A Truly 21st Century Job: Cuddle Party Facilitator

Around 1985, when I was in high school, I caught a lecture at U of T by

a futurist who was talking about careers in the 21st century. He talked

about jobs that already existed at the time — such as computer

programming and biomedical engineering — but he also made some

predictions based on technological and social trends and predicted the

existence of wacky jobs such as “android physiologist”. Someone in the

audience asked why the futurist didn’t use the term “android mechanic“,

and he replied by saying that it was because we would consider them

more as people rather than machines, sort of the way the Star Wars

characters interacted with C-3P0. It was a pretty interesting lecture,

even if his predictions turned out to be way off.

For example, he’d never have predicted this 21st century job: Cuddle Party Facilitator [this is a Google cache copy of a classified ad that’s since expired].

Photo: A cuddle party.

You too can make 40 grand a year getting people to do this.

“What, pray tell,” you might ask, “is a cuddle party?” Let me present the Wikipedia definition:


cuddle party is a non-sexual event in which adult participants are

encouraged to engage in consensual cuddling,

touching, caressing, and massaging. REiD Mihalko and Marcia Baczynski

founded the organization in New York City that throws regular Cuddle

Parties (they capitalize the events). They use a set of rules to set up

a safe space and keep things from heating up too much, such as no

nudity, hands under clothes, French kisses, dry humping, or other sex.

Erections (“Mother Nature’s way of giving us the thumbs-up sign”) are

not problematic, but should not be acted upon.


Cuddle Party promo material tries so hard to emphasize the

wholesomeness and child-like aspects that it ends up making the concept

seem creepy in that Michael Jackson sleepover camp way.


(yes, that’s how he capitalizes it) Mihalko and Marcia Baczynski, the

creators of the Cuddle Party concept, are such big fans of Ayn Rand

that they gave their company the clever-clever name of “Atlas Spooned”.

It figures that Randroids would find a way to monetize cuddling.

One wonders if ol’ Ayn would’ve approved. I can’t imagine her cuddling

anything other than a large canvas sack of money (just like in the

cartoons, with a big “$” on printed on it), and I’m sure she’d dry-hump

it too.

The next Cuddle Party facilitator training sessions will be held at:

  • Montgomery, Alabama, July 15-17th
  • New York City, September 23-25th


Lots of Good Developer Reading at "The Farm"

If you’re a developer, I’ve got lots of good reading material and links for you at the blog I get paid to write, The Farm!


I Wish I’d Caught This

I’m kicking myself for missing Sunday’s episode of Family Guy, in which

Chris Griffin gets yanked into a classic A-ha video while at the


Photo: Chris Griffin from 'Family Guy' gets yanked into the comic book world of the A=ha 'Take On Me' video.

Take…on…meeeeeeee! Click the photo to see the video as an animated GIF.

Luckily, someone’s captured it and saved it as an animated gif [1.1 MB].

It Happened to Me

Costco vs. Wal-Mart

[via Fark]

Okay: I’ll admit that during my move, I bought some replacement stuff at Wal-Mart. I didn’t want to go through the hassle of buying a Costco membership just yet and I needed a good deal on a few hundred bucks’ worth of replacement items such as a microwave oven (my old place had one built in, my new one doesn’t), a few replacement pots and pans to tide me over until the wedding presents come in, some closet organizers, a new king size comforter, and so on. I’m trying to maximize my dollar, especially in light of the money I spent on movers and my newly-doubled rent (at least until Wendy is eligible to work here).

Shopping at Wal-Mart is something I try not to do often, as they treat almost everyone — customers, employees and even their own suppliers — like mere links in a “value chain”. The only true human beings in the system are its shareholders; the rest of us are merely there to contribute to the share price.

(I could’ve saved on money by getting a bunch of friends to help for “free”, but that invariably leads to furniture damage, takes longer and is hard to do in the middle of a Wednesday.)

Costco, on the other hand, does a much better job. The staff are generally nicer, the selection of stuff is generally better, and the employees are considerably more helpful, probably because they’re better paid. So much better paid (42% more than Sam’s Club employees), that some Wall Street analysts are annoyed.

From a New York Times profile on Jim Sinegal, Costco’s CEO:

Combining high quality with stunningly low prices, the shirts appeal to upscale customers — and epitomize why some retail analysts say Sinegal just might be America’s shrewdest merchant since Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart.

But not everyone is happy with Costco’s business strategy. Some Wall Street analysts assert that Sinegal is overly generous not only to Costco’s customers but to its workers as well.

Costco’s average pay, for example, is $17 an hour, 42 percent higher than its fiercest rival, Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club. And Costco’s health plan makes those at many other retailers look Scroogish. One analyst, Bill Dreher of Deutsche Bank, complained last year that at Costco “it’s better to be an employee or a customer than a shareholder.”

