Recently, I’ve picked up a lot of new readers/links/friends/stalkers/tails/parasites&symbionts/alien monitors. I hope it is because people find some of what I am posting to be of interest, as well as the usual infestation of spambots and imaginary beings (about 80% of my followers, I reckon). It is probably time to once again lay out a little about my online presence to help make things clearer to all of you bots (and to help me keep it straight). As it is, you may see multiple versions of me online and question your sanity, instead of spending your time wisely questioning my sanity. So think of this as a service, to you.
Yes, I am that Spaf, assuming you have heard something about me before. By day, I am a moderately well-known scientist, professor, and commentator, with a focus on issues of cyber security, privacy, ethics, and national policy, often with a somewhat off-kilter point of view. You can visit my about.me page for links, or see my (incomplete) Wikipedia page.
The rest of the time (well, all of the time) I alternate between philosophy and humor, with an emphasis on the humor. Oh, and a certain amount of snark and political commentary. During election years I tend to be particularly active politically as I am usually appalled with at least one party that is promoting stupidity and bigotry. Still, I try to point that out with humor, when I can.
And yes, I wear bow ties. That has been one of my signature items for over 25 years. And the beard has been there for over 40 years.
A quick summary of many of my social media sites and background is available at about.me/spaf.
First, I try to maintain three distinct, segregated streams of material in my social media. (You can skip to the links if you don’t want to read the details.)
One stream is more or less related to my “day job” as a professor at Purdue University. There, I post in a blog on an irregular basis. I also maintain a Tumblr blog where I repost links from various on-line media about security, privacy, espionage, cybercrime, and related topics. That blog is gated into a Twitter feed to which I sometimes add related tweets. Along with all of that, I also sometimes put things into a Facebook group page and a LinkedIn group, both of which are for people interested in CERIAS at Purdue University.
I have a LinkedIn account that I use to maintain professional contact with others. I have profiles at ResearchGate and Academia.edu that I don’t do a good job of maintaining, but may be of value. All of this tends to be serious and professional. Oh, and what have I done in security? You can see a partial list of my more noteworthy accomplishments here.
A second stream is more fun oriented, but sometimes serious. In my WordPress blog I post items of a personal nature — sometimes intended to be funny (such as my New Year’s resolutions) or quirky (such as my history of my branch of the Spafford family) or serious (my 2009 reflections on 9/11).
I maintain an active Twitter account as myself, and a Facebook account. In both there will be a range of the bizarre and the unusual that make me laugh or shake my head: basically, things that I think are worth seeing. Readers will also pick out some of my thoughts on politics, posers, organized religion, equal rights, and annoying celebrities (among others); I’m not too reserved about some of my views. The Twitter and Facebook feeds have some cross-connect, but the feed-across is sporadic — if you are constructing a psych profile on me, you should probably follow both. I also post answers to Quora from time to time, and images to Pinterest. I maintain a legacy mailing list named web-heads that gates into a Tumblr blog, that then dumps into my Twitter feed with the tag #webheads; anything with that hashtag in my Twitter or Facebook feeds thus may have been posted by someone else on the list who is similarly demented.
None of my posts in any of these outlets should be construed as having any official endorsement or connection with official positions or activities of my employer or organizations with which I work! Stated differently, these are my own peculiar views only and I am the only person to blame (well, maybe my family and “The Voices” influenced me). NB: some of these posts may well include items of an adult nature, so beware if you are easily offended.
My third collection is not quite out in the open as an independent stream. I am a long-time member and immediate past chair of the US Public Policy Council of ACM, and a member of the ACM Council. I am involved in activities related to ACM, IEEE, ISSA, AAAS and other professional organizations. You may see posts in some places from me related to those. In particular, there is a shared USACM Twitter feed to which I sometimes contribute. Those outlets shouldn’t be viewed as related to either of the first two streams.
I do not use Google+ regularly for any of these! I don’t like their original policies of tying everything to that account, and I don’t like the interface and difficulty of connection to other social media. In particular, I use some scripts and services to post items across services and at metered “doses” and those don’t work well with Google+. (And yes, I am not overly fond of Facebook’s privacy policies, either, but it is the only mechanism for keeping my semi-sporadic contact with some of my friends.)
