It Happened to Me

In Which Our Hero Pimp-Slaps an Economist

One of the best ways to get up my nose is to accuse me of not knowing what I’m talking about. This happens in my comments once in a blue moon, and I usually have to become the commenter’s Dad and “take him or her to school in the car of pain”. Hop aboard, Junior!

Normally, I’d take this up in the comments, but they’ve been buried in spam as of late. Besides, I’m the captain of this blog, and if someone wants to accuse me of ignorance, I reserve the right to spank him or her in a top-level article.

Here’s the comment that started it:

I think you either have the term wrong; you likely mean traders or some other creature of Wall Street but investment bankers do things like getting money for IPOs not give out stock tips to the media.

Do you really know what an investment bank does? I suspect this is not the case.

I replied to the little snot as follows:

You’re wrong and right:

WRONG: I know what an investment banker does. I’ve met a number doing dog-and-pony shows during the dot-com days. Some of them could use a smack on the head anyways.

RIGHT: I had a brain fart while typing. The term I’m looking for is investment analyst. I’ve met these too, and shall correct the entry.

Not happy with having lost some debating points, the commenter fired back:

You can acuse [sic] investment analysts of many things (I am an economist and the party line on them is that they must either be charlatans or they should not be talking to you) but they dont really shuffle wealth around, mostly they give their opinion on the value of an asset. that is they are Appreisers [sic] who happen to specialize on assets that pay dividends and which have payouts linked to the fortunes of some legal corporation.

I cant see how it could be true that “shuffling it [wealth] around.” is all they do without it being true of all people who work as appraisers, can you?

Whacked-out assumptions and failed analogies: this person really must be an economist!

Claiming that they are charlatans and then saying that they aren’t shufflers of wealth is contradictory. Shuffling wealth — into their pockets and those of their friends — rather than creating it is what charlatans do!

Secondly, I don’t think all appraisers are shufflers of wealth; some actually provide useful services, and those services are the creation of wealth. The commenter’s assertion is the classic “confusing the whole for the part” tactic from high school debating. Here’s an only-slightly-more-ridiculous statement using the same line of reasoning:

  • I have a dim view of investment analysts
  • Investment analysts are carbon-based life forms
  • Therefore, I have a dim view of carbon-based lifeforms

I shall close by addressing the commenter using the terminology of his/her field of “study”: the supply of your babble exceeds the demand.

Bonus reading: Economist Jokes!

Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

Cuddle Party Alert!

In the comments to my recent article about the job of “Cuddle Party Facilitator”, Carla points to this announcement of upcoming Cuddle Parties in downtown Accordion City.

There’s a mixed-gender one tomorrow and a

queer-positive/tranny-positive one next Wednesday; if you’re going,

make sure you attend the right one!

(Not familiar with the term “Cuddle Party”? See here. Then go here.)

Even more interesting than the announcements are the comments. As I

write this, there hasn’t yet been a single positive comment, which is

saying something considering that these are people on LiveJournal

(whose motto should be “With friends like these, who needs hallucinations?”).

Note: No, I don’t think all LiveJournal people are messed up. Just a disturbingly high percentage of them. (The Accordion City LJers are, from my experience, are a relatively well-adjusted bunch.)

It Happened to Me Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

When Craigslist Beat the Toronto Star Classifieds

The Setup

As my friends and regular readers of this blog will know, I’m getting hitched in September and had to vacate my lovely Queen and Spadina house for someplace a little more suitable for two. The house was great, but a tad too expensive for just two people; the rent situation would be made worse by the fact that Wendy won’t even be eligible to work here for a few months. A couple of people suggested sharing the house with roommates. This is not a good idea — a married couple living with roommates is a good setup for a sitcom, but probably a disaster waiting to happen in real life.

Since my landlords J. and B. live in London (England, not Ontario), it would have been difficult for them to advertise the house and show it to potential tenants. They offered me a nice sum of money — enough to cover the expense of hiring professionals to move me to my new place — to act as their agent. I was given the additional responsibility of not only publicizing the place, but also to screen candidates for suitability based on J. and B’s criteria and my understanding of the house and the neighbourhood based on 6 years of living there and being part of the community.

After talking it over with J., we decided to use two different advertising media:

The Ads

Here’s an approximation of the Toronto Star Classfied ad:

QUEEN & SPADINA: 3 Bed, hi-end bi-level 2 bath a/c garage hrdwd floors laundry $2100/mo call 416-948-6447

It’s the black hole of advertising: so dense that not even information can escape!

J. suggested that we spend a little extra money and pay for flourishes like the border and the white-on-black headline in order to stand out on the page. Seeing as the idea had some merit to it and we weren’t spending my money, I ordered these extras.

The ad got a total of 20 responses, leading to about a dozen viewings, which in turn led to 2 recommendations. Near the end of the week-long ad run, I was called and emailed twice each by an automated reminder system reminding me to book another week if I needed to.

The ad ran for one week in both the paper as well as the web site and cost $520.66.

Here’s what the Craigslist ad looked like:

$2100 / 3br – Great 3 bed 2 bath place near downtown (Queen and Spadina)

This place is takes up the first floor and basement of a historic brick house in the Queen Spadina area. It’s gorgeous, unusual, was featured on the “Love By Design” television show and you can roll out bed and land in Chinatown or Queen Street West!

The first floor features:

  • Large living room and with bay window and dining room. Both have hardwood floors, high ceilings and exposed brick walls
  • Kitchen with stove, oven, microwave, dishwasher, fridge
  • Full bath with mirror walls
  • Large master bedroom with hardwood floor, an all-glass wall facing south and door leading to back deck

Photo: Joey deVilla's living room at his Queen/Spadina place, facing north.

The basement features:

  • One large bedroom with two large closets and a built-in shelf, carpeted
  • One small bedroom with one closet and natural shelf, carpeted. Currently contains a Murphy bed which the owner is willing to sell
  • Large full bathroom with large sink and washer and dryer
  • Storage crawlspace

The house also has a back patio which leads to a garage shared with the upper unit. The current tenant in the upper unit does not have a car.

Photo: Joey deVilla's living room at his Queen/Spadina place, facing south.

Want to see more photos? Take a look here.

Rent is $2100/month and water is included — you pay for Hydro and gas. Available July 15th, although you might be able to move in some stuff sooner.

Call Joey at (416) 948-6447 for details.

Sullivan at Spadina   google map   yahoo map

  • this is in or around Queen and Spadina
  • — it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

This conveys considerably more information about the place: its features, what it looks like, a bit of the history and it links to even more information.

In the same week-long period that the Star Classifieds ad ran, this adgarnered 55 responses. Since the ad was free, I ran it longer and it produced more than 85 responses, which was when I stopped counting.

In the three-week period during which the ad ran, it cost me $0.00. Nuthin’. Zip. Nada. Zilch. Honkis de konkis. In the words of my fiancee’s people: bubkes.


In the case of finding tenants for my old place, which is considerably closer to the city core (here’s a map showing a route from the old place to the heart of the financial district), Craigslist proved to be the better choice. It provided practically infinitely more space than the Star classified, provided an anonymized link to my email address and was free. Not only did it yield considerably more respondents; it also landed more suitable ones too: working professionals used to downtown living, who looked as though they’d take good care of the place. The Star ad drew in a larger proportion of people from the deep burbs who had that sort of attitude that the burbs was where one lived and downtown was a grittier kind of mall or playground where you could shop, get drunk, act like an idiot and start fights.

The winning candidate was someone who’d seen the Craigslist listing, not the Star classified. You should keep in mind that there are many circumstances in which the Star classifieds will beat Craigslist. As my housemate Rob and I have observed in our respective apartment-hunts, the farther from the city core you look, the better the Star‘s selection becomes. In the neighbourhood where I was looking (here’s a map showing a route from the new place to the heart of the financial district), the selection of places was much better in the Star than in Craigslist. I found my current place through the Star classifieds.

(Point of information: I also found the old place through the Star classfieds, but that was back in 1999. Internet use wasn’t as common as it is now, and Craigslist was still largely limited to they Bay Area then.)

For the purpose of finding tenants for my old place, Craigslist soundly beat the Toronto Star classifieds. It yielded considerably more candidates and was infinitely cheaper. Well done, Craigslist; I salute you with a filet mignon on a flaming sword!

