Remembering Molly

I’m saddened to hear of Molly Holzschlag’s passing yesterday. Molly’s contributions to the web are innumerable. She more than earned her Fairy Godmother of the Web moniker.

But my memories of Molly are more personal. I didn’t get to spend much time with Molly, but the moments I did spend with her changed my life.

The first time I met Molly was at a WebVisions after party. I was an attendee. Molly was a rockstar.

Despite the difference, Molly treated me as a peer. She showed interest in and riffed on an idea I had. It was the first time I felt like I might have something interesting to contribute to the greater web. That conversation energized me.

The second time I met Molly was at Web 2.0 in San Francisco. I was still early in my speaking career. Molly remained a rockstar. She was the only other speaker I knew so I sought her out. I doubt she remembered me, but she welcomed me into her circle.

And her circle included several people who worked on browsers including on Internet Explorer during the tumultuous web standards period. For the first time, I heard insider accounts of the politics that defined web standards and whether or not a given company would adhere to those standards. This experience made me realize it was possible for individuals like me to contribute to web standards.

One story in particular stood out, but I fear I may get some of the details wrong. Much of the resistance from Microsoft when it came to web standards we due to one individual. That individual challenged Molly during one of the meetings that the Web Standards Project (WaSP) had with Microsoft. So Molly reached out to Bill Gates who had previously promised Molly and the rest of WaSP that Microsoft would cooperate.

The group laughed as they recalled this individual—the one who had blocked so much progress—had to step out to take a call from Bill Gates himself. They said they could hear Bill Gates yelling on the phone. Things changed after that day.

Think of all the time and effort lost dealing with Internet Explorer incompatibility mostly because of this one individual. One person can change the world, but not always for the better.

Molly is the counterpoint of course. She was one individual who made the world a significantly better place. Molly was a whirlwind that couldn’t be stopped and swept up all of those around her in it. We went along willingly.

My best memory of Molly is my most treasured. We skipped an afternoon of sessions at Web 2.0 and visited an art exhibit at the The Contemporary Jewish Museum. We talked about the web, her career, our shared love of challah, her family, and her extended web family. That afternoon remains one of my fondest memories from all of my conference experiences.

To this day, I can’t remember how or why we ended up at the museum. Why was I the lucky one who got to spend an unforgettable afternoon with the the Molly Holzschlag? I was no one significant. I barely knew her.

But that’s what made Molly amazing. She made everyone feel like they were someone. She touched my life and so many others.

Thank you Molly. You will be missed.

Let’s Play Sheriff and Tully. I’ll Be Sheriff.

Tully & SheriffAs many of you know, we lost our beloved dog Tully this summer. We didn’t plan on getting another dog, but Sheriff started showing signs of separation anxiety (he and Tully were litter mates), and we finally relented.

So in September we got a puppy from our friends. The puppy was their favorite of the litter. Our friends gave him the name Primo in honor of his first born status.

Primo & Sheriff 2

As you can see from the photos above, there is a slight resemblance between Primo and Tully. Yet while friends commented on the similarities, I didn’t see it.

Or more accurately, I didn’t want to acknowledge it. We didn’t pick Primo because of the resemblance. And no dog was ever going to replace Tully.

After last weekend, I’m ready to admit it. Jeez, Primo reminds me of Tully!

We took him out to the beach for the first time last weekend. He quickly fell into the same pattern as Tully did. Sheriff fetches the ball and Primo attacks Sheriff. Tully used to get into a crouch, wait for Sheriff to get close enough and then pounce.

It made me wonder if Sheriff’s personality was so strong that any new dog would by necessity end up playing the role Tully had played.

Dana’s Uncle Jim had a funny take on it. He imagined a conversation between the two dogs that might go something like this:

Sheriff: Hey Primo, I’ve got an idea. Let’s play “Sheriff and Tully.” I’ll be Sheriff.

Primo: Oh man, I wanted to be Sheriff this time.

Sheriff: Sorry. You can be Sheriff tomorrow.