BTW, I have a bunch of other accounts that you aren’t likely to see active any time soon — Flickr, YouTube, BuzzFeed, Instagram, and even MySpace, among others. I set those up simply so there wouldn’t be anyone else sending stuff out as spaf. Unfortunately, I got to a few too late, plus a few require that usernames be more than 6 characters long. Thus, Twitter and others have names such as TheRealSpaf as identities.
You may be wondering where I find the time to post all of this stuff. The answer is “in parts.” First, I actually am physically limited much of the time: I have some medical issues that sometimes limit my ability to work online. I thus have less productivity than many of my peers, especially because it becomes more difficult to hit deadlines. Short posts and mouse clicks are much easier for me, so I use Twitter as an outlet. Second, I have chronic insomnia, so a lot gets shared with a few mouse clicks when I should be asleep (or sedated). And third, I use several bots and scheduled jobs to meter out material over time rather than the bursty schedule at which I actually use the services. This is basically a trick from Mother Nature — I use fluff and timing to make myself appear bigger to potential predators, er, the orderlies. Note that there are likely to be quiet periods where you don’t see much from me: I’m either busy, I’m traveling, or I’ve been abducted by a UFO. Again.
If you have questions or comments on anything I post, please let me know. If you want to repost any of the items be sure to use the appropriate mechanism. In particular, if you want to use material from my blogs then either quote excerpts with appropriate credit, or provide a link back to the original. That is polite, professional, and legal.
If I don’t know you and have not interacted with you in some significant way, don’t bother to ask that I “friend” you on Facebook. As it is, I perhaps need to trim the ones that I have, especially the imaginary ones. However, you can “follow” my posts if you want to see them — almost all are public.
If you can prove who you are and that there is a reason I should connect with you on LinkedIn, I may. The threshold is lower there than Facebook, but still non-trivial. You can ask someone I have as a trusted contact to vouch for you, and that is usually enough if you have a good reason for connecting. Because of my professional work, I get trolled a lot, so I am cautious.
If you try to send me spam, I will report it and block you. Same general response with things that are intended to insult me, or are full of bigotry or vitriol towards any group not itself devoted to bigotry and/or vitriol. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with me on everything. I have many friends and corresponding links where we cannot have a conversation about politics or religion without getting a little spirited. I value reasoned differences, but don’t expect me to keep quiet with my opinions — and don’t expect me to continue to link to you if you are rude, stupid and/or obnoxious.
If you are interested in miscellany about me, you can check out:
NB: This is a personal page and is not affiliated with nor endorsed by the ACM.
Last update: 2014-03-11 2100 EDT
Every even-numbered year, the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery ACM, not the Academy of Country Music) conducts elections for its Council and officers. 2014 is an election year. I was asked by the nominations committee to stand for election for the ACM Vice President position. I agreed.
My long experience with ACM has allowed me to become very familiar with the many facets of the organization. My experience as a member of the computing profession has repeatedly shown me the great value of ACM. I strongly believe that ACM is a powerful force for advancing the profession of computing around the world, and for helping to enhance the benefits — and reduce the dangers — that computing presents to society at large, and to our members.
ACM has a long history of advancing and supporting computing research. Our conferences and publications — supported by the SIGs and a great professional staff — are the leaders in promulgating definitive new results. Our technical leadership clearly needs to continue and grow, but the path to do so is largely understood: ACM leadership must continue to provide resources, support, and encouragement to the SIGs and members who constitute that portion of our community.
However, we also see growth of a set of challenges around the use and context of computing: how do we use computing to help advance society, address issues of privacy and civil liberties in an “always on” world, increase the participation of women and under-represented groups, secure our networks and machines from both criminals and overzealous governments, and increase educational opportunities? How do we support open communication yet control fraud and abuse? How do we reconcile local culture and laws with a truly global Internet? These are all major questions beyond simply “is it possible” to use computing to make things happen, but questions of “should we do it” and “how do we do it while respecting basic rights”?
I am particularly concerned about questions related to the erosion of personal privacy by both government and industry, actions in support of women and students in computing, and the threats of computer crime and terrorism. I am certain that ACM can enhance its role to better address solutions and advocacy in all of these areas. As the premier global organization of the computing profession, ACM should be the group people inside and outside computing turn to for leadership and advice across this spectrum of issues. We should be in a position not only to respond, but to be leaders on these and related issues.
