this interpretation:
[the luckiest Geek of the world]. So I could also imagine my life. During the day a little chop and bloggen and by the music taverns tingeln, diagonal Songs on the accordion in the evening play and by pretty women to be always accompanied. Joey is anyhow the happiest geek on earth .
“Diagonal songs”? As you can see, machine-based translation has a long way to go.
Between this entry and Der Spiegel’s coverage of Peekabooty, I’d have to say the time may be ripe for me to get out of this dead-end software business and launch a David Hasselhoff-like career in Germany.
A Google search for the mispelled version, accordian, places me on the first page, seventh item down. This would indicate that while my readership is a little low on the spelling skills, their taste is impeccable.
Here’s I photo I’d never seen until I ran a search for pictures from Burning Man 1999 using the non-word accordian: