2013-07-12

Remembering Seth Vidal

I have been trying to write a memory of Seth, but like everyone else have been going through periods anger, denial, and depression. At this point I am at the depression side so figured I had better just post what I can and try to move on.

Seth was my best friend online. He would call and make sure I was handling stress, and he always seemed to be able to look at a bad situation and find a way we could make it better. That is something I really will miss in the months ahead.

I first met Seth Vidal in late 2001 except I didn't realize it until he told me years later. I had left Red Hat in May after 4 years of startup work and had taken a couple of months off to learn that I wasn't a freelance consultant (especially if I couldn't ask people to pay me). I needed a job but the dotCom crash had happened and no one was hiring for Linux or Unix administrators. Duke University had an opening in their physics department and since I had an Astrophysics degree.. I figured it was a good match. I got called in and sat in a room where people were being marched in and out at 15 minute intervals. When it was finally my turn, I walked into a room where a very weary Seth and someone else were sitting there looking like they had been doing interviews for days. Turned out that wasn't too far off. Seth's first words were pretty much:
"I will be totally honest with you. We had over a thousand applicants for this job, and after the University filtering process got it down to 400 interviews. We have been doing this for days. You like a lot of people are waaaay overqualified for this gig. So in 5 minutes or less, why should we hire you?"

Completely cut to the chase. I could tell that the other person in the interview wasn't comfortable with the "truthiness" of it all but was way too tired from doing interviews back to back to put up a fight on it anymore. Seth then went on about what the job really covered over what was advertised, and that mostly it was to be a buffer between various Phd's, grad students, and post-docs and scarce resources. "I can see you have done this before, but quite frankly you could get paid a lot more doing it somewhere else."

I don't remember much about the interview than that.. in fact Seth remembered more of what I said and what I did than I could when he told me about it years later. What I did remember was that by the end of the interview I realized that I wasn't being led around. I had gotten the straight dope and that I was probably not going to be happy in the position. [I further realized this when I went to work for a different University years later and how "layered" stories could be about conditions.]

Years later I would run into Seth in various places and would finally work with him on the Fedora Infrastructure Team. I learned a lot from him even when I infuriated him at times... we had our good times working together, we had our "Lets just agree to disagree and come back later on this." times, and we had out "Are me? Fan--tastic. Want me to quit now or after you finish that sentence." times. Always to the point which I will miss terribly.

That is all.
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