Remembering Spaf

With a birthday coming up, and several friends having recently passed on (e.g., been dereferenced), I thought maybe I should write up my obituary for future use. After all, I know my story better than anyone else! So, feel free to use this when the need arises.

And if you have any missing bits to fill in, send them to me — I’ll update this in place.

This is not quite to this level of awesome or to this or to this but I may have a few weeks yet to get there.

Original post 3/14/12; Last update 2016-08-28.


Eugene H. Spafford, noted curmudgeon, died on <date>. If Spafford’s last wishes were honored the medical examiner will officially list the cause of death as “Jello, while interacting with Bambi and Trixie, two performers with Cirque de Soleil, and their pet llama, Julio” — not because it bears even a remote resemblance to the truth, but because it will provide more lulz on Wikipedia.

Although many people believed he was an alien being (after all, the definition of “human” can only stretch so far), Spafford was born in western New York State to poor but proud parents. His birth changed their lives: they continued to be poor, but were never proud again. Two years later, his sister was born, thereafter affectionately referred to by their parents as “our only child.”

Spafford had a largely unremarkable childhood, frequently spending time as the neighbors’ imaginary friend. His parents took him and his sister to many notable and historic places around the country, but unwary strangers would invariably untie him and he would find his way home. In later years he was known to recount some of the happiest moments of his childhood such as having other children finally talk to him (5th grade), and first being allowed to play in the yard without his leash (7th grade).

By the time he had reached high school, he had shown unusual talent for math, science, composition, and getting beaten up for having unusual talent for math, science, and composition. Nonetheless, he was named as “school mascot” by acclamation for several years running — until the other students found that despite this status, they could not get him thrown on the bonfire at other schools before football games. It was in high school that he got the nickname “Spaf,” in part because no one bothered to learn his first name.

It was in high school that Spaf discovered girls. Actually, he had known about them for some time, but it was at this time that he first discovered that the majority of them did not actually have cooties. His attempts to be noticed by the women around him usually succeeded, but only accompanied by finger-pointing and derisive laughter…a pattern that continued through the rest of his life. He fell in love at least twice, but the objects of his interest generally did not return his affections because they had taste and standards and nearly normal vision…another long-standing pattern.

Upon graduation from high school, Spafford took a few years off school to work to support his family. At least, that is what he always claimed, and the court records are sealed.

Then, Spafford returned to school and completed his undergraduate degrees at SUNY Brockport in 3 years of classes, probably because the faculty voted to resign if he stayed for 4. He awoke in another state after his graduation party, with a note from his family pinned to his clothing, written in crayon, wishing him luck in Atlanta, where they had arranged for him to be admitted. Much to their dismay, “The Ramblin Wreck” was a university and not a psychiatric hospital (although, frankly, that wasn’t always obvious). Thus, he attended grad school at Georgia Tech, where he again showed an unusual talent for math and science, as well as amazingly poor luck with females of any species, living or dead. After outlasting a department head, dean, two presidents of the university, and several roommates, a clerical error resulted in him getting a Ph.D. despite no faculty member actually serving as his advisor (NB. almost true!).

As a condition of his immediate and permanent departure, local officials used a rumor of a large trust fund and vast quantities of tequila to introduce a young woman to Spaf, despite her reluctance to date outside her species. After a period of deception, and prolonged hypnotherapy, they were married.  (This artifice lasted for nearly 3 decades, but the hypnotherapy finally wore off, she discovered there was no trust fund, and they divorced. Their union did result in one outstanding child; his wife insisted there would be no more, however, because she did not want to endure the trauma and the shame a second time.  She, of course, was referring not to childbirth, but to the conception.)

After a short post doc while his thesis committee waited to ensure that the checks cleared, Spafford moved out of state and was hired by Purdue University in 1987 before the stories (and authorities) caught up with him. He spent the remainder of his career there, trying (in vain) to get people to behave nicely online, be kind to each other, and to adopt wearing of bow ties. When informed of his passing, his Purdue colleagues (those who didn’t respond “Who?”) began to chuckle — no doubt from fond and amusing memories, although the mutterings of “At last!” did seem a little fervent.

Noted for his work in security (primarily as a risk), Spafford was frequently asked to travel long distances to speak — usually requested by whomever was in his near vicinity at the time. A talented programmer as well as researcher, he wrote many large software systems that, (perhaps) regrettably, are in languages for which no compiler or manual exists. This matched his propensity for giving presentations that were in languages unfamiliar to his audiences…and humans, in general. He helped scores of students get their Ph.Ds. — usually by serving as an example of what not to do. He received several “lifetime achievement” awards from professional societies in not so subtle attempts to get him to retire immediately and go away.