I believe that I am uniquely qualified to contribute to growth — of ACM, of the mission of ACM, and of the value of ACM to the computing profession and society. As Vice President, it would be my honor to continue my service to ACM while addressing these issues with your assistance and support.
If you are a member of ACM, I ask that you vote for me in the election this spring. (And if you are not a member, please consider joining, then voting!)
Also, please share this post with others who are in computing who may be members of ACM.
Typically, when running for an office, a candidate will list prior experience and honors to provide some indication that he or she is qualified, experienced, and has quality ties to the community. So, here is a partial list demonstrating my experience as a leader and innovator. A more complete narrative bio is available via my WWW pages, as is as an abbreviated academic vita.
This is a list of my ACM activities and honors. not including activities as a speaker, on conference committees, or reviewing:
Here are a few non-ACM offices/positions/honors
I’m willing to answer reasonable questions about my opinions relative to the ACM VP position. Email your questions to me and I will put them up, with my responses, if they are germane. Thus, this posting will evolve with time and input. I will update the datestamp at the top of the posting whenever that happens.
I suggest that you seek answers to the same questions from other candidates for the office of VP should you be using these answers to help make your decision as to the candidate for whom you cast your ballot.
Q. What is your position on role of encryption? What are the ethical implications that might arise when the next Snowden routes their [sic] findings through Tor or its descendants? What is the role of the computing community in addressing such questions?
A. Privacy is a fundamental right, although not an absolute one. Privacy is protected by law and custom in most countries of the world. More importantly, it is a fundamental principle that ACM supports — see the ACM Code of Ethics, #1.7. As members of ACM we are committed to upholding these shared principles. Other principles also apply to the questions you pose — supporting the dignity of others, using technology safely, and honoring confidentiality, etc. (If you haven’t read the Code of Ethics recently, now is a good time to remind yourself of the principles ACM holds as important; I had a small role in helping draft these, btw.)
More generally, there will be on-going questions about the balance between anonymity and disclosure for valid law enforcement purposes. My own view is that personal and organization privacy is important, and should be preserved against anything but pursuit of the most egregious offenses. What is egregious? Cases of significant abuse of others, such as human trafficking and slavery, spread of WMD, and coordination of terrorism against civilians are all examples that come to mind; I do not believe that physical freedom and the right to life are subservient to a right to privacy. Political or religious dissent are most definitely not in the category that warrants violation of privacy rights.
The problem we have — as society and profession — is to define such circumstances and appropriately safeguard (via law, audit, and oversight) any use of methods that circumvent or limit privacy. There is no simple solution to finding that balance, unfortunately. It is not a zero-one solution.
As a profession, we should seek to help define the issues, make policymakers and the public aware of the tradeoffs, and work to establish the mechanisms and safeguards that support out views. There will never be a perfect solution, but as informed professionals we should be in a position to help shape the discussions; we should be involved in the policy decisions and not only technology development.
As ACM VP I will continue the positions I have maintained for years with USACM, including enhancing privacy protections and responsible use of computing.
Q. What do you think of the new ACM copyright policy, and when and how would you recommend that the policy be evaluated to determine whether further changes should be made? What do you think of issues of open access generally?
A. The copyright issue is not simple, unfortunately. It is deeply involved with one of the core services of the ACM — the digital library — and with our publication of journals and conference proceedings that are then collected in the DL.
The ACM Digital Library (DL) is a great resource that many people use on a regular basis. It is valued because it is available, organized, indexed, curated, and regularly enhanced with new features. All of that is not without cost, however, especially some of the provisioning that is not immediately user-visible. For instance, the ACM DL not only has a lot of users and a great deal of new input on a regular basis, but it also is a target — it is regularly undergoing attacks, including DDOS, that need constant defense and extra provisioning. (I presume some attackers would like to deface entries if they could get in.) That’s simply one example of on-going need. Maintaining the DL in perpetuity requires funding for equipment, staff, and communications, and maintaining resources for evolution and expansion. Some people point to other on-line examples as lower cost, but they do not have the same profile or content, so I’m not convinced that such comparisons are fair … especially if stretched over many decades; we want useful ACM resources to be sustainable over perhaps hundreds of years, not simply a dozen or so.
