Accordion, Instrument of the Gods

Somebody get Aaron Swartz an accordion

If his latest blog entry is any indication, I believe he’s ready.


Happy Thanksgiving!

To my American readers: Happy Thanksgiving!

Since my house is occupied by 1.125 Americans (Paul makes the 1, I make the 0.125 thanks to my great-grandfather, one James O’Hara from Dayton, Ohio), we will be celebrating Thanksgiving at my house, Big Trouble in Little China. However, since Canadian Thanksgiving came and went over a month ago, we don’t get the day off today or tomorrow, and we will thus have the big turkey dinner of Saturday night.

I wish I could get my hands on Jones Soda’s Turkey and Gravy flavoured soda for our dinner. It’s seasonal and Atkins-friendly! I also think it could be made into a lovely cocktail if combined with cranberry vodka.


Fifty-five thousand, Fifty-five thousand, Fifty-five thousand, Fifty-five thousand!

Robert “Scobleizer” Scoble is a name with which I have been long acquainted, first through the magazine he worked for, Visual Basic Programmer’s Journal (which has since morphed into Visual Studio Magazine), then meeting him in person at a Doc Searls-led dinner at the first O’Reilly Emerging Technologies Conference in 2002, and finally through The Scobleizer Weblog. He and I are both paid company cheerleaders; I’m the Tucows developer schmoozer, he’s an evangelist for Microsoft.

If there are three things I have learned from his blogs, they are:

1. He really, really, really, really likes his tablet computer.

2. Longhorn is the codename of the next version of Windows, and it’s got lots of new features.

But the point he’s managed to really drive home:

3. There are 55,000 employees at Microsoft.

I’m quite impressed that he’s managed to wedge that fact so deeply into my brain. I can tell you how many people work at Tucows (about 80 in the Toronto office and 20-ish in Flint, Michingan, for a grand total of about 100), but I can’t give you the employee head count at any of the other software vendors whose products I use regularly: the Apache group, Apple, Bare Bones, Borland, IBM, Macormedia, Python Labs, Red Hat, Sun or Zend.

I can for Microsoft: 55,000.

As I write this, there are two mentions of the number of people who work at Microsoft on his current blog page. What number would that be?

Fifty-five thousand.

Fifty-five thousand.

Fifty-five thousand.

It’s even catchier than Steve Ballmer’s famous “DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS” chant-cum-near-cardian-arrest in his infamous video.

I remember hearing stories about how deeply engrained the alphabet is in our brains; even severely badly brain-damaged people can recite it. I imagine that if I were in a car accident that sent me through the windshield and turned my brain into grey guacamole, I’d still be able to tell you that there are 55,000 employees at Microsoft.

Now that’s company evangelism!


Dear Professor…

Weez, a professor at Rochester Institute of Technology, writes about an email she received from one of her students:


I was looking over my grades on my courses and was wondering what the final assessment of my performance will be. I am expecting no less than an A in your class but from the current grade distribution, it seems that I am in a low B range. Will you be able to tell me my final grade? I’m anxious to know how everything turns out so that, if necessary, I can come to you to dispute any final decisions before I leave. Thanks.

Please respond to this email.

Weez writes that she “would be happy if y’all would suggest the myriad things I could say to this student – though probably will not. Deciding this is an opportunity for group email composition, rather labor over a retort, I will happily accept potential replies.”

My suggested response: “Eat the corn from my shit.”

Feel free to use the line, Weez!

Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

GTABloggers Christmas party reminder: December 6th!

If you…

  • Have a blog
  • Live in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area or General Turf of Accordion Guy, depending on whom you ask)

…you really should attend this party.

The GTABloggers is a social club of blog writers who live in or around Accordion City. There are no membership fees, qualifying exams or bizarre initiation rites. It’s just a group of bloggers who get together to hang out every now and again.

It’s Saturday, December 6th at 8 p.m.. It will be held at my swanky pad, located in the Queen and Spadina area, which is within walking distance of two subway stations, three streetcar lines, a helluva lot of taxis and at least three parking lots.

If you know me or have read my blog, you know that I give good party.

Special party features:

  • Kris Kringle (a.k.a. “Secret Santa”) gift exchange game
  • Potluck dinner
  • Special Christmas accordion performances: Your choice of O Come All Ye Faithful (in both English and Latin) or AC/DC’s (Give Me A) Mistress for Christmas…or both!
  • The Tub-Full-O-Ice-And-Booze will be fully operational.
  • My toy reindeer that dispenses jelly beans from its butt
  • For the hardcore, an after-party trip to the Matador

There will also be at least one special guest in attendance. I ain’t sayin’ whom; if you want to find out, you’re just going to have to come.

The full details are at this post on the GTABloggers site. To get added to the official invite list, drop Rannie Turingan a line.


A conversation in California (originally posted Saturday, February 23, 2002)

Thursday, February 14th: Mountain View

The scene:

About 1:30 a.m. on Castro Street, Mountain View’s main strip. Jill and I are outside Molly McGee’s. We’ve been drinking and dancing for a while. We left as soon as the DJ started playing the Grease Megamix, a crime that should be punishable by public execution followed by public peeing-on. It’s that bad. (If you want to experience a fraction of its horror, here’s a RealAudio sample. There’s also a MIDI version.)

I wonder how Jamie Zawinski managed to live here without losing his mind.

A group of drunk partygoers — an even mix of men and women — see the accordion and ask the question that most ninety-nine out of one hundred people ask: “Do you know how to play that thing?” I prove that I can by breaking into a couple of popular tunes.

After a couple of tunes, I stop to talk to the group. One of the women is pressing on the keys repeatedly and getting frustrated.

Her: It’s not making any sound!
Me: Of course not.
Her (annoyed, as if I’m playing some kind of joke on her): Why not?
Me: Because I’m not squeezing the bellows right now.
Her: What?
Me: The accordion is just a big harmonica with buttons and an air bag. Sound doesn’t come our of a harmonica by itself; you have to blow air into it to make noise. Same here, except you squeeze the bellows to move air over the reeds.
Her (impressed by my extremely basic science): Wow.
One of the guys: Dude, you’re not from around here, are you? What brings you down here?
Me: I’m visiting my friend Jill [I point to Jill] and am attending a conference in San Francisco tomorrow.
Guy: We’re all from around here. Most of us work at Lockheed.
Her: I’m a mechanical engineer there.
Me (thinking): I am never ever boarding a Lockheed plane again.

Recommended Reading

The social situation in Silicon Valley, circa 1999. One of the reasons that I have avoided living in the Valley.


New category: "Best Of"

I’ve added a new category to this blog, called “Best Of”. It contains my all-time favourite entries from this blog over the two years (and counting) of its existence.

I’ve started filling it with entries from my old Blogger-based blog, which still resides at The “Best Of” stories that are currently available are:

  • Breach of Security

    A con man comes to my house and gets away with it…a second time! This is the first entry to get a link from BoingBoing.

  • A spammer needs help from a time traveller!

    He’s screwed up his life, and he’s spamming for temporal assistance. I respond.

  • Konichiwa, 2002!

    I tell fourteen stories, each one about a different new year’s eve.

  • Elegy

    How I imagine what happened on the first staff lunch after OpenCola laid me off.

  • Saturday night

    A wonderful weekend evening, just in time to make up for the suckiness of the previous week.

  • Microsoft gets security religion, part 1

    I do a little social engineering and hack Microsoft’s security.

  • Stagette

    I always knew that the accordion would eventually get me invited into a limo full of drunk women in San Francisco. Really.