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Woof woof!

I would argue that Cosmo the Dog is National Review’s best columnist. Here’s my proof.

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I Hereby Resolve to Kick It Old School in 2G2

I’ll be the cat who won’t cop out when there’s danger all about

New Year’s Resolution: When I’m ever in a tight situation, I’ll ask myself: What would Shaft do?

(By the way, I’m referring to the Old School Shaft. Samuel Jackson is a badass, to be sure, but the New School version was missing something.)

Shaft: Warms my black heart to see you so concerned ’bout us minority folks.

Lt. Androzzi: Oh, come on, Shaft, what is it with this black shit, huh? (Holding a black pen to Shaft’s face) You ain’t so black!

Shaft: (Holding a white coffee cup to Androzzi’s face) And you ain’t so white, baby.

Daaaamn right.

1337ness

OS X and 256 MB of RAM dropped into the old school iBook? Check. Copy of Mac OS X Programming? Check. Project Builder and Interface Builder? Check.

Latest XP patches and version of Microsoft Visual Studio? Check. Accelerated C++? Check. Programming Windows with MFC, Second Edition? Check.

Red Hat 7.2? Check. Latest Python? Check. wxWindows? Check. Linux Socket Programming? Check.

New Year’s Resolution: Be the progammer equivalent of Shaft. “It’s my duty to make software kick booty.”

Social Singing

First, an observation from a nifty blog, How To Learn Swedish In 1000 Difficult Lessons (which I found while reading another nifty blog, Objectionable Content):

The Swedes are not a skeptical people. They have an endearingly childlike willingness to participate. They believe in joining in on reindeer games.

Take an office party, just as an example. An office party could start off with everyone drinking vodka cocktails, followed by an office choir singing traditional Swedish and American Christmas carols. Then, everyone could sit down and a toastmaster would present the evening. Then two old guys from the office could get up and play electric guitars and sing songs about the company, but to the tune of “Alice’s Restaurant.” And everyone, but everyone happily joins in on the choruses, and starts to clap along.

If it were America, everyone would be looking around to see if anyone else was clapping. As for singing along, well, social singing is a lost art in America I fear.

New Year’s Resolution: Do my part to revive the lost art of social singing in North America. I’m sure Isaac Hayes (who wrote Theme from Shaft) would approve.

Practice, practice, practice

I’d been meaning to get more accordion practice and I have a really good reason now — I’m going to be backing a singer/songwriter named Lindi at her CD release party on January 31st.

It’s just one of those lucky coincidences that happens when I bring my accordion with me when I step out. I was at my friend Eric’s party, and Lindi saw the accordion and asked if I would like to gig with her. For my friends and other Toronto-area folk, the location hasn’t yet been finalized — it’ll be at either the Rivoli or B-Side. Details soon.

New Year’s Resolution: Practice accordion more often. At home and on the street. Yeah, on the street. Just like Shaft.

It’s a longshot, but what the hell…

Very Unlikely-to-happen New Year’s Resolution: Seduce incredibly sexy British TV cooking show host Nigella Lawson. Hey, Nigella, I’m pretty good in the kitchen, and some other rooms in the house to boot…

“Oh that a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a Heaven for?”

Robert Browning

Besides, it’s what Shaft would do.

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Holiday Photo Gallery

bella’s Birthday Photos

Strangely enough, there are no photos of bella (that’s right, the lowercase “b” is intentional) in this series…

Christmas Day Evening Photos

Christmas: it’s not just for goyim anymore.

  • Photo 1: Me, Josh, Adina and Paul at my house.
  • Photo 2: Paul and Josh at the Thai Restaurant. Paul’s gotten into the Japanese habit of flashing the “Peace” sign in photos. Could it be Yuki’s and Makiko’s influence? Naaah…
  • Photo 3: Adina and me.
  • Photo 4: Adina solo.
  • Photo 5: Adina and me, waving our hands for some artsy photo effect.
  • Photo 6: Adina and me, again.
  • Photo 7: Visiting Adam Smith’s place. His birthday is on Christmas, so I always give him two presents on December 25th.

New Year’s Eve Photos

Kickin’ in 2G2, old school!

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Konichiwa*, 2002!

*That’s “hello” in Japanese, kids.

