So life does this sort of strange balancing act.
Yesterday, around 6:00pm, a fine fellow I worked with at Loki named Andy
Mecham walked down an aisle and married his fiancee.
About three hours later, another fine fellow I worked with at Loki named
John Hall died from endstage Melanoma.
I have mentioned John before, about his fundraiser for cancer research...he
put up one hell of a fight, as anyone who read his blog
but it finally got the better of him yesterday evening.
In the meantime, he was busy writing video games, flying airplanes, and
training for marathons. John was hardcore, period: cancer had to actually
kill him to slow him down at all.I first met John at LokiHack in 1999
, but to be honest, I didn't really
remember him from there. In my defense, the whole point was to not sleep for
two days, so everything from that time at the Atlanta Linux Showcase is a
little vague now. When he showed up at Loki's California offices some time
after I had, someone reminded me that I had run into him before.
John had arrived in Tustin for a summer internship with Loki. Now please
remember that most interns at any kind of company fetch coffee and get farted
on by the QA guys, in hopes that this nonsense will pad their future resume',
but John was there with other plans; on summer break from his undergrad
studies at Georgia Tech, he arrived in Tustin, CA to write a book
sort of techniques we were trying to make a living at. I think we were all a
little awed by this person, so young, that was doing something so ambitious
on what was probably a vacation for everyone else in his class, and he seemed
perfectly natural doing it.
Okay, to be fair, he did
get farted on by the QA guy, but I believe that
was viewed as required hazing at the time.
And the book, of course, was published: http://www.nostarch.com/frameset.php?startat=plg
The book is credited to "Loki Software, with John R. Hall" but really, it was
the other way around...John wrote the whole thing, every word, and the Loki
guys occasionally grunted approval. I believe he was 19 when he finished it.
His book, called "Programming Linux Games" hit the shelves around the same
time as a completely different publisher's book, "Linux Game Programming."
This would have been a disheartening turn of events had the critics not
universally favored John's text, and declared it leaps and bounds better
than the competitor's.
The last time I saw John in person was at LinuxWorld in New York in 2003, where
he was helping out the Emperor Linux guys. Since then, I've only spoken to him
over IRC and such, and probably not as much as I should have...it came as one
hell of a surprise when someone casually mentioned to me that he was blogging
about his fight with melanoma, and I spent a very long time trying to read
his webpage through my tears.
Later, when he joined the Relay For Life, the crew from icculus.org
evangelized, harassed, and even downright begged people to donate to the
American Cancer Society on his behalf. I'm not sure how much we helped, but
John was aiming to raise one thousand dollars...when it finally levelled out,
he was sitting at a little over five thousand. I believe you can actually
still donate money through that site, if you are so inclined: http://www.acsevents.org/faf/r.asp?t=4&i=99915&u=99915-86454580
As time went on, and his blog detailed more and more bad news, I couldn't
believe his personal strength...no new development, no nasty medical
treatment side effect, no soul-crushing turn for the worse phased him at
all, and he approached his condition with the same analytical intensity that
he normally dedicated to software development.
Any one else I know that might find themselves in his position would have
curled up in a fetal position and given up months ago. John, on the other
hand, looked Melanoma in the eyes, smiled, and told it to fuck off. His
courage overwhelms me.
But what will be missed most was his mind...John was just on fire all the time,
and every idea that came out of his mouth was both brilliant and insane. He
had his share of that's-cool-but-no-one-would-ever-write-that software ideas
that he would go off and write, usually in no time flat, sometimes I think
just to prove it could be done. Brilliant ideas and beautiful designs were
sublime, a fine music to him, and you can tell he gave himself entirely to
them, diving in and splashing around.
He was the Hacker's Ethic Incarnate, and he will be missed.