A quick note to parents: If you ask your kid what s/he wants to be when s/he grows up, and s/he replies “An investment analyst!”, feel free to smack them really hard and then say “That was from Uncle Joey, who’d rather you actually CREATED wealth rather than merely shuffling it around.”

But I digress.

Sinegal begs to differ. He rejects Wall Street’s assumption that to succeed in discount retailing, companies must pay poorly and skimp on benefits, or must ratchet up prices to meet Wall Street’s profit demands.

Good wages and benefits are why Costco has extremely low rates of turnover and theft by employees, he said. And Costco’s customers, who are more affluent than other warehouse store shoppers, stay loyal because they like the fact that low prices do not come at the workers’ expense.

“This is not altruistic,” he said. “This is good business.”

Sinegal, whose father was a coal miner and steelworker, gave a simple explanation.

“On Wall Street, they’re in the business of making money between now and next Thursday,” he said. “I don’t say that with any bitterness, but we can’t take that view. We want to build a company that will still be here 50 and 60 years from now.”

If shareholders mind Sinegal’s philosophy, it is not obvious: Costco’s stock price has risen more than 10 percent in the last 12 months, while Wal-Mart’s has slipped 5 percent.

Also notable is the fact that Sinegal’s salary is a mere $350,000, which is small considering he makes less than a tenth of other CEOs whose businesses are performing on par with Costco. He says “I just think that if you’re going to try to run an organization that’s very cost-conscious, then you can’t have those disparities. Having an individual who is making 100 or 200 or 300 times more than the average person working on the floor is wrong.”

When I next do some big-box shopping (and yes, there are times it’s the best thing to do), it’s going to be at Costco.

In the News

It’s Only Fitting for Blog Entry #4000: Dork Pride!

That’s right, folks — according to Blogware, this is my 4000th blog

entry since starting on November 10th, 2001, the year blogging became


(According to Rebecca Blood, the year you started blogging is the year blogging became big.)

Last week, I dropped by Accordion City’s nerd fiction bookstore, Bakka-Phoenix, to attend my friend and former co-worker Cory’s book signing for his latest novel, Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town.

While there, I talked with a number of my fellow nerds — with Cory’s

dad about the increasing popularity of dynamic programming languages,

superstring theory and eleven-dimensional space, with Possum about Anarchist University,

old 8088/8086 processors and with Cat about border crossings and

science fiction fan conventions. After the signing, we then went to

dinner at Squirly’s, where we talked about the Clarion writer’s workshop,

perfect knots, the socialist intellectual day camp that Cory attended

when he was young and about the time when he and I were at McSorley’s in New York and I won over a gang of bikers by playing AC/DC on my accordion.

You’d never have to tell us about dork pride; we live it!

Photo: Orch Dorks photo from CNN.

I told you nerd girls were cute — I’m marrying one, in fact.

One of the articles linked from CNN’s front page is Dork Pride! Suddenly It’s Cool to be Uncool. It’s typical for CNN to be late for the bus (my friend Turner,

who’s written for Time a number of times, calls the Time/Warner

journalism style one of “sustained obviousness”), but it’s good to be

recognized anyway.

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

Movin’ Out

Well we’re movin’ on up,
To the [west] side.
To a deluxe apartment in the sky.
Movin’ on up,
To the [west] side.
We finally got a piece of the pie.

[Adobo] don’t fry in the kitchen;
[Bagels] don’t burn on the grill.
Took a whole lotta [flyin’],
Just to get up that hill.

Now we’re up in the big leagues,
Gettin’ our turn at bat.
As long as we live, it’s you and me baby,
There ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.

— A slightly modified version of the theme from The Jeffersons

Last Wednesday, after six years of life in the house I liked to call “Big Trouble in Little China”, three guys from Tippet-Richardson loaded my stuff (as well as some detritus from various housemates) onto a red truck and made the journey represented in the map below:

Screen capture: Portion of a Google Map showing the route from Queen and Spadina to Bloor and High Park, Toronto, Ontario.
Click the image to see the full Google map.

Screen capture: Portion of a Google satellite photo showing the route from Queen and Spadina to Bloor and High Park, Toronto, Ontario
See that big green mass in the lower left-hand corner? That’s how big High Park is. Click the image to see the full satellite photo.

I went to high school at De La Salle College “Oaklands” in the 80’s, during the era in which a guy with a goofy name — “Keanu? What the hell kind of a name is that?” — played defence for the hockey team so well that he was nicknamed “The Wall”. (He has since earned the nickname for his acting.) I took advantage of the school’s location and ended up in the usual adolescent hangout neighbourhoods in the city’s core, starting with the Eaton Centre and eventually working my way to Queen Street West.