For your amusement, all my New Year’s doings from December 31, 1998 to last night, in reverse chronological order. (I’m working off a hangover by writing.)

December 31, 2001 – Toronto

This New Year’s Eve was different from the past few — for the first time since 1995, I stayed in town. It’s a little more low-key that the usual Joey production, but still a good time. I didn’t throw a party or attend some kind of over-the-top bash; I just dropped by some house parties, drank a lot of Freixenet, played the accordion (the usual repertoire, plus Auld Lang Syne at midnight), nearly passed out, somehow won a game of Uno even though I was only semi-conscious and then went home to eat some homemade beef stew that we’d put in the slow cooker and then passed out. As we used to say back at the pub where I worked in University, “if you’re not wasted, the night is.” I got to entertain a crowd, meet some new people, catch up with a friend or two I haven’t in a while, and got the drunkest I’d been in a dog’s age. Not as way-out-there as some other New Year’s bashes I’ve done, but I’m still smiling (if a little wobbly today).

December 31, 2000 – San Francisco

I was moving into the company’s corporate apartment in San Francisco, and my then-girlfriend E. came down to visit. We had a fun week exploring San Francisco and she also joined me on a trip to L.A. where I spoke at a DJ conference (my first-ever public speaking engagement of my professional career) and hit the Sunset strip.

December 31, 1999 – Prague

My friend Andre is a crack neurobiologist who works at the Neurophysiology Department of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague. He threw a party called Millennipalooza (yes, the millennium didn’t happen until the crack of 2001, but the odometer rolls at 2000, doesn’t it?) where he invited about 60 of his close personal friends (and their dates/buddies/tag-alongers) to party like it’s 1999 in a mini-castle called Zamek Roztez, located about an hour outside Prague. I had a really, really great time and met someone cute as well (the pictures here will attest to that).

However, the really interesting story took place a couple of days into 2001. I was staying in a short-term-rental apartment near Prague’s Old Town and enjoying my vacation. Some very drunk Swedes kept me in beer and sausages (the only items on the menu) at one of the Czech beer halls one night, while at the bartender at the James Joyce stood with me on the bar and did a rousing version of the Proclaimers’ 500 Miles. At several pubs, the accordion once again proved its worth as a machine for turning music into free beer and strangers into drinking buddies at several fine local pubs.

The accordion also saved me from an attempted mugging.

Prior to the trip I’d done some research on Prague, reading a few books, checking out the travel guide Web sites. The discussion boards where travellers posted their stories were the most interesting, especially the “horror stories” about how they’d been robbed or swindled by the locals. I read one story about how this one guy was appraoched by a seemingly lost man while on Prague’s Left Bank. He asked for directions in Spanish-accented broken English, while fumbling with a large map of the city. While the man asked for directions held the map in front of the tourist’s face, his accomplice picked his pocket and then both crooks disappeared down an alleyway. I made a mental note to avoid this situation.

I was enjoying a pleasant walk on the Left Bank on an unusally quiet and empty street, my accordion slung on my back. I thought I heard someone shouting in English behind me, but I ignored it until it became louder.

“Please help,” the voice said in Spanish-accented English, “Need directions. Please.”

This can’t really be happening, can it? I thought to myself. I picked up the pace of my walk. I couldn’t run — my beloved pair of steel-toed boots were finally wearing down and running in them hurt my feet. I looked for a building full of people to duck into, but there were only houses to one side and a large open park on the other. The Lost Man ran and caught up with me.

“Please. Am lost. Need directions. Need to change money.”

“Talk to the hand,” I replied, holding out said hand. He might not recognize the TV talk-show idiom, but he’d know what the hand in this face meant.

He held out a wallet packed with what looked like a fat sheaf of Polish Zlotys. “Please, can you change money? I give good rate.”

And that’s when the plainclothes cops appeared. Where the hell did these two come from? I wondered. They wore black from head to toe — toque, bomber jackets, jeans, boots. If they’d been wearing black paintstick on their faces, they would’ve looked like those special forces guys you always see in action films, if somewhat scrawnier. One of them held a greasy plastic-looking badge that had a Czech word emblazoned on it. I assumed that word was Czech for “police”. One of them said something in Czech to the Lost Man, who simply held his hands up instead of running.

“He is counterfeit money changer,” one of the cops said to me. “You get money from him?”