It was often observed that Spafford didn’t pay attention to boundaries and frequently crossed them…this was usually noted by others when talking about the fine line between genius and insanity, although it was usually vague on which side he was being placed.

In later years, he had medical issues that interfered with his work. Doctors, when not performing unsanctioned experiments on him, conjectured that it was all side-effects of the frequent alien abductions (performed on him, not by him). Consulting veterinarians were similarly puzzled, both by etiology and his species. The diagnoses were all different, but the recommended treatment was always the same: lobotomy. This was never done, because the insurance company refused to cover it, despite the frequent and generous offers of family and colleagues to take up a collection.

Spafford had a near encyclopedic knowledge of useless trivia, bad jokes, and stupid movie plot lines that he often shared spontaneously — this led to him spending a great deal of “alone time.” Besides his hobbies online, he enjoyed gardening, good whiskey, and target shooting — which might explain many missing neighborhood pets and the vigorous growth of the tulips in the back yard. As a lover, he was known to make women swoon…or would have been known, had any of them overcome the nausea at the thought so as to assent. And, he is memorialized in several dictionaries: the words “athlete” and “Spafford” are found together… usually in a sentence under “cognitive dissonance.”

In his final years, Spafford spent a lot of time reminiscing about his childhood as an imaginary friend, and wondering what his life would have been like had be been born human.

In accordance with his wishes, his remains have been freeze-dried, adorned with a bow tie, and mailed to a random address as one last bad joke. He is survived by a daughter, sister, niece, nephews, the contents of several petri dishes with biohazard labels on board some UFOs, and basically everyone who is reading this. I mean, you can’t read this if you didn’t survive, right?

Donations can be made … oh, who are we fooling? Just go blow the money on chocolate and a good whisky.

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9 Responses to “Remembering Spaf”

  1. Randy Sanovic Says:

    Well…..Bout time Spaf told the truth….even though the superlatives were much too complementry (except for the negative ones)……but being an ET is not easy nor is easy to be adored by many species (mostly non-human) on earth, and other planets….unfortuneatly we will most probably not outlive his demise ….so may you live-on forever in the anals? of time ….forge on Oh Great One….may you leave a stain on the planet that no one can remove ; -)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sally Meglathery Says:

    Spaf, you will at least remain unique and unforgettable. Personally, as a human clone (identical twin sister) there is nothing unique or special about me other than I was fortunate enough to know Gene Spafford, Gene Schultz, many others in the field of Information Security, including Randy Sanovic, and with that said, I was able to walk in the footsteps of legends. Of course it isn’t always easy to admit that I walked in the footsteps of bow tie wearers. Oh well, we all have our crosses to endure (I was going to say bear but I couldn’t decide between bear and bare so I avoided that pitfall). In the meantime, with his tribute to Gene Schultz, I can even forgive Spaf’s bow tie idiosyncrasies. Please keep in mind that I am writing this while I suffer from benign paroxysmal positional vertigo brought on by a mild case of the flu so that might effect my opinion. – Sally Meglathery

    Like

  3. Peter Wood Says:

    Spaf, you are as we say over here ‘a geezer’. Keep it up.

    Like

  4. Ken Olthoff Says:

    As we all know, newspapers often write obits for prominent people to have ready “just in case”. In such a plan, the London Times once hired a man named Adams to write such a preemptive obit for Spaf. The scribe quickly knocked out the assignment with an obit of length in column inches appropriate to Spaf’s prominence – “Mostly harmless”. The editor quickly corrected the young writer by noting “No. This one’s about GENE Spafford, Douglas.” The writer muttered “Well bugger all…” gave up obit writing, and went down to the local pub where he met a fellow named Ford. The writer’s ensuing adventures were loosely fictionalized in a series of books (in which he was handily able to recycle Spaf’s obit – never let a good line go to waste!), and somehow got printed years before anybody knew who the hell Spaf was. But who cares about continuity if the story’s good enough?

    Like

  5. Sven Türpe Says:

    It’s great to see that at least some people get their risk management right.

    Like

  6. Andra Says:

    I need to deliver your eulogy as I can provide some excellent anecdotes that will REALLY paint a memorable picture!

    Like

  7. slfisher Says:

    Wow, I didn’t know you were from western New York. Where? Not far from Brockport, I gather?

    Like

  8. Leah Williams Newell (of Ga Tech fame) Says:

    I resemble many of your life’s excerpts but while I was an imaginery friend as a child I also had a dog that spied on me for my parents. I never trusted the dog.

    Like


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