In high school, Queen West and the surrounding areas were almost magical to me. It was the home of geek meccas such as the computer store Batteries Included, electronics shops such as Arkon Electronics and Active Surplus (only Active Surplus remains today, and in a smaller location), the science fiction store Bakka (where a young Cory Doctorow worked) and several comic book stores, including the legendary Silver Snail. Steve’s Music Store, and more importantly, its keyboard department, was also located on Queen West. I developed my penchant for wearing blazers and vests in the shops of Queen West, at new clothing stores like Fab (now occupied by Lush) and vintage places like Groovy (which is still in the same location). My sister’s friends and mine moved in the same circles, and we often partied en masse in the area’s clubs. Queen West was a home-away-from-home, and I promised myself that I’d live there someday.

In 1999, my sister Eileen, her then-fiance Richard and I were looking for a place in which to live. I lived with her in a condo at the corner of Yonge and Carlton, and they asked me to live with them as my sister and I get along quite well and hey — there’s nothing like a third renter with a profession to keep the living standards up to Eisenhower-era levels.

While the Yonge/Carlton location was quite good (central and right on top of a subway station) and the condo had great amenities, the place lacked a certain something. Yonge Street, for those of you not familiar with Accordion City, is the main drag, packed with fast food chains, dollar stores, “grey-market” electronics and camera shops and a couple of places to buy porn. If your life’s goal is to eat burgers, pizza and sushi and purchase DVDs and machines that play them, it could be heaven. I had different plans.

We lucked out. Eileen noticed a small ad in the Toronto Star for a place in the Queen/Spadina area and phoned the number. She made an appointment to see the place and when she saw it, she called my cell phone immediately.

“You’d better see this place as soon as possible,” she said.

“How soon?” I asked. “I’m, uh, wooing.” I was in the Annex — not far away from the house — enjoying a coffee with a charming young lady whom I was trying to save from a boyfriend who’d long passed his “sell-by date”.

“Joe, this place will let you woo like no other. Take a look now.”

Photo: Cover of a 'Girl's Romances' comic book.
Dude, I was SO the guy in the doorway, yo.

I know my sister well enough to know to take her recommendations seriously. I bade my young lady friend farewell and biked over to the house my sister was raving about. After a quick look about the house — 15-foot ceilings in the living and dining room, interesting planes and angles in the ceiling, hardwood floors, exposed brick wall — I looked at the landlord and quoted Homer Simpson: “I have only two questions: How much? and Give it to me!

In my six years at that house, I have lived in every bedroom. When we first moved in, Richard and Eileen took the upstairs bedroom, while I used the downstairs rooms. Initially, I slept in the smaller bedroom and used the larger one as my office. Later, when I stopped working for myself and started working for OpenCola, I put my bed in the larger bedroom and the office in the smaller one. When Richard and Eileen moved out in 2001, I moved to the upstairs bedroom, with its hardwood floor and south wall made entirely of glass.

The house served me well. It was stumbling distance from several of my regular haunts: Tequila Bookworm (where I met The Waitress), the Bovine Sex Club (the original home of Kickass Karaoke), Velvet Underground (where I danced every Saturday night) and Amato Pizza, which became my designated late-night busking area. It was the site of many legendary parties, including the one with the hot tub on an army truck.

Photo: A scene from the November 2003 hot tub party.
The neighbours from across the street still haven’t forgiven me for this one.

The house landed me an appearance on Love By Design, a home decorating show disguised as a “Dating Game”-type show in which a woman chooses her date based on three guys’ houses. Most importantly, it was nice enough to impress my lovely finacee, who must’ve been relieved that I didn’t live in a “hacker hole” with nothing but computers, empty pizza boxes and my own filth. (Worry not: the computer gear is there; it’s all just tastefully ensconced.)

Although I loved the place, it was time to leave. I’m getting married in September and my housemate Rob is getting married in October. While having two married couples living under the same roof with a single roommate would make for a great sitcom, I think that it would be quite unworkable in real life.

I notified our landlords of our plan to move out. They live in the UK, which would make it difficult for them to find new tenants for the place. They came up with the idea of paying me a nice sum to place ads, show the place and screen potential tenants. After showing the place to about 30 groups of people, I made a recommendation and the landlords agreed. On Wednesday, I met up with one of the landlords and the new tenant, during which time I handed over my keys and garage door opener.

“Wow,” said the landlord, “it actually looked bigger with the furniture in it.”

It was true — there’s something about the design of the place that has that effect.

Before I left, I kissed my fingers and pressed them against the brick wall in the living room. I then locked up the house for the last time, took the last of my stuff to the car and drove away.

I’ll miss that house.

It Happened to Me

Two Years at Tucows

In addition to being Bastille Day (which resulting in a less-than-whelming seven prisoners being freed), July 14th also marks the anniversary of my employment at Tucows, where I hold the company’s longest title, Technical Community Development Coordinator.

Even after two years, the job still passes the “dread test”: I still

look forward to going to the office rather than dreading it. I’m

looking forward to Year Three.

In honour of the occasion, I present to you an MP3 of Rush’s Bastille Day [4.3 MB, MP3].