“He sell me Zlotys!” said the Lost Man.

“You lie, zmrd” I said, calling him an asshole in Czech. (Like my buddy John, I make it a point to learn to swear in the local blabber.)

“Please to be inspecting your wallet and passport now,” said Cop Number Two.

Wallet inspectors? I thought, That’s a scam from The Simpsons!

While hanging out with my sister’s buddies from the U.N., I learned the drill for handling cops, real or otherwise (I couldn’t be sure whether these guys were crooked cops or simply pretending to be cops). “No,” I said. “You do not get to see my wallet. You do not get to see my passport. If you want to arrest me, I demand to be taken to the Canadian Embassy right now.”

“Please to be inspecting wallet!” yelled a huffy Cop Number Two. He gave me hard shove backwards.

I fell back hard against a stone wall and heard a crack behind me. The accordion, still slung on my back had taken a hard blow. Had it not been there, my head woould’ve made hard and fast contact with the wall. I wasn’t fully aware of this fact, just that an accordion I’d spent a couple of hundred dollars to get fixed had been damaged.

“Hey, asshole!” I yelled, forgetting to say it in Czech. “That cost me a lot of money to get fixed!”

To everyone’s surprise, mine especially, I kicked at Cop Number Two with a steel-toed right foot. I connected with his kneecap, and he dropped to the ground. The Lost Man, seeing this, fled. Cop Number One looked at me wide-eyed and -mouthed. I later learned that guys like this like to attack Japanese tourists because they’re so unused to muggings and the like that they tend to be complete pushovers in these situations. They probably assumed I was Japanese and weren’t expecting an “Ugly American” style of reaction. Hell, I wouldn’t have expected that of me.

There were still the two cops, and even the injured guy could’ve easily used me to wipe the walls. It was time to negotiate, Third World Style. Bribing the cops is an honoured tradition in the Philippines, and I guessed that it might work here in the Czech Republic as well.

“Okay,” I said, in my loudest busker voice, waving a 1000 Crown note. A mere $40 Canadian, but it would buy a lot of beer and sausages in Prague. “This is for you,” I said, planting the note very firmly in Cop Number One’s hand. “Now you go levo,” I said pointing to my left, “and I go pravo,” as I pointed to the right. “Okay?”

“Okay.” said Cop Number One with a single nod, as he picked up his fallen comrade, who was still kneeling on the ground, rubbing the knee I’d kicked.

I swaggered around the corner, trying to look tough. Once around the corner I ran (Mama didn’t raise no fools) despite the pain my boots were causing me. There was a Japanese tour group a half-block away and I joined them, wearing the accordion on my front so the “cops” couldn’t see me if they were following. Once free and clear, I went to the Terminal Bar, where I finally calmed down after three pints of pivo.

December 31, 1998 – Halifax

Wow. We’re in the pre-accordion era now.

I’d conviced my friends Chris and Karl to rent a car with me and drive to Halifax to attend a rave with Jenn, my old friend from University. We got the car at around 11:30 p.m. on December 30th and drove all night. Karl has somehow convinced us that the trip would be only 14 hours, but he was off by almost 7. We arrived in Halifax at 8:30 p.m. on the 31st, rested for an hour, and raved until 7 the next morning, fueled only by Pepsi and other stimulants. Since Chris has to be home for some kind of work contract by the 2nd, we had to make the same marathon drive back to Toronto in near white-out conditions. The only disappointment was that we were in and out of Halifax so quickly, we never got see the ocean!

December 31, 1997 – New York City

After making a last-minute decision and somehow securing seats on a plane, I flew down to New York with my sister Eileen in the early afternoon of the 31st and didn’t have any plans made, other than to meet up with friends at a bar.

Dinner was going to be a big hurdle — being New Year’s Eve, we didn’t stand a chance of getting into any place decent, but we were going to give it a try. We went to a nice-looking Italian restaurant whose name escapes me. As I walked up to the maitre’d, Eileen whispered to me “We have reservations. Got it?”

“Hi,” I said, in my cheery “let’s eat!” voice, “deVilla, party of five?”

The maitre’d shuffled through the reservations book, naturally finding nothing.

I peered over the edge of the book, feigning an attempt to help.

“Sir,” the maitre’d asked. “when did you make these reservations?”

