Hello from Milwaukee!

"Milwaukee!": Henry Winkler posing beside the "Bronze Fonz" statue in Milwaukee

As I write this, I’m in my room at the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Milwaukee. I must commend this place for a nice touch: when you check in, they give you a warm chocolate chip cookie with your room key. It made for a lovely “second breakfast”.

"Shameless Karaoke": Wil McLean sings onstage at Shameless Karaoke

I joined my friends Rachel and Scott at their send-off get-together at The Beaconsfield last night. Later today, they’ll fly off to their new home somewhere in the Vancouver exurbs, so in spite of my 6:15 flight this morning, I made sure to catch up with them. It was worth it, and I also got a chance to introduce them to Shameless Karaoke, run by my friend Wil McLean, at the Double Deuce Saloon. I think it became Jon Crowley’s new favourite karaoke spot last night.

An early flight means an early night, so I biked home and arrived at home just before midnight. On the way, I discovered one of the joys of urban biking: I saw a guy holding up his hand to hail a cab and on a whim, I “high-fived” him as I passed by.

"4:59 a.m. EDT at YYZ": The passenger drop-off at Pearson airport, early this morning

I’d packed before I left for Rachel’s and Scott’s going-away party, so all I had to do was get some shut-eye. Aerofleet were at my front door at 4:30 a.m. and I was at the airport soon afterwards, feeling a little more chipper than I’d expected to be.

I was flying American Airlines, which meant Terminal 3. Back in the 1980s, when it was the new terminal and served the late great CP Air (and the developers said they’d put a Harrods in there real soon now), I thought it was fantastic. Now, it’s a glorified Greyhound station for flying buses.

"Liz Lemon, I keep seeing that accordion everywhere I go!": Tracy Morgan at the crowded gate B6 lounge in Pearson airport

There is no part of Pearson airport that has a greater “bus station” feeling than Gate B6, the dumping ground for passengers flying short-haul “puddle jumpers” to the U.S.. While checking in on FourSquare, I decided to take a photo of the crowd waiting for their flights (it’s the one above; click it to see it at full size). Just after taking the photo, I recognized the guy in the white T-shirt in the foreground: Tracy Morgan, with a small entourage, each one sporting an iPad.

Tracy would later see that the thing on my back was not a backback and actually an accordion. Upon seeing it, he said nothing, but made that Tracy Morgan “my mind refuses to comprehend the thing presented in front of me” face that he uses to great effect on 30 Rock.

The interior of my plane

I spent most of both flights – Toronto to O’Hare, then O’Hare to Milwaukee – fast asleep (and without the aid of a SkyMall travel pillow). The Toronto to O’Hare leg is about an hour and a quarter. The O’Hare-Milwaukee run normally takes 20 minutes, but with a broken toilet seat, we got sent back to the gate for repairs just as we were taxiing towards the runway. I didn’t care – I don’t have any Milwaukee appointments until 4 this afternoon and I was out like a light anyway.

By the bye, if you’re counting, this is the start of my 16th round-trip flight of 2011.

"9:17 a.m. at MKE": View of Milwaukee as seen from my airplane window as we were landing

With about six hours of sleep under my belt, I landed in Milwaukee at 9:17 a.m. Central and was in my hotel room before 10, where I’m getting some work done before lunch, gym, more work and customer/partner meetups. Later tonight will be the start of the primary reason I’m here:

BarCamp Milwaukee 6 logo

I’m here for BarCamp Milwaukee, the Milwaukee version of the unconference-style gathering for techies, creatives, entrepreneurs, new urbanism types and people who like to share ideas. I’m representing Shopify, who are part of the BarCamp Tour, a group of five startups who are sponsoring, participating in and helping out with BarCamps across North America.

The BarCamp Tour is organizing tonight’s pre-party, which takes place at an Irish pub called the Brocach. (Brocach is Gaelic for “badger den”, and when I hear that phrase, all I can think of is the story about that poor Gordon Ramsay lookalike.)

BarCamp will take place on Friday and Saturday at the coworking space Bucketworks, and I’ll fly back to Accordion City on Monday.


This is How I Operate

Handwritten poster: "The happiest people don't have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything."

Standard operating procedure for the Accordion Guy.



Teapot with Lionel Richie's face marked "Hello, is it TEA you're looking for?"

I have to admit that the play on Lionel Richie’s lyric made me laugh.


Book Launch Tonight: “The Leap”, by Chris Turner

Cover of "The Leap" by Chris TurnerChris Turner, an old friend from Crazy Go Nuts University and author of the books Planet Simpson and The Geography of Hope, is launching his new book, The Leap, tonight (Wednesday, September 28th) at the Gladstone Hotel.

The titular leap is, in Turner’s own words, “the big jump we need to take that leads to our best possible, brightest future.” He calls it “The Great Leap Sideways”: a leap from our current unsustainable way of life, bound straight for ecological, energy and economic troubles, to a better way. This better way lets us pursue the same goals and preserves our quality of life, but is far less deleterious in the long run. And best of all, we have glimpses of this better way in many places in the world, right now.

Turner likes to quote sustainability guru Paul Hawken: “Civilization needs a new operating system. You are the programmers, and we need it within a few decades.”

The Leap is a field guide to that better way. Turner takes the reader on a tour of breakthroughs in renewable energy, “clean tech” and liveable urban design. He talks about the solar towers in Spain, the bike- and pedestrian-friendly avenues of Copenhagen (billed as the world’s most liveable city) and “green-collar” economies jump-starting the former East Germany and the American Rust Belt. These bits of that better way show us the better future, one that we could reach with a little effort.

Here’s Turner at TedXCalgary talking about The Leap:

I’m going to try and catch the launch. I was late in RSVPing, but if I bike down to the Gladstone and do some work at the Melody Bar later this afternoon before the event, I might be able to schmooze my way in.


You’re Still Lapping Everybody

Photo of runner: "No matter how slow you go, you are still lapping everybody on the couch."

Here’s a little inspiration for those of you who feel that they’re not making any progress at the gym (or any other challenge).


Nicely Done, Microsoft!

Old "Canadian Mobile Developer" banner, featuring Joey deVilla's and Frederic Harper's photos.

Well, that didn’t take long. Last week, I wrote about how Microsoft Canada’s blog for mobile developers still had my picture on the banner, even though it’s been about five months since I’d left the company. My true complaint was that the photo was two years and more importantly, twenty additional pounds out of date.

It seems that my gentle ribbing has resulted in some action being taken. If you were to go to the Canadian Mobile Developer blog right now, you’d see the updated banner, featuring my friend and former coworker and fellow Windows Phone Champ, Developer Evangelist Paul Laberge, in the spot I used to occupy:

New "Canadian Mobile Developer" banner, featuring Paul Laberge's and Frederic Harper's photos.

Remember, Microsoft Canada: any time you need an irritant to help you produce a pearl, you have but to call on my services!

This article also appears in Global Nerdy.


Panhandler of the Day

Panhandler of the day