Likewise, our journals and conference proceedings are highly valued because of their content and professional production values. The factors that go into that production are not free, nor are they performed by volunteers or amateurs — there are real costs involved. Some of the costs are fixed, such as salaries and benefits for editorial staff, and are not closely tied to volume of publication. We cannot afford to give that content away without some income stream to support its continued high-quality publication.
Over the last few years, ACM has increasingly opened up access to authors while still trying to maintain a reasonable level of control both for content protection and to ensure adequate income for maintenance. Simply basing upkeep on member fees doesn’t make much sense when ACM is expanding into parts of the world where membership fees are a major barrier, and when many members don’t use the DL or subscribe to any of the publications. Fees levied against the subscribers is the current strategy, and it continues to evolve, with 4 major policy changes in the last decade.
I was on Council when the policy changed last year to make it easier for individual authors to provide more access to their work; I voted for that change. I am certain that there will be more changes yet to come, and I support continued discussion of the issues.
As to the more general issue of “open access,” I do not have a fixed point of opinion. For-profit and non-profit journals have been around for a long time, and have contributed to great success across many fields. I don’t think there is cause to view “non-open access” as a great evil, as some seem to do. It is a business model. Competition has arisen with a variety of levels of “open” in different configurations, some of which are of dubious quality, and others which seem to satisfy a set of needs; there are also for-profit journals that are high quality and some that are not. Publishers are adjusting their models in response, and the whole area is evolving. ACM offers one of the lowest rates for Gold Access for journal publications. I think open discussion is valuable, and that will lead market forces to converge towards some solutions that preserve and enhance the qualities we most need (which, in turn, may or may not be what we think we want). In the end, we will have a range of solutions that meet multiple sets of needs for different audiences.
As to ACM publications and the DL, I see this evolution occurring as we continue to discuss the pros and cons of various approaches, and the policy has evolved greatly over the last few years. Version 8 of the policy is less than a year old — if you haven’t read it, you should.
As ACM VP I will be open to suggestions and comments about what we do and how we should consider changes. However, I will also continue to be concerned with how ACM is able to afford to maintain its publications and Digital Library to be high quality and useful to the membership and the profession for the foreseeable future.
Q.& A. SIGPLAN posed some questions to all the ACM candidates about the Digital Library and publications. We answered those as a group.
Q. Someone states: “I am deeply troubled by the ‘we have to get more people to code; issue, particularly when it pushes up against the realities (or lack thereof) of the career prospects for software professionals, particularly in the face of reported ageism, salary depression associated with H1B visas, and the alleged Silicon Valley hiring collusion. Do you have any comments on this?”
A. There are many complex issues buried in this question. I will try to address a few of them, although a deeper dive is beyond what I can write here!
First, as regards getting people to learn to code — that is a good thing. We want a more literate society. Learning to code helps unlock the ability to use computers rather than require others to act as intermediaries. Learning about computing and programming helps develop problem-solving skills and thinking logically. Furthermore, learning about computing also means being in a better position to understand the limitations of computing — helping to dispel the mystery and myths that some people still have about what computers can and cannot do. If given appropriate materials and supervision, learning about computing is simply a good thing.
There is a second issue in the question about employment and development of the profession. The question is phrased as a concern about USA policies, which are non-trivial. However, it is important to realize that ACM is an international organization, and the majority of members are not inside the US…and that split is likely to grow with time and increasing membership worldwide. Thus, answers that make sense for the majority of ACM members may not be to the liking of many in the US, or India, or any other locale. We need to identify the core concepts that apply across national borders.
Part of the problem in the US (and elsewhere) is a lack of explicit differentiation among different skill sets and professionalism. There are openings for several skill sets, but not all. “Computing” is a very broad term for what we all do. Practitioners need to stay current with new trends and techniques — part of what it means to be a professional. The field changes with time, often rapidly, and the professionals need to learn and change with it if they are to stay marketable. Some employers want technicians who know a particular set of artifacts and methods. Others want (even if they don’t realize it yet!) professionals who are committed to the principles and priorities for which ACM stands.