“About two weeks ago, I’d say? It’s deVilla. d-e-V-i-l-l-a.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t find it. Please wait, I’ll see what I can do.”

The maitre’d somehow managed to squeeze a couple of extra tables from a storage room into some unoccupied space in the far corner of the restaurant and had us seated there. Sure, it wasn’t on par with the Great Ferris Bueller’s restaurant scam, but I take whatever little victories I can get. Nice osso buco too.

After dinner, we went to a bar called Opaline on Avenue A, where we were to meet our friend Andre for drinks. We had a crantini in the front lounge and chatted for a bit. Andre still hadn’t shown, but Eileen had noticed another room behind the lounge and asked me to go see if he was there. I walked into the back room, which was even larger than the lounge and suddenly heard my name being called out from a voice I thought I’d never hear again.

It was K., one of my sister’s floormates from her first year at McGill. We’d gotten chummy and attempted to start a relationship, but that ended when she backslid towards her previous boyfriend and I ended up dating her sister, E. For a brief period, I dated both, hoping that neither one would find out about the other (Hey, I was 19 at the time. You’d have done it too). Both relationships ended in a Kafka-esque flameout ten years prior, and I hadn’t seen or heard from them since.

After a big hug, she yelled in my ear “and you’ll never believe who came with me!”

E. walked up to see what the fuss was all about, saw me, and more hugging ensued. E. introduced me to her boyfriend, who promptly vanished for the rest of the night with a bunch of jock-ish looking friends to another corner of the bar for I-couldn’t-give-a-damn-why. We spent the whole evening catching up on what the other had been doing with their lives for the past decade. “Still silly after all these years,” she said of me. At the end of the evening, we exchanged e-mail addresses and kept sporadic contact with each other.

What I didn’t know at the time was that this chance encounter would lead to my dating E. for most of 2000.

December 31, 1996 – Boston

Drove down to Boston with my then-girlfriend C. It was a nice trip — we got to see Boston, Cambridge and Salem, pick shells and rocks from the seaside and go wandering through the woods of upstate New York.

December 31, 1995 – Manila

First dinner at the Hotel Shangri-La, followed by drinking and dancing all night at a club called Zu, where they pulled out all the stops. If you ever get the chance, I very strongly recommend clubbing in Manila.

December 31, 1994 – Toronto

I’d just graduated from Queen’s and was now in the Real World, looking for a job. I DJ’d a private party, with my cute if somewhat clingy — okay, incredibly clingy girlfriend, S.

December 31, 1993 – New York City

My all-time favourite girlfirend had just broken up with me, so I spent the Christmas holidays in a kind of “just kill me” funk. Soy uno perdidor, I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me and all that. I went down to New York City with my sister Eileen to attend a New Year’s Eve party my friend Andre was throwing at his apartment.

Andre had managed to expand his usable party space by taking advantage of a door in his apartment that opened onto a flat expanse of roof. He set up a tent to block the wind and several clay braziers full of coal to stave off the cold. Between these measures and the crowd, it was actually comfortable on the roof, even though it was an unusually cold winter.

At some point during the party, I was on the roof talking about beer. I was referring to the new crop of American microbrews that were actually good. I think I also made some offhand remark about how soda-pop-like Rolling Rock was and expressed amazement that fratboys actually managed to get themselves killed drinking the stuff. An Asian guy walked up to me and said “You don’t like the beer here? Where you from?”

“Canada,” I said.

“Canada?!” he sneered. “What’s that, America lite?” That got a laugh out of his buddies. “So where in Asia are you from, guy?”

“The Philippines,” I said.

“Philippines?!” he sneered again. “What’s that, Asia lite?” That got an even bigger laugh out of his buddies. I had a guess as to where he was from, and was already loading my verbal ammo.
“And where would you be from?” I asked.

“Korea, man.”

Bingo. You wanna get ethnic on me, kimchi-breath?

“Ah, you’re one of the fruitstand people. If the Japs aren’t using you for comfort women, the bruthas are using you for target practice.”

Silence, followed by a lot of laughter from his buddies.

He put his arm around me in a friendly manner and said to his buddies: “I like this guy.” He turned to me and said “Sorry for being such a shit to you. Just breaking your balls, see.”