Primo (under his breathe): Man, you always say that.

It was a blast. It was great to see Sheriff enjoying himself and to know that his new buddy was helping all of us both move on and remember Tully at the same time.

More adorable puppy photos on Flickr.

Lost a Good Friend

TullyThe last few days have been very rough. Tully, one of our dogs, suddenly became sick on Monday while I was out of town.

On Tuesday, Dana took her to the vet. She continued to get worse. Today, we made the difficult decision to euthanize her.

Like most people, I’m very attached to our dogs. The dogs were the first pets we got as a couple, and the first pets I got as an adult. (Dana had our cat Chopper before we met.)

Dana and I had been talking about getting a dog for quite sometime. But the decision came at the end of the first Daily Show after September 11, 2001. That Daily Show was very moving and cathartic. It ended with the following Moment of Zen:

Dana and I had been in a rut when we saw the show. My grandmother had died shortly before 9/11. Instead of newlywed bliss, we were depressed. Once John Stewart pulled the puppy from under the desk, we looked at each and knew we had to get a dog. It seemed like the perfect way to bring joy back into our lives.

Tully as MunchThe big obstacle was Dana’s allergy to dogs. After that Daily Show, she decided to get allergy tests and see what could be done.

Her allergy tests showed that see was allergic to 23 of the 24 allergens they tested. The one she wasn’t allergic to: dogs.

By the time I got home that night, Dana had seen a person with a puppy, found out where the puppies were being sold, and put a deposit on Tully. When we went to pick up Tully, Sheriff fell asleep on my foot and before we knew it, we came home with two dogs.

We felt it was providence when we found out that they had been born on September 10th.


Both Sheriff and Tully have been a big part of our lives. Before we had Katie, they were our kids in every sense. When we fell in love with the Oregon Coast, it was because we learned how much fun it was to watch our dogs play in the sand. We loved it so much that we eventually bought a house on the coast and made it a pet friendly vacation rental.

Our friends and family loved our dogs, but Tully was considered the real treat. She was the sweetest dog and the hardest for people to get close to at first. Many guests spent evenings trying to coax her into letting them pet her. She was extremely gentle with Katie, and the dogs have made such an impression on Katie that she tries to bark and howl like them.

I remember most the way that Tully would greet me when I came home from work. She’d excitedly follow me into the office, execute a big stretch and then hop around until I petted her and rubbed her belly.

Tully, Sheriff and I spent hours play fighting. She’d come over to me. I’d whisper “get ’em” in her ear, and the game was on. We always tag-teamed on Sheriff, but he never minded the challenge.

Tully was still a fairly young dog. She would have been 7 years old in September. She seemed completely healthy the last time I saw her. It’s quite a shock.

She developed a sudden autoimmune problem. Her immune system was attacking her red blood cells. We did every treatment that we could and none of it was working. We took a few moments today to say goodbye before making one of the toughest decisions we’ve had to make.

I really miss her. I’m so grateful that she was a part of our lives. She was a good friend.

New Adventure

Tricia Starts New Portland Catering Business

My former co-worker Tricia Butler has reduced her hours at her job and started her new catering business Sassafras Catering. I’m so happy for her.

I remember a couple of years ago during one of her performance reviews, Tricia felt like she had to break bad news to me. She talked about her love of her job, her respect for her co-workers, and her thankfulness at being given the opportunity and responsibility of her position.

BUT, she had to let me know that she was eventually going to start a catering business. Owning a catering business was a life-long dream of hers. She was sorry that her path and the company’s path might not be the same in the long term.

To which I replied, “Where is the bad news?”

Too many people spend their lives in fear of their own aspirations. For all of our talk about people in America having the freedom to chase their dreams, most people are afraid to really do so.

So from that day forward I’ve known Tricia as a caterer who happens to work in technology instead of a technologist who happens to love cooking. That’s why I’m so pleased to see her make the jump and get her business going.