There are also issues of regionalism and expectations. There are many good computing jobs around the US — actually, around the world — but they require that job-seekers move to where those jobs are, and to accept conditions (benefits, pay, quality of housing, etc) that may not match what they expect within their current region. That is simply an economic reality: markets get saturated in some places, and employers are willing to pay only so much for certain skill sets; after a certain point, “good enough” is sufficient if it costs less. That is not to excuse illegal collusion to suppress pay or prevent movement between jobs — that continues to be wrong, as does discrimination based on age or gender (see the next Q & A)!
ACM provides a competitive edge for computing professionals. We provide continuing education resources, publications, meetings, research resources, and opportunities for professional networking. ACM support for various activities and participation in groups such as CRA and IFIP (among others) help to increase our visibility and awareness of issues. ACM members can help keep ahead of the pack in staying current on skills and trends, and that should result in being more marketable when there is some contraction in the field.
As ACM VP I will work towards maintaining and enhancing ACM services and opportunities for the professionals, and to continue to advocate that ACM take positions to help grow and promote the field. I look forward to working with the membership to address as much of this as we can, in a reasonable, sustainable manner.
Q. What is your position as regards women and other under-represented groups in computing?
A. I’m all for them! We work in a field where computers and algorithms have no gender, no ethnicity. We appreciate their ability to function without regard to any particular sexual orientation, religion, or national origin. Why should we be any different with our fellow professionals?
Computing is a discipline of thought, of imagination, of logical rigor, and of enthusiasm. None of those are present or absent in a person simply because she or he is shaped differently, or has somewhat different anatomy, color, or size. On the other end of a network connection, there is no way to tell if someone is tall or short, male or female, young or old, standing or confined to a wheelchair, or any of many other small differences that some humans seem to notice. Instead, we interact with the person who computes and communicates — a person as an intelligent being.
We need every imagination and mind, every talented person, to help us address the many issues we face. We need to find ways to tackle large problems, eliminate bugs, ensure privacy, and make computing accessible to the world. We cannot afford to be dismissive of someone because of quirks of anatomy or genetics or accident of birth. That means accepting and treating every person equally, with equal respect, and equal opportunity. It is because we know the power of computing — of computers without gender or ethnicity — that we are in the best position to understand the rationale for equal respect.
I’ve been a champion of equal treatment for all my career — simply ask some of the people who have worked with me. I continue to talk about this topic, and addressed part of it recently in an interview (2nd question), and written about it in depth as regards women in cyber security, but those answers apply more generally than for the audiences where I presented them; rather than repeat all that here, I refer you to those linked items.
Equal respect and justice for all, within the field and outside it, are principles ACM holds dear. As members, we should note that items 1.4, 3.1 and 3.5 of the ACM Code of Ethics are items we pledge to uphold when we join ACM. Item 4.1 is equally important in this context. These are fundamental values of how we define our profession — as more than programming and algorithms.
As ACM VP, I will continue to champion the idea that respect and equal treatment are important, for the field and for society. That is something I have been living my whole life.
And feel free to contact me by email at email@example.com — as a current member of ACM Council, I always willing and interested in hearing from members…and that will not change when I am ACM Vice President.
[Updated 8/26/13 to include the contested 21st generation entry and fix small typos.]
Recently, my family vacationed in England. While there, we visited the town and castle ruins in Spofforth, a small town in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. Spofforth is strongly suggested as the ancestral home of the Spafford, Spofford, Spufford, Spuford, Spoford, Spauforth, Spofer, Spawforth, Spofforth, Spoforth, Spoffurth, Spoffort, Spofferd, Spofforths, Spauforthe, Spoofourthe, etc. family lines, at least as far back as they can be traced. (And no, not the Staffords — that is a totally different family.) That has prompted me to write up some things about the family and family history for my daughter, nieces, nephews, and other Spaffords. Read on — if you dare.
A note about spelling. Up until a few hundred years ago, spelling really wasn’t viewed as “fixed.” There were many reasons for this, including lack of references, evolving language, and low literacy rates. Thus, things were often spelled out as the scribe heard them, and there are some different spellings over time. I try to spell things in an accepted way, and reproduce the ancient spellings the way I found them in the references.
If you go back far enough (100 generations, certainly), every family likely interweaves with every other in a locale. I imagine if you go back 100,000 generations or so you come up with the few original homo sapiens, so in that sense every family is connected. Thus, at some levels, we are all related.