Ethnic slurs for harmony. New Yorkers. Geez.

December 31, 1992 – Manila

I was there for a month over the Christmas holidays, having the time of my life. Back home, my school marks were peaking in the 80’s and 90’s, I had a great new girlfriend, my DJ career was going very strong, and when I got home from the holidays, our band was going to have its first gig. In Manila, I was having a lot of fun hanging out with my cousins and friends in the districts of Makati and Malate.

I even got to geek out a little: I spent some lazy afternoons doing my first-ever readings about object-oriented programming under my Aunt’s palm trees by the pool. A friend of my aunt visited one day and saw me reading up on C++. She turned out to be the Dean of Computer Science at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines and asked me if I would like to speak in front of an assembly of computer science students and tell them about being a computer science in North America. It was a lot of fun, I got to hang out with the students and I got the VIP treatment from the faculty. The Dean took me aside at one point and asked if I could send her some copies of the new Borland compilers — the university, being a state-run institution in the Third World — was pretty strapped for cash and couldn’t afford even a single copy of Turbo C (Linux was still in its infancy at this point, Free Software was still somewhat obscure and the Open Source movement was five or six years away).

December 31, 1991 – Toronto

It started innoncently and boringly enough with me and my friend Henry going to our friend Kevin’s house, where we caught the tail end of Predator 2. The movie ended at 9, and we decided we weren’t going to be caught at the stroke of midnight sitting at home and watching TV.

We headed downtown and ended up at the Rotterdam Pub, somehow managing to find a table. Henry and I were short cash, but Kevin told us not to worry; he’d take care of it. A minute before midnight, we got the bill and Kevin announced to us that “Operation Drink and Dash” was about to commence.

Oh, crap.

It turned out to be simpler that I thought it would be. At midnight, everyone started the usual hugging and kissing. We simply hugged and kissed people in a straight-line path, pushing our way through the crowd toward the door. Kevin led us, walking out the door very casually, turning the corner and then bursting into a full gallop. We ran a zig-zag path through alleyways for four blocks, and collapsed in an alley, panting and laughing.

Kevin offered us some of the Rotterdam beer glasses he’d stuffed into his pockets. “Souvenir of one fine New Year’s Eve, gentlemen.”

December 31st, 1990 – Montreal

I managed to convince my friend Rob, who normally isn’t into this sort of thing, to come with me to the GWAR concert at the Rialto. The Lunachicks opened, and at the stroke of midnight, GWAR burst through a fake brick wall and their lead singer, Oderus Urungus wished everyone “Happy New Year, human scum!” I try and put a little bit of the GWAR show into every accordion performance of mine.

December 31st, 1989 – Toronto

A house party at my friend Nick’s, which I attended with my then-girlfriend, G.

December 31st, 1988 – Quebec City

There were two couples — Andre and his then-girlfriend Catherine, Kevin and his then-girlfriend Kelly — and me and Henry, who were playing the part of the two “fifth wheels”. We’d dropped off our stuff at a youth hostel and gone for the 8 o’clock dinner sitting at one of the nicer restaurants within the walled part of Quebec City. Afterwards, we were to go to a club that came highly recommended by Andre — a place called L’ombre Jaune — The Yellow Shadow.

“They’ve got the best music,” he said. “Great DJs, friendly staff, great crowd. You’ll probably meet some really cute chicks tonight,” he said to me and Henry.

When we got to the address that Andre has provided the cab driver, it turned out that L’ombre Jaune no longer was in business. Instead, the building had been divided into two establishments. In the basement, a place called Le Cheap Bar, and upstairs, a fully-equipped disco whose name I’ve forgotten. Le Cheap Bar was half-empty and occupied by bored-looking patrons, while the upstairs place was charging a cover that none of us could afford. It was about an hour until midnight, and knowing of no other place that we could go to, we settled for the aptly named Cheap Bar.

The bar did have some guy in the corner running CDs through the disc changer and the bartender was nice enough, but it just didn’t seem quite right. The place filled over the next half-hour, probably with people who had nowhere else to go, and Henry and I drank our beer while looking longingly at the line-up to the entrance to the upstairs bar. A cougar started paying a lot of unwanted attention to Henry, and he decided to dodge her by going into the back alley for a smoke. I tagged along to keep him company.