In the News

Tom Gets a Write-Up in the BBC

Photo: Tom Reynolds.

One of the most popular Blogware-based blogs out there is Random Acts of


written by a blogger who goes by the name of Tom Reynolds, an ambulance

driver with the London Ambulance Service. Tom often writes about his

experiences at work, which are sometimes funny, sometimes harrowing,

but often interesting to read.

I had the pleasure of meeting Tom last November, when he flew from

London to Toronto to attend my

birthday/engagement party

(among other things). We met by reading each other’s blogs, a testament

to the fact that you’ll never know who’ll you’ll meet by


Tom’s blog has garnered him a fair bit of media exposure, the latest

being BBC News’ piece on him titled Ambulance Blogger

Tells All.


Everybody Loves Eric Raymond!

[via RedHanded] The jokes in the new webcomic Everybody Loves Eric Raymond,

the comic that “depicts the real lives of Richard Stallman, Eric

Raymond and Linus Torvalds as accurately as comedically possible”, will

completely fall flat if you don’t follow happenings in the world of

Free or Open Source software. However, if you do, it’s high-freakin’-larious! Okay, maybe just amusing, but still…

Here are some panels from its dramatization of Eric Raymond’s announcing that “We Don’t Need the GPL Anymore”.

Comic: Panel from 'Everybody Loves Eric Raymond'.

Comic: Panel from 'Everybody Loves Eric Raymond'.

The comic has garnered its subjects’ attention — the following panel, taken from this comic, is based on actual statements made by Stallman and Raymond…

Comic: Panel from 'Everybody Loves Eric Raymond'.

Accordion, Instrument of the Gods In the News Music

R.I.P. Myron Floren

[Thank to abnu for the heads-up!] Back when we lived together during our stay at Crazy Go Nuts

University, George and I would stumble across a channel playing a rerun of The

Lawrence Welk Show while watching TV. Rather than quickly flip to

another channel, we’d sit there transfixed, watching this strange

little bit of Americana fixed in amber, and I suspect one of the

reasons was the gentleman pictured below, Myron Floren:

Photo: Myron Floren.

I am the polka king! I can do anything! In the heyday of The Lawrence Welk Show, he was mobbed by fans, just like a rock star!

Myron got his big break in the late 1940’s when he and his wife 

attended a Lawrence Welk performance at the Casa Loma ballroom in St.

Louis. Welk invited him onstage to perform a number, and Floren chose

Lady of Spain which wowed the crowed. Impressed with the enthusiastic

reaction and Floren’s playing, Welk invited him to join the band that

night, and in 1950, Floren started a 32-year run on Welk’s show.

Even though polka isn’t really my thing, I am an admirer of Floren’s excellent

playing technique. The man’s fingers were a blur over the piano

keyboard and chord buttons, and he played a mean version of Beer Barrel Polka

(which you might know better as “Roll Out the Barrel”, which is

actually the first line of the chorus). He was also regarded as an

excellent conductor; it’s said he did a better job conducting with his

elbows (since his hands were occupied with the accordion) than most

bandleaders did with a free hand and a  baton.

Floren is probably behind one of the major reasons that the accordion

is considered an old folks’ instrument. He cemented its reputation in

his three decades of bandleading on The Lawrence Welk Show,

which got cancelled in 1982 not because of flagging ratings, but

because it was considered “too old” for advertisers. In spite of this,

I owe Mr. Floren a debt of gratitude, for without the image of the

accordion that he firmly implanted in the minds of generations of North

Americans, my own approach to the accordion — as well as those of “Weird Al” Yankovic, They Might Be Giants, Tom Waits or The Arcade Fire — wouldn’t be as special. Without him, we’d be players of yet another ordinary instrument, such as drums, bass and guitar.

Myron Floren died last Saturday at the age of 85 at home in Los Angeles County.

He is survived by his wife, five daughters and seven grandchildren. May

the bellow action be smooth and the reeds be true whereever you are,

Mr. Floren!


It’s Like a Zen Koan

I chortled when I saw this photo:

Photo: Sign that reads 'Adult Entertainment / Home Style Cooking'.