Throughout time, there was a lot of intermarriage of families and clans, and even among not-too-distant relatives, so family trees don’t really branch out quite so much as mathematics would predict. But for purposes of this essay, if we base our story on the Western view of descent of family name via the paternal line, and if we assume that all the women directly on that line were truthful about who was the father of the children involved (not necessarily a given in any family line), then my family can trace back as far as Orm in Yorkshire, England in the 10th century.
Orm (or Arm; old Danish for Dragon) was apparently a Christian lord of Viking descent, born around 965 AD. It is entirely possible that he arrived in England during the conquest by King Cnut around 1010, and may have been one of the clan chiefs (or son of a clan chief) who helped Cnut in that conquest: Orm was mentioned in an early charter of land by Cnut in 1033. Orm was a Thane in the area, of the “family” Ormerod. Orm has record of being a significant leader, and shows up again in the “Ormulum” text. Little is really known of his life, but he apparently lived near what is now Leeds. Orm paid for the restoration of the church in Kirkdale, and an engraving above the door still commemorates that. He held significant estates in Northumbria, either by conquest or gift.
Orm married into royalty. His wife, Etheldreda was the daughter of Aldred, Earl of Northumbria. Her uncle was Duncan, King of Scotland. Her great grandfather had been King of Northumbria before it had been conquered and added to the kingdom of England.
Gamel, Orm’s son, had significant land in York, Dereby, Lincoln, Stafford, Salop and Chester. He was Lord of Thorparch, on the river Thorpe in Yorkshire, There is record that he was generous to the Church, as he gave one of his manor homes to the Church of St. Peter in York. Given the time when he lived, he may have participated in Earl Siward’s 1054 military expedition against the Scottish king Mac Bethad (Macbeth!). Gamel’s mother was sister to Siward’s wife, and he was thus viewed as “family” in that household. Siward, the Earl of Northumbria, died in 1055 from dysentery. His son was too young to assume rule, so King Edward the Confessor appointed Tostig Godwinson, one of his own brothers-in-law, as Earl.
Tostig was not well-liked in Northumbria, being a Saxon in a land of many Danes and Scots. A few years earlier, he had been exiled by King Edward, briefly, from England along with his father, the Earl of Wessex. Tostig spent a lot of time in the court of King Edward, preferring the company of his kinsmen in Wessex to the people in Northumbria. He also likely secretly allied himself with the Scottish king Malcolm III. Tostig heavily taxed the locals, made unpopular decisions, and generally was disliked. He increased this dislike by appointing an inept administrator in the form of someone named Copsig who was inept. Tostig ordered the killing of several lords who objected to his heavy hand, including Ulf, son of Dofin, and Gamel, son of Orm, in 1064 during a visit to his manor in York under safe conduct.
Gamelbar, Gamel’s son, was successful and inherited his father’s lands. He was Baron of Spofforth, was recorded (after the Norman Conquest) as having the following fiefs: Folyfate, Aiketon, Spoford, Ribbeston, Plumpton, Colthorp, Stockton, Lynton, Heselwode, Sutton, Sighelinghale, Lofthowse, Kibelingcotes, Guthmundenham, Cloughton, Pokethorp, Esthorp, Hoton, Fosseton, Wandesford, Nafferton, Queldryke, Wartre, Thriberg, Edelington, Middleton, Stubbum, Skaln, Colesburn, Nesselfeld, Inwely, Wheteley, Askwith, Dalton, Horton, Casteley, Letheley, Walton, Bergheby, Arlesthorp, Soreby, Hemelsby, Steynton, Asmonderby, Merkingfeld, Hornyngton, Wolsington, Yedon, Rondon, Oxton, Tadcastre, Snawes, Haghornby, Gramhope, Kerkby, Kerkby-Orblawers, Carleton, Midhope, Remington, Neusome, Boulton, Horton, Gersington, Lynton, Ketelwell, Thresfeld, Arnecliffe, Addingham, Routherneck, Stynton, Estborne, Malghum, Brunby, Swyndon, Halton, Pathorne, Elgfeld, Thornton, Bunyngeston, Difford, Gisborne, and Westeby. Spoford or Spofforth was a place name, derived centuries earlier, and means “spot of land where the ford is” (as in ford of the river). It is uncertain what river that may have been, but the town of Spofforth is along the River Crimple, which empties into the River Nidd.