We could hear the thumping of house music from above. Someone had left a fire escape door slightly ajar, probably to let in some of the fifteen-degrees-below-zero outside air into the upstairs club. We looked up and then at each other and simulateneously came to the same conclusion.

The fire escape ladder was icy, and Henry nearly kicked my party hats off when his boot slipped. When we got to the top, we could see through the crack that there wasn’t anyone watching the door, just some club-goers getting their noisemakers ready. It was ten seconds to midnight.

We waited for the countdown to reach zero. The DJ started into some big number — I forget which. We opened the door; the cold air cut a path through the smoke machine’s fog. People turned to face up and started to clap.

Henry and I were each wearing two party hats like horns and had noisemakers in our mouths. “They think we’re part of the act,” Henry said, to which I replied “Let’s start a conga line!” Henry took the front, I was behind him, and we got a good chunk of the dancefloor to join us.

To our surprise, no bouncers came to kick us out. We spent the rest of the evening dancing and schmoozing in the fancy club upstairs while our coupled-up comrades downstairs were making kissy-faces.

“Let’s break into a club every year,” Henry said.

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Sayonara, 2001

So my review for 2001 the year is the same as for 2001: A Space Odyssey. It went on too long, it was hard to follow and you could only enjoy it if you were really, really stoned.

— comedian Lewis Black, on The Daily Show

I’m glad it’s over

I spent a lot of 2001 watching things explode spectacularly: not just the World Trade Center and the Middle East, but also the company for which I work, a relationship, my savings, and my temper, which has been sorely tested this year. I have been plagued by scatterbrains who lead their lives the way drunks drive, two-faced back-stabbing management types whose only concern is for their own skin, motherless grifters, ill-mannered louts and fuckwits who’ve decided to take advantage of my general good-naturedness.

C’mon, Joey, I’m sure you’re thinking at this point, tell us what you really feel.

Better days

Part of my disappointment with the way things turned out this year is that during the previous two years, I was having the time of my life. I was where I wanted to be, doing what I wanted to do and enjoying every moment. In that span of time, I had:

  • Travelled far. I flew to the Philippines twice to see family, Japan once to wish Anne (one of my oldest and dearest friends) a happy birthday, and Europe once, where I spent New Years’ 2000 in a Czech castle (and met someone cute, too). In a six-month span, I was playing accordion for pirate radio on the roof of an RV in the middle of the desert at Burning Man, making a surprise appearance at the Windows on the World (the last time I was at the WTC) for my friend George’s 30th birthday, staggering drunk through the cobbled streets of Prague, learning how to snowboard on the slopes at Whistler and leading an impromptu parade of Slashdot geeks with CmdrTaco and Hemos down Broadway with the accordion. The company sent me to New York to make connections at LinuxWorld Expo, DefCon in Las Vegas to hand out software I’d written with my friend and co-worker Chris, and San Francisco twice to check out the new office. Then there were the visits to see the “um friend” — New York twice (once for ten very fun, very silly days) and DC once, to see the Dalai Lama speak (among other things).
  • Valiantly led brave attempts to rescue cute girls from their loser boyfriends. Sure, all but one flopped, but I had fun. Great, silly, worthy-of-blogging fun. Even the less-than-ideal moments — the times when I should’ve asked someone out and didn’t, the one and only time I ever slugged a guy over a woman, and that one time my date ended up in the fetal position screaming (it wasn’t my fault, I swear) — they were still adventures.
  • Returned to playing music. Prior to 1999, I hadn’t tocuhed a musical instrument for about five years. Suddenly, I dusted off my synthesizers and was playing again. My friends Krista, Rachel, Karl and I formed a quirkly little improvisational band called Lion, and we played at Karl’s mom’s book lauch, a number of club gigs and even did the “soundtrack” for a fringe rock-climbing/dance piece under a bridge.
  • Started playing the accordion. William Gibson may have been referring to technology when he wrote “the street finds its own uses for things”, but it could have easily applied to my accordion. Playing that little squeezebox has led to more adventures, opportunities and drinks than I can mention here. I’ve had job offers (programming jobs, that is), magazine interviews, appearances on CNN, MSNBC and MuchMusic, free alcohol and met new people, all thanks to one of the world’s most-maligned instruments. Keith Richards may have benefited more from his guitar, but I’m pretty grateful for what the accordion’s done for me.
  • Did interesting work. In 1999, I was running a small consulting company with my friend Adam Smith. I spent the first half of that year learning a helluva lot about Windows programming and the second half learning a helluva lot about Python and writing CGI apps while working on a commercial website. I also had the opportunity to teach introductory programming to Adam’s students, where I learned a lot and met some great people, too. In 2000, I started out at the company I work for now, where I got to play a key part in the software’s design, was the only programmer to be part of the dog-and-pony show for the venture capitalists, co-wrote and promoted one of the very few applications the company has released so far, got promoted and transferred to the San Francisco office.
  • Met new friends and got re-acquainted with some old ones. I couldn’t have had all those good times without them. Thanks, guys!

