It Happened to Me

Live at Dundas Square

At the end of the last Critical Mass ride, a number of us ended up at Dundas Square, where I took the time to play The Hokey Pokey for some kids. Someone captured the moment:

Photo: Me playing the accordion in the middle of the fountains at Toronto's Dundas Square.

Click the photo to see a larger version.

The rest of the photos, which includes my friend Rick Conroy, another bike-riding accordion-playing kind of guy, are here.


Blogroll update

Just a quick note to all my blogging friends: I updated the blogroll yesterday (see the right-hand-side column of this page). If you link to me and you’re not there, drop me a line and I’ll add you to the list.



My parents, bless ’em, made sure that my sister Eileen and I didn’t end up becoming fussy eaters by exposing us to as many types of cuisine as possible. This is an asset in Accordion City, North America’s most multicultural metropolis, and is required when enjoying cultural mash-ups such as the “Chicken Satay Burrito” from the sandwich shop down the street from my house.

When I was younger, my parents had to deal with cases where the children of their friends coming over for dinner were fussy eaters. The adults were there for the Filipino food — if you’ve never tried it, a very oversimplified way to think of it is “Chinese food cross-bred with Spanish” — but sometimes the kids wouldn’t eat anything “strange”. The universal “safe food” for these culinary cowards was the hot dog, which my parents prepared as the Emergency Fussy Eater Food. The hot dog is safe, familiar…and bland.

(But sometimes, it’s not bland enough. I remember seeing an American ad for a brand of hot dogs whose name I forget. The “mom” in the voice-over said the particular brand of hot dogs being hawked weren’t “spiced as much as the other ones”.)

The hot dog’s come so far from its much tastier, spicier German origins that it now requires dressing up. Hence the North American tradition of hot dog condiments. The condiments aren’t really a bad thing — I’m rather fond of the sweet-and-sour taste of corn relish and sauerkraut on my bratwurst from the nearby 24-hour hot dog cart. I draw the line at coloured ketchup, though.

Condiments are not the final frontier. Just as late-night TV once marketed things that turned tomatoes into roses and potatoes into starch Slinkies (or it the plural spelling “Slinkys”?), we now have the Octodog. It turns the humble hot dog into a octopus shape.

Who knows, maybe it’s a way to slowly ease kids into eating calamari.

(Thanks to Asparagirl for the link.)


Eckel on Python has two parts of an interview with Bruce “Thinking in C++/Thinking in Java” Eckel in which he talks about why his new favourite programming language is Python. Here’s an excerpt, which pretty sums up my feelings as well:

It seems the compromise in Java is marketing. They had to rush Java out to market. If they had taken a little more time and implemented design by contract, or even just assertions, or any number of other features, it would have been better for the programmer. If they had done design and code reviews, they would have found all sorts of silliness. And I suppose the way Java is marketed is probably what rubs me the wrong way about it. We can say, “Oh, but we don’t like this feature,” and the answer is, “Yes, but, marketing dictates that it be this way.”

Maybe the compromises in C++ were for marketing reasons too. Although choosing to be efficient and backwards compatible with C was done to sell C++ to techies, it was still to sell it to somebody.

I feel Python was designed for the person who is actually doing the programming, to maximize their productivity. And that just makes me feel warm and fuzzy all over. I feel nobody is going to be telling me, “Oh yeah, you have to jump through all these hoops for one reason or another.” When you have the experience of really being able to be as productive as possible, then you start to get pissed off at other languages. You think, “Gee, I’ve been wasting my time with these other languages.”

The interview is in two parts:


In the other blog…

Lessons learned from Peekabooty, and how its name gave me grief at a recruiting interview.


Lessons learned from Peekabooty

My friend and housemate Paul Baranowski has posted a writeup on the lessons learned from working on Peekabooty (the distributed proxy app for allowing people in countries where they censor the Web to surf it freely). It’s divided into two sections:

  • Lessons learned about managing an open source project
  • Lessons learned about programming

This “lessons learned” article will be the basis for a roadmap that will outline the future development of Peekabooty.

