(once again...I'm skipping the plant phys. series to interject about a hot topic in my life. RSN, back to it but I can't ignore the voices in my head on this one.)
I'm reeling from the death of a friend. And I'd like to share with you about a wonderful person, Jeffrey McManus.
In the early 90's, I needed an email address and access to something called the internet for a research project I was looking into. That project fizzled. In the process, I discovered The WELL. Short for Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link. The WELL was based just outside of San Francisco and was started by some visionary hippies who were part of the Whole Earth Catalog crew.
Someone told me that if I was smart enough to get an email address that ended in well.sf.ca.us, then it was like getting a Park Place address. It wouldn't be ignored and I would have digital illuminati credibility. Not one to be thwarted or denied, I figured out how to do this. I just wanted a good and useable email address. Something cooler than AOL gave me...and accessible from the academic and emerging digital world which at the time, AOL was not.
We are talking dial-up, here folks. Speeds as slow as black strap molasses out of a barrel pump on a 28 degree mix morning. Oh and long distance charges as well, way before AT&T had calling plans. I know... uphill both ways to school in the snow with boots made of moss. But it was all new. All pioneer territory. Dutch ovens and chuckwagons, yo.
What I didn't know about The WELL was that it was a community. I'd seen some Usenet newsgroups and BBS stuff, but The WELL was much more interesting on a grand scale. Why? Because it was filled with interesting people. Influential people. Way way influential. It was like a gathering of the smartest kids from every class, ever. But the majority were all a lot older than me and liked older things, like The Grateful Dead and Gardening and Beadmaking and stuff. I still read everything there, but it was hard being young. The Boomers would key up and tell me that I would understand "someday".
Jeffery McManus started and hosted a conference on The WELL called Genx, geared toward, Generation X (duh). It was a place for we youngsters to hang out. And we did. Again, the smartest kids in the class and we were young and full of young things and ideas. Jeffery understood community. He hosted the conference that had hundreds of users and lots and lots of postings (making most BBS systems of the times look like word graveyards). Jefferey was a great ship captain. He steered the course. Didn't suffer fools. Kept the peace, let the flame wars happen to burn out the idiots and encouraged community. He was pop culture smart, geek savvy and an awesome commander of words. I remember a WELL party one night where Jeffery and I wore our Fez hats, engaged in a discussion about Hank The Angry Drunken Dwarf, talked about speaking Esperanto, debated the best way to get hot geek chicks to like us and celebrated the merits of Crepe making. You can't have this conversation if you aren't crazy and near mensa IQ.
The older WELL members liked to get together and sing and eat tofu and stuff. We Genxers topped this by hitting some of the gnarly bars of San Francisco, doing cool outdoor stuff, wrestling in cream corn, discovering good cheap eats and doing the stuff we were interested in, whilst still being geeks. I was the one Turfhead amidst the Geeks. And I also didn't live in The City, but was often there. Still, this was my tribe. And from them I learned. A lot. Like how to code HTML and Perl. How to eat some Unix for breakfast daily. How to overcome my Dyslexia. How to manage BART (the Bay Area transit system). How to understand the ins and outs of San Francisco and Silicon Valley culture. How to cobble up a home network. We celebrated cool things together, debated hot topics like best footwear and mourned things like the passing of Curt Cobain. Amazing and interesting. Gnarly and sometimes hurtful. Real.
When it was time to build my first web site, I asked Jeffery McManus for help. He immediately helped me register soil.com and even though we nearly killed each other over getting it done, he helped me understand how it all worked. He just knew. And he was willing to teach. And with a journalism background he could write and speak and teach and clearly he wanted to help people. Even though he wanted to be right. Often.
That's what Jeffery was. A mentor and a teacher and a great software developer. An awesome example of it and he continued that throughout a very cool career. I mean really, to this Turfhead a title like "Platform Evangelist" for Yahoo was super cool. The geeks may have thought otherwise, but for me. Coolness. And his online presence was as big as ever. He rocked Twitter and Facebook. He blogged hard. He didn't let off of fool suffering. Just ask Celebrity Chuck Woolery who had Jeffrey in his right wing Twitter grill. All up in it. (By the way...Eff You, Chuck. Two and Two my ass.)
Tween just asked what a fax is. So, like Dropbox?
Jeffrey McManus (@jeffreymcmanus) July 1, 2013
On July 5th, Jeffrey P McManus was 46 years old and he didn't wake up. His wife Carole (who was a WELL devotee) as well as his sister Jill and his amazing kids lost Jeffery. And what a loss to them, as just in his work and play, Jeff was a great hubby and dad. Perfect? Doubtful. Engaged? Totally.
Tomorrow night, a whole bunch of us geeks and a ton of people from all over are headed to San Francisco to have a celebration of a life that was lived with passion. I'll be there. The smart kids from The WELL will be there, most of them having gone a ton of different ways and places to move and shake with lessons learned in our community. I'll be the lone turfhead, I'm sure. But one thing my WELL crowd has always done, as good geeks should, is look at my Being and not my Doing.
God calls people home. I get this. My faith has an understanding about this. But damn. This one? Really? It's hard to fathom. And it has helped me ask some pretty hard questions of what I want to leave when I get that call.
Thanks for indulging in a non-turfhead post. I promised real life when I signed up to blog. (remember, I didn't want to be a "blogger") Today, this is what consumes me.