Gratitude

2001 wasn’t as my friend Mike Korditsch would call it, “a complete clinic.” Some of the moments I enjoyed most:

  • Getting to miss a brutal winter by hiding out in San Francisco. I lived in San Francisco from December 28th, 1999 to April 1st, 2001 (my stay in the city by the Bay was supposed to last at least a year, but was cut short when the company decided to close down the San Francisco office). While it was freezing in Toronto, it was an unusually warm and sunny winter where I was. I spent my weekdays in the nicest office space I’ve ever worked in and biked to Golden Gate Park and the Bay on weekends. I lived rent-free since I “babysat” the corporate apartment, a bright sunny townhouse right by Alamo Square Park. I made many new friends during my short stay and even backed up an improv jazz band’s weekly jam sessions in the Mission.
  • My trip to L.A. Shortly after New Year’s 2001, I flew down to L.A. to do my first-ever keynote for the company at DJ Union, a conference for hip-hop DJs and people in the urban music business. I even brought my cheering section (my then-girlfriend, Erica) along for the trip. My presentation went over really well, and Erica and I were invited to an exclusive party at the Key Club on Sunset. We had a great time and the club, and we had a silly time afterwards, trying on all the clothing at the Hustler store.
  • The O’Reilly P2P Conference.The company had just released an alpha version of its software and we were the darlings of the conference. The world’s coolest computer book publisher, Tim O’Reilly, introduced me to the press scrum and invited me to play some songs for the closing keynote. The company threw an amazing party at the office, and many the bright lights of the software world — Clay Shirky, the Mojo Nation crew, David Stutz from Microsoft, Rael “Meerkat” Dornfest, Mark Miller and Marc Steigler (the E programming language), Wes Felter, and Bob Young from Red Hat — all came. I serenaded Tim O’Reilly’s incredibly cute daughter (too bad she’s a little too young for your ‘umble accordionist). I also met tav and the rest of the ESPiansgreat guys!
  • Being welcomed back by my friends in Toronto. The heartbreak of being dumped and being re-relocated would’ve been much worse if it weren’t for the support of my friends. Thanks, guys.
  • The incident at the Matador. One summer night, I went to the Matador, Toronto’s best and most notorious speakeasy. I met someone cute there, and we just talked for hours about all kinds of things, including music, particularly Nirvana. We had been talking about how Kurt Cobain had proposed to Courtney Love; he told her “I’m worth six million dollars. Marry me, bitch.” I took a chance at one point and paraphrased the king of grunge: “I’m cute and I have an accordion. Kiss me, bitch.” She obliged. I walked her to a cab and gave her my card through the window, to which she replied “I’ll call, David.” David?! It turned out that in my bootleg alcohol-fueled stupour, I’d given her the wrong business card. It was my boss’ card from his old company; I just happened to have it in my wallet at the time. Easy come, easy go.
  • DefCon 9. Yes, it wasn’t as exciting as Defcon 8 in 2000, but I still had fun.
  • The Lola Launch Party. I think I’ll let these pictures tell the story.
  • Aidan William deVilla-Choi. On September 10th, my sister gave birth to this cute little fella with the zen-like nature. He’s a charmer, and he gets it from his godfather, who just happens to be me.
  • Babbo! It’s been a trying year for my friend George as well. First, the company lays him off — a couple of months before his wedding. It’s completely unfair — he was our best business development guy, and he played a major role in making it a player in the P2P world. He’s now living in a very expensive place in a down economy when September 11 happens. Job opportunities dry up, and just before his birthday, a work deal falls through. He was going to cancel the dinner reservations he’d made for him, his wife and me at Babbo since it was such an expensive place. I decided that to try and balance the scales a little and sent him an e-mail message: I hear it’s hard to get reservations at Babbo and that the food’s really good. I’ll buy dinner as your birthday present. And none of that cheap stuff, either — it’s the tasting menu with the wine all the way, baby! It was a crazy and impulsive thing to do, but it was also the right thing to do. It was also one of the most delicious and fun dinners I’ve ever had.
  • The new guys at the company. I was one of the few original people who didn’t get laid off during the company’s great implosion in July. Through the fall, the company hired new people, and to my surprise, these new folks settled in nicely and even gelled into a pretty solid team. I do miss the original bunch, but I’m also glad that this new group of programmers are the people they are. See you guys at work on Wednesday.

