Microsoft Canada Wants to Pick Your Brain!

Zombie picture: "I can has brains?"

If you’re a developer or IT Pro based in Canada, my team at Microsoft Canada – the Technical Audience Team – would like to pick your brain in order to find out how to better serve you. The full details are in my tech blog, Global Nerdy.

Accordion, Instrument of the Gods

It’s the 20th Anniversary of Accordion Awareness Month!

Old 1950s comic: Boy on accordion at party surrounding by adoring girls.

Back in 1989, Tom Torriglia – formerly of the band Those Darn Accordions and now a member of Bella Ciao – established the month of June as Accordion Awareness Month, making this June the 20th anniversary. The purpose of Accordion Awareness Month is to let the world know that the accordion’s making a comeback and invite people to understand the true musical (and in my case, life-changing) potential of my favourite instrument. In honour of this very special month, I’ll be posting stories about accordion as well as other accordion-related news, as well as doing some performances all over town (the Roller Derby was just the beginning).

I’m not the only one doing something special for Accordion Awareness Month. The fine folks at the all-things-accordion blog Let’s Polka are challenging accordion players and enthusiasts to take the Accordion Awareness Month pledge. They’re asking you to do something to promote The Instrument of the Gods:

This year, we want you — our humble, accordion-loving readers — to help promote the virtues of our favorite instrument. Sit on your porch and play some tunes for your neighbors, attend a show on our accordion event calendar, fill up your coworker’s iPod with Flaco Jimenez songs when he isn’t looking, tell all your friends about Let’s Polka… the possibilities are limitless. Me, I’m going to sit on my balcony every night, directly above a pizzeria, and serenade patrons.

To encourage you, we’re giving away over $100 worth of accordion-related goodies to readers who pledge to promote the accordion this month. To make your pledge, write a comment on this post and tell us how you plan to celebrate Accordion Awareness Month — doesn’t matter if it’s something small (making a YouTube video) or big (writing an accordion concerto). One lucky, randomly-chosen pledger will receive a prize package packed with accordion CDs, books, and more. (Prize details coming soon!)

Happy Accordion Awareness Month! Let the squeezing begin!


Scenes from the Roller Derby

joey_and_nancyMe and "Lunchbox” of the Gore Gore Rollergirls. Photo by Rannie “Photojunkie” Turingan.

The Anthem

I’d only seen roller derby on TV – hidden deep in UHF-land — and never in real life, so when I got an invitation from “Lunchbox” of the Gore Gore Rollergirls to play the national anthem at the start of the first roller derby match of the season, I jumped at the opportunity.

The Ginger Ninja and I showed up early at George Bell Arena so that I could meet the organizers and get an advance look at the setup. We had a look around the arena and hung out in the beer room for a while. While there, I played some Nine Inch Nails at a friend’s request, which was a good warm-up for my performance.

Game time rolled around, and after Crankypants, Toronto Roller Derby’s master of ceremonies introduced the teams – the Gore Gore Rollergirls and Chicks Ahoy! – he introduced me to the audience as “Joey deVilla, the Accordion Guy”, and led to me to the dual-microphone setup.

singing_the_anthemMe playing the national anthem, as seen from the stands. Photo by Rannie “Photojunkie” Turingan.

I decided that since we were in a hockey arena, it was only fitting that I played both the unofficial and official national anthems. I started the original Hockey Night in Canada theme, which I thought would please the crowd. I was right – they cheered so loud that they drowned out the final notes. I followed up with O Canada and was joined by the players and referees, who sang with great pride and gusto. I closed with the classic hockey fight chords, took my bows and then joined the audience to catch the match.

Here’s the video of my performance:

The Scene

You can watch the game from the stands, which a lot of people did…


…but if you really want a nice close-up look at the action, there’s an area right on the rink called the “Suicide Seats”. I highly recommend it:


I knew that roller derby players took on a nom de guerre, and but I didn’t know that they could also take on oddball numbers, such as 7-11, the Roman numeral XVIII, or <3. One player even had the mathematical expression e raised to the power of pi times i, which is the left side of Euler’s formula.

Not only do the players take on names; the refs do too! Here’s one of them, “The Big Leboutski”:


Here’s another one, going by the name of “Lou’s Yer Daddy”:


All local hockey arenas have a sort of time-warp feeling to them. The architecture, signage and seats always make you feel as though you’ve stepped back into the late 1950s. I kept half-expecting to see the Hanson brothers waiting for some ice time. The crowd was a friendly, interesting mix; it was as if the families and friends of Junior A hockey and Queen West tattoo shop customers teamed up to throw a party. The overall vibe is an odd combination of small-town charm and big city “alternative”. It occurred to me that roller derby would make a great setting for a film, but a little searching revealed that Drew Barrymore had the same idea and ran with it.


The Rules

Here’s a Gem City Rollergirls video that explains the rules of roller derby:

The Bout

And now, some photos from the bout:







match_02   match_06







Although Chicks Ahoy managed to get an early lead in the bout, the Gore Gore Rollergirls rallied and won with a score of 93-87.

We managed to catch up with Lunchbox after the bout..


…where she was only too happy to chat with the fans, pose for pictures and sign autographs.


All in all, a great evening. I’d gladly play the anthem and see a bout again!