Clearly, Gamelbar was a wealthy and powerful thane.
On 3 October 1065, all the thegns (thanes) in the region rebelled, marched to Eoforwic (York) and defeated Earl Tostig’s house troops (all Danish mercenaries — he didn’t trust the locals, and apparently for good reason); Gamelbar was a leader in this revolt. King Edward sent Harold, Earl of Wessex (his brother-in-law), to York as his emissary. Harold secured a truce, and returned to the king with the recommendation that Tostig be stripped of his title. It was so ordered by the king, and Tostig again went into exile, now with a big grudge against Harold.
Tostig raised some troops via his father-in-law, Count Baldwin of Flanders, and made several raids along the coast. In January, 1066, King Edward died and Harold became king. Many others wanted to claim the throne, including Harald Hardrada of Norway, who launched an invasion. In September Tostig joined forces with Hardrada to invade Northumbria where they conquered York. Nearly simultaneously, William the Bastard of Normandy invaded Wessex (he claimed that Edward had promised the throne to him; he and Edward were cousins).
King Harold learned of the fall of York, first, and he put his troops on a forced march to the north where he caught Tostig and Hardrada by surprise. Their army was not prepared for a battle, and were defeated at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, with both Tostig and Hardrada killed and Gamel avenged.
However, as this concluded, news reached the King about William’s Norman force landing to the south. He put his exhausted (and bloodied) army on a march south to meet them. They eventually met at the battle of Hastings, where Harold — making some poor decisions along the way — died (as did his two remaiming brothers) and William became William the Conqueror; had he lost, he would probably still be known to history as William the Bastard.
Meanwhile, Gamelbeorn, also known as Gamelbar de Spofford, had been loyal to King Harold. He participated in the revolt to the Normans in 1068-1069, but the effort was defeated. William exacted terrible revenge on everyone in Yorkshire, including Gamelbar. He forfeit his estates, his mansion in York, and his many other manor homes. Those were given to William’s ally, William de Percy, who was made a Baron. Gamelbar’s main manor home was in the town of Spoford (Spofforth, now.) Gamelbar was almost certainly put to death if he was not killed in battle. (See the section below on Spofforth Castle)
So, the early history of the Spafford (et al) line has them being significantly involved with the incidents that led to the victory of William the Conqueror: Gamel’s assassination as a cause of rebellion against Tostig, leading to bad blood with Harold, leading to the attack that sapped Harold’s troops and thus unable to defeat William’s forces. As we will see later, they also were involved, very indirectly, with the Magna Carta. The family also had an indirect connection to Shakespeare via the real King Macbeth.
Based on the available information (linked in above), the following appears to be the line from Orm, my (great-)29grandfather to me; there is some small dispute about whether there was another generation in 20-22. I’m leaving out siblings, although some are known (but not all are). A rather comprehensive family history up to 1888 is available as an online book, although at least one alternate and well-researched history presents some disagreement.
John Spofford (#23) was the ancestor of almost all of the Spaffords, Spoffords, and similar in the US and Canada. A few others have since immigrated from other parts of the British Empire.
To the best of my ability to tell, there are no male heirs to this line after at least Thomas (#30), and possibly earlier — all lines end in daughters. If I were to somehow have sons at this point, I might try to name them Orm and Gamel.
The family motto has been rendered as Fidelis ad extremum or “Faithful to the extreme.” Another version has been “Rather Deathe than false of Faythe,” which is rather the same thing. Given some of the family history of continuing to serve on the losing side of disagreements long after the outcome was decided, this certainly seems apt!
A commercial service has a version of the Spafford coat of arms. This is one of two versions. The other version is shown to the right.
There have been a few notable Spaffords about. Check out the Wikipedia page for Horatio Spafford, for instance, especially if you think your luck is bad; the Spafford Center in Jerusalem is related.
Suzy Spafford is a notable cartoonist. Spafford Lake on the campus of UC Davis is named after a long-time administrator in the UC system, Ed Spafford. Roz Spafford is an award-winning author. George Spafford has coauthored several books with my former student Gene Kim.
There is a jam-rock band from Arizona named Spafford, although I have no idea why they picked that name.
NY State has a town of Spafford. I’ve been there — it is a pleasant little town in the Finger Lakes region.