Next: The resolutions!

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Hello, World!

I just did a quick check of my Internet service provider’s web server logs, and it looks as though I’m getting a large number of new visitors. Welcome, everyone! Just leave your shoes at the door and c’mon in. If you’re coming here for the first time, here are some parts of kode-fu.com that you might want to check out…

The obligatory biographical information is on the home page of this site, and the explanation as to why I do the accordion thing is here.

Stories in this blog: There’s the one about the con man who swindled our house twice (see Breach of Security and The Con Man from Another World!), a piece about a spammer who wanted help from a time traveller, a couple of stories about the many offices I’ve worked in this year, and my rant about copyright.

It looks as though I have a lot of accordion gigs coming up in the new year. Here are some photos from my last really big gig.

Upcoming stories: I’ve been working on some goodies, including:

I’d like to thank Blogger for making weblogging so easy, The Ricebowl Journals for letting me join their club, Cory Doctorow for pointing a lot of people to this weblog and you, for actually reading all this stuff.

Once again, welcome, and happy reading!

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Holiday Reading

Yup, I’ve been delinquent with the postings, but that’s because I’ve been taking care of a few things that I’ve been letting slide for far too long. More stuff this weekend, I promise — a whole mess of New Year’s stories, and some New Year’s Resolutions to boot!

In the meantime, may I recommend:

Small Stories. Derek Kirk (a.k.a. Gim Ji-Hoon) makes such wonderfully woe-filled cartoons. Taste the Korean Gen-X angst. Ai-goo! Ai-goo!*

* Ai-goo is a Korean cry of lamentation.

What I’ve been up to. I’ll do the writeup later, but in the meantime, enjoy these photos that my housemate Paul took. Crazed co-workers looking for loose women, Japanese exchange students hanging out at the house all night, accordion gigs, and celebrating Christmas when you don’t celebrate Christmas — all photographed and put online for your pleasure.

Other Asians’ weblogs. I’m now part of The Ricebowl Journals. Your tiger blogging style is no match for my dragon blogging style!

Sitting one row ahead of the shoe-bomber. The December 24th entry in acme’s blog on the use perl site is a first-hand account of what happened with the shoe-bomber on American Airlines flight 66.

Logrolling. Claire Berlinski knows how to write. The first line in the body of her e-mail to me reads:

I’m a big fan of yours. Really, I am.

Hey, Claire, Merci beaucoup!

She’s asked me, as a loyal reader of The Adventures of AccordionGuy in the 21st Century, to check out her roman à clef (I think that’s the correct term — it’s not a roman policier since it’s really about spies, not detectives), Loose Lips. It’s a novel about a young CIA recruit, her experiences at “The Farm” (their training facility) and sexual intrigue at “The Company”. Loose Lips has already been published in France — en Français, of course — and Claire’s publishing the English version as an e-book to test the response. She’s made the first chapter available for free online; the rest of the book is available for a mere $5.95. I found the first chapter intriguing, but then again, I’m a sucker for a good espionage yarn.

Speaking of France, here’s my most favourite 24-hour restaurant in the world. I also like this place, even though it’s touristy as hell.

Special message to Paul: foie gras is pronounced “fwah grah”, not “foy grass”. It’s French for goose-liver pate, and you missed out by not trying it. (Our neighbours gave us some aas a Christmas present. If only they’d given us some sauternes to go with it.) Paul, check out this little guide to French cuisine.