An additional lesson

In addition to the lessons that Paul outlined, I learned something else: sometimes a racy name will backfire on you.

Earlier this year, I was being interviewed at a high-tech placement firm somewhere in uptown Toronto. The recruiter told me that she’d looked over my resume earlier and wanted to voice some concerns.

“Peekabooty,” she said. I could almost hear the ice crystals forming as she spoke. “This might be a problem.”

My initial guess was that she was concerned that a project that once was associated with members of the Cult of the Dead Cow might pose a problem. I was prepared to offer the party line: “Yes, the original team behind the application was gathered by a prominent Cult of the Dead Cow member, but the project has long since been run solely by an individual, Paul Baranowski, who is not a member of the notorious hacker group.”

However, she blindsided me: “Why would you ever put a pornographic site on your resume? Don’t you know that it’s incredibly unprofessional?”

“I beg your pardon?” I asked, trying not to laugh. “Pornography?”

“I know it seems puritannical to you young computer guys, but many businesses are very conservative. They would frown on such…distasteful work, no matter how technically skilled you are. You really should remove it from your resume. Honestly, what were you thinking?”

“It’s not a pornographic Web site,” I said as a pulled a copy of the International Herald-Tribune with a Peekabooty article out of my portfolio, “It’s a piece of software that allows people to bypass the Web censorship mechanisms in more repressive regimes around the world.”

“It’s not pornography?”

“Not in the least.”

“But the name!”

“I know. It wasn’t my idea.”

If you think she had trouble grasping the idea that Peekabooty was not a porn Web site, you should’ve seen me try to explain that it wasn’t for a company or client, but something that Paul and I put together in our spare time.


Happy Canada Day / Halfway Day everybody!

Hey Canada, it’s your birthday / Party like it’s your birthday!

Yup, it’s July 1st, which is the anniversary of the founding of this rather nice country, my home for the past 28 years. I raise a pint of Upper Canada Dark Ale to everyone today. Cheers!

If you choose to go by months, July 1st also marks the start of the second half of the year. Yup, we’re 50% of the way through 2003. The first half had its share of excitement, and I certainly looking forward to what the second half’s got in store.

Recommended Reading

Photo: The diverse Blowfish Group, from the Globe and Mail's 'The New Canada' series.

The New Canada. A multi-part series from the Canadian national newspaper The Globe and Mail on how Canada’s younger generations — many of whom, like myself, are “New Canadians”, are redefining the country. One of the installments is a piece on the cultural salad bar that is Accordion City, where you can get biryani, bulgogi, bouillabaisse, bratwurst and Big Macs, all in the space of a few blocks.

Canadian fashion quiz. We don’t wall wear accordions on our backs and flaming cowboy hats…yet.

Canadian World Domination. Well, we can dream, can’t we?

Rush. The Canadian band that turned rock on its ear. “What you say about his companyyyyy / Is what you say about societyyyyyy!”

Men Without Hats. The people who brought back maypole dancing and midgets to rock videos and gave us all The Safety Dance!

Degrassi Junior High. Low budget, as Canadian as all get-out, corny and cheesy, but yet so addictive. Filmmaker Kevin Smith is a big fan.

And where does the really good kind bud come from these days?

Avalon. What could be geekier than Canadian online comic high school melodrama?

Crazy Go Nuts University. My alma mater, Queen’s University. And yes, I was there for the “Chaos of ’87”. I remember my first job interview out of school — the interviewer asked “So you went to Queen’s, right?”. I answered “Yes,” to which he replied “but you’re sober!!!

And last but not least, our favourite mutant:

Photo: Wolverine, both the liva-action version played by Hugh Jackman, and the illustrated version by Frank Miller.

Wolverine’s still the best at what he does, and what he does isn’t very nice.