There are other Spaffords about, if you know where to look for them, and many are worth finding.
The ruins of Spofforth Castle still stand in the town of Spofforth. Actually, it is the remains of a fortified manor house, but at one point it would have been seen as a castle. Only the western part of the castle still stands — there was originally more to the East, North, and West. After the castle fell to ruins, the locals took a great many of the stones to build their homes, churches, and common buildings, thus leaving much less of the grandeur that was once there.
After William took Northumbria, he gave all of Gamelbar’s lands and manors to his buddy, William de Percy. Spofforth Castle was constructed in the 11th century. It seems likely (although there is no clear archeological evidence) that Spofforth Castle was built on the foundations of one of Gamelbar’s early homes.
Legend has it that the first version of the Magna Carta was drafted at Spofforth Castle!
One account notes that Harry Hotspur was born here at Spofforth Castle in 1364. He is a notable character in Shakespeare’s play Henry IV, as a friend of Henry V. In real life he also was a notable knight, who rebelled against King Henry IV and killed at the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403.
The castle was ruined in 1461, after the Percys sided with Lancaster in the War of the Roses — and lost. Over 100 years later, the castle was restored, but it was not used as a primary residence and fell into disuse. It was last occupied in 1604, and again ruined in the civil war (1642-1651).
The castle has a ghost, too!
One might make the comment that the castle is like the Spafford authoring this blog — old, weathered, and in ruins.
Here is a video tour of the castle, taken in 2011, with silly music in the background.
This is a gallery of pictures I took in August 2013 of the castle and its interior:
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.
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.
Earlier today I was awarded a Lifetime Achievement award from SANS during one of our regular CERIAS faculty receptions. I certainly am honored by this, given the many wonderful things that SANS does to educate and support the information security and response community. I was especially honored to have Lance Spitzner travel to Purdue to present the award oh behalf of SANS, and to have several other people from the community and Purdue show up for the event.
Over the last two or three years I have received a few awards that could be considered as “lifetime achievement” awards in one way or another. They are certainly not given more than once, and they are considered to represent a career’s worth of accomplishment. I’m not going to argue that I have, indeed, done a few things worthy of note, although I would be the first to admit that I have had great collaborators and partners along the way. And I have the gray hair and scars to prove I’ve been at this more than a few years. The point that troubles me a bit is … “lifetime”? Am I really at such an advanced stage of senescence? Is the end that close at hand? My next birthday approaches apace, and I now wonder if I should worry about reaching it! I’ve been getting AARP solicitations in the mail for a few years, so perhaps this is another sign I should get my affairs in order?
I went to the RSA conference last month and two people who were former undergrad students of mine took me out for meals. It was very pleasant to talk to them and catch up on their activities. Both have started companies and done things to change the world. And both were undergrad students of mine 21 years ago — that’s about half their current ages! But as we talked I realized that some of the big problems I taught them about are still problems today…that issues I was warning governmental agencies and companies were coming, did, and are still here. There’s a sense of being frozen in that era and yet, here are people giving me “lifetime achievement” awards and making jokes about my age and gray beard, and the problems I started my career addressing haven’t really progressed.
Well, that isn’t true: many of those problems have gotten worse. 😦
Maybe it isn’t a sign of decrepitude that I am getting these honors. Maybe these are subtle hints to get the hell out of the way so the youngsters can get the corner office? Well, that isn’t going to work. Yet. I still have a little bit of fire left, and with some luck (and the discounts from the AARP) I might yet make a dent in some of the big problems. I know there are several people who would like me to retire (including some of my faculty colleagues at Purdue) but I really enjoy working with students. Every time I hear from former students about some success, I know that I had a tiny bit of contribution in that somewhere back in time, and that’s a good feeling.
100 years from now, the awards will be forgotten, and I will be too. But I know that the world will be a better place because of the students I have worked with, and have yet to work with. That may sound a bit corny, but in truth, it’s why I’ve been doing this for 24 years – and am not about to stop. That good feeling is the real lifetime achievement award, and anyone who has really connected with students knows exactly what I mean. That is why the SANS award means something special, too – it is decided by people who teach in the the same field.
My thanks to SANS, and to everyone who showed up for the ceremony today for the honor, and for your support of what we are all trying to do.