I’m also pleased because I can unequivocally vouch for both her ability to cater events and the food that she has provided. Since that meeting, I’ve both attended and helped organize events that she has catered. Combine that with her business’s commitment to sustainability, and you have an amazing combination for the Portland market.

So congratulations to Tricia for following through on her dreams. If you are in the Portland area, I highly recommend hiring Sassafras Catering for your next event.

I’ve got Twittermentia!

From yesterday’s Twitter transcript:

09:43 am grigs: Really enjoyed the ALA Web Dev Survey Well written report. Wish it has included billed rates. Any surveys on that?

09:46 am grigs: Twitter usage of tinyurl makes it difficult to track links. No way to set up a (blog)search for tinyurls that point to your site.

09:46 am grigs: There is a service there that tinyurl could provide.

09:55 am selenamarie: @grigs thanks for the pointer.

10:02 am grigs: @selenamarie what pointer? oh, the ALA report? can’t remember what i did moments ago.

10:15 am selenamarie: @grigs: twittermentia?

Selena went on to define Twittermentia as:

twittermentia: happens when you can only remember your most recent post to Twitter.

This is the first time I can recall a new term being defined to describe my behavior. I’m not sure if I should be happy or ashamed.

Betsy says to own it and given the fact that it probably won’t be the last time I can’t remember what I was just doing, I should probably do as she says. Thanks Selena. :-)

Women in Technology

OReilly has a new series on Women in Technology starting today. I’ve been reading quite a few articles in this space because I’ve been following my friend Selena who has been doing research on these topics. It’s great to follow her delicious bookmarks because I get to read the best stuff she’s found without having to do all of the legwork to find the articles.

So I’m very pleased that Selena is also going to be writing an article in the Women in Technology series for OReilly. For that reason alone, it is worth reading. As I mentioned previously, Selena is very, very smart.

Another notable local author in the series is open source and community expert Dawn Foster whose blog Fast Wonder is one that I’ve been enjoying over the last few weeks.

I’m really looking forward to the series. Please take a look at it.

Friends vs. Acquaintances

Steve Rubel had an interesting post a couple of weeks ago that I’ve been holding onto to consider. He postulates that the Web Changes How We Define Friendships. Steve makes some compelling points about the drive towards quantity versus quality when you start participating in social networks.

I have a different theory. I believe that social networks are not changing the way we define friends. Our close friends are the ones for whom we never needed social networking tools in the first place. Our friends are the ones who know who we are, have been to our homes, and who have refrigerator privileges*.

What social networks see to be able to do is help us better track our acquaintances. I think there is a stigma attached to the word acquaintance. We think of acquaintances as cool relationships. Distant relationships that mean little. In fact, they mean a lot.

I have acquaintances who I greet warmly whenever I see them or correspond with them. I don’t know them intimately, but I know them well enough to want to know how they are doing and what they are up to.

Perhaps social networks will change our definition of friendship, but if they do, it will because we were never comfortable with the word acquaintance and because word acquaintance is too long to fit nicely into our common language and UI designs.

* Refrigerator privileges is an idea I read about in Never Eat Alone defining the friendships that you have where the person feels free to raid your refrigerator. The idea in the book is that we need more friends with refrigerator privileges. I couldn’t agree more.

Following Selena’s Lead

My friend Selena pointed out that we had both written about the Clay Shirky article that I referenced earlier this week. She was kind not to point out that she wrote about the article two weeks earlier. This is simply the latest in a series of times where Selena was ahead of me on discovering valuable things.

In college, Selena was running a Linux box, talking about open source software, and working on quality of service routing before these topics were mainstream. At the time, I didn’t understand why she was so excited about them.

When we bumped into each other a few years ago, she convinced me to give social bookmarking, tagging and similar technologies a second look. Now I can’t imagine living without my delicious bookmarks.

Essentially, Selena is one of the smartest people I know. I’ve been rediscovering trails she already had blazed for as long as I’ve known her.

Given these facts, I’ll declare a small victory that this time I was only two weeks behind her. :-)