This is my first blog post since November 21st when I gave a keynote about stimulating innovation in faculty in Querétaro. That was a great experience and as usual I leave a post with my slides and sometimes some more information gets updated upon reflection upon returning home. The update on that post did not happen.
This blog went silent.
Rod was a fellow nerd so May the 4th seems like as good a day as any to publish this, I’ve been holding onto this draft for months.
Those Long Bus Rides Home
11/21/2015 5:58PM message from Jane: “Ken, Rod died this morning.”
I didn’t see that message until two hours later. I had to process for a full 20 minutes before answering:
I am so sorry my friend.
He was a good friend and a great man.
Take care. Cry. Release. Take solace in family and friends.
Life is not fair.
Time to Reflect
In reality, I knew Rod over many years but we didn’t spend long periods of time together like many close friends do. We met while both doing our undergraduate degrees in Computer Science at the University of Victoria (UVIC).
We had amazing conversations over coffee (mostly) or beers (not as much) during our time at UVIC. I recall great discussions over code in the basement of the Student Union Building (SUB) with Chuck, Tony, Kevin, Bill and others. We were that group of older students (I took two years off during my program and was the youngest of that group) and probably for that reason more focused on our studies.
I graduated in May of 1993, I believe Rod finished later that year. I headed off to graduate school soon after in Seattle then on to Guadalajara in 1995 where I have spent most of the past 20 plus years.
Rod interviewed me at OOPSLA 1996 when I was contemplating moving back to Victoria to work in software engineering. Apparently it went well since I was hired to work at Object Technology International (already bought by IBM at that point) with Rod, Bjorn, Darin and others. My stay there was short but intense and I lived and breathed an amazing environment of what a good software engineering lab should be. We shipped the first release of Visual Age for Java (what would later become Eclipse which so many of us use to this day). Teaching and México called me and I returned to Guadalajara after a short trip through Seattle in 2008.
When I moved to Edmonton to work on my Ph.D. at the University of Alberta in 2005 with a small and growing family I reached out to Rod for advice often on business, research and personal matters. Rod was always good at listening and never one to judge me. He offered advice when I asked for it and his advice was always sound. He also offered some stories of his time growing up in those same Michener Park family residences when he was a young boy.
As we grow older we tend to focus on what is truly important: our family and what we leave behind in this world. I truly believe that Rod always saw that. He took an intense interest in my teaching practices and often asked for clarity on what I was implementing down here at the Tecnológico de Monterrey. I am sure Rod would have been an amazing teacher or professor had he chosen that path.
Farewell My Friend
Rod’s wish was to have a “big party” for him sometime later and indeed there was. Thank you to Jane, Rod’s parents and all others involved in throwing an amazing event. You all truly did an amazing job honouring him.
I wish I could pick up the phone and reach out for advice again but I cannot. I have my memories and I have all that you left behind for us to cherish.
You left so much of you, thank you.
Sail on my friend Rod Olafson, when I see kites flying I will be thinking of you.