[TUHS] We've lost Greg Chesson

Larry McVoy lm at mcvoy.com
Thu Jul 2 13:30:17 AEST 2015

I'm trying to put notes together for Greg's service tomorrow, these are 
rough, if anyone wants to suggest fixes I'd love that.  Needs to by 
10AM PST, the service is at 11AM.


The theme is Greg was a ninja, I'm only just realizing it.  
I've got lots of stories but they all involve me so if I'm taking up too
much time or boring people all I need to see is one person waving their
hand like "move it along" and I'll wrap it up.  I can wittle it down to
just two stories but here is the list.

Ninja Greg does music (have to do this one, I have pictures).
Ninja Greg bitch slaps the government with Larry
Ninja Greg takes Larry to the NSA, Larry ends up staring at pissed Marines
Ninja Greg gets Larry a wife
Happy Greg lifts a log (have to do this one, I have pictures)

Ninja Greg does music

This is a funny story, I moved to the Santa Cruz mountains and my buddy
Bob took one look at my place, and the new tractor with a backhoe and
said "we're doing the pig roast at your place".  Bob did a pig roast
when he could, which was when one of his friends was doing landscaping
and they could dig a hole.  I've got 15 acres, a hole for the fire and
the pig was no problem.

It was mostly Bob's party at my place but I got my invites out, Greg
was on the list, and that got me thinking lets have some music.  I 
put it out there that we should have some music, I knew Greg was down,
Kennan plays guitar and he was down, and this guy named Andy said he
could do keyboards.  Cool, we have a band.

The guys show up, Greg sets up his drums, Kennan plugs into an amp,
and Andy sets up his keyboard.  Greg sounds great, duh, Kennan is
tuning up and sounds great, Andy has a keyboard.

They start playing and it is obvious that Andy is out of his league.
Greg is world class, Kennan doesn't suck.

So here is the first ninja move.  I don't remember what Greg said, I
asked my wife and all she could say was "he was so smooth".  Ninja Greg
said something like "can I show you something?" and slid in behind
the keyboard.  And things started sounding good.

My buddy Otis stepped up to play the drums, I just learned that that
was the first time he played with a group.  He wasn't great but he 
could hold a beat and it was fine.

Ninja Greg bitch slaps the government with Larry

When I worked for Greg one of the big projects was a government thing
where they were imaging the earth.  This was roughly 1994 and on a clear
day they could resolve stuff from a satellite to 3 inches.  So a really
big newspaper headline they could read from space.

It was a big project, Cray was in it, DEC was in it, and SGI was in it.
SGI had the storage and data transfer part (more about the data transfer

I was super into performance at that part of my life and Greg knew that.

I've always told this story as it was just me but looking back on it,
I see the hand of Ninja Greg.

I had done a pile of performance work, figured out that the disk drives
had a problem, made Seagate redesign their drive mounts.  Whatever,
that doesn't matter.  What matters is Greg was negotiating the deal,
SGI needed to get paid, and this is just me looking back on it but it
all makes sense, he sent me into a meeting.

I should mention that I was a super cocky engineer, I was at the top
of my game and I didn't really like the people that were working on
this contract, they seemed stupid to me.  I should also mention that
I loved to stake and at SGI there were lots of places to strap on some
rollerblades and go skate.

Somehow Greg sent me into this meeting.  As it so happened I was on
rollerblades and I was fresh off of figuring out the that the disk drives
had a problem.

I fly into the meeting, look at the presentation, say "that won't work"
and go grab a sandwich and was heading out and they say "why not" and
I go into a pile of actual data, factual data (they had nothing but
simulations) and it is super clear that I'm right and they are wrong.

I've always thought that meeting was all me but looking back on it,
I think Greg knew exactly what he had, he sent me in when he needed
to remind everyone that SGI had a clue, it was some Ninja moves.

Ninja Greg takes Larry to the NSA, Larry ends up staring at pissed Marines

In the middle of that program to image the earth the government realized
that they liked me.  So they wanted me to get security clearance and Greg
said do it so I was going down that path.

Those of you who know me will laugh at the idea that I could keep my mouth
shut (I can but there has to be a really really good reason).  I went about
80% of the way through the process and realized this was all for them, there
was nothing in it for me, it was so they could tell me stuff and I could help
them but I'd have to shut my mouth.  For stupid reasons.

So I balked and the NSA put pressure on Greg to bring me around.  Greg knew
that I liked smart people, I'm so-so smart, I like being around people who
are a lot smarter than I am.  His way of getting me to complete the clearance
process was to take me to the NSA and introduce me to some scary smart people.

An aside: this was a long time ago, mid 1990's.  The NSA that I saw then is 
nothing like the NSA of today.  They used to have ethics, that seems to be

Anyhoo, we get out to Fort Meade and check in and Greg tells me "stay close,
they don't like it if you wander around".  Yeah, yeah, Greg, whatever.

We were walking down a hallway and I see something through a doorway and
go "that's cool" and I pause to take a look.  

I'm old so maybe I'm making this up, but my memory is that I had three guys
with rifles pointing at my face, and those guys were ninjas.  I never saw
them, they just kind of appeared and had me on the ground.

Too long, don't read: if Greg says stay close, stay close.

Ninja Greg gets Larry a wife

I did some work for SGI to move data around really fast.  I can't claim
any credit for this because people before me had done all the hard
work (page flippin and wire speed TCP on HIPPI).  Their work was 99%
of the effort, all I did was realize we can move data fast through the
file system and we can move data fast through network, how about I plug
these two big firehoses together and now we can move data fast through
the network file system.

What I did was very small but it was useful and SGI wanted to ship it.

So how did Greg get me a wife?  I have no idea if he intended this or not
but I was a hot commodity at that time and I had built something.  Greg 
could have found someone else to do the grunt work to move it out the 
door but he sent me to go see Beth.  Looking back on it now I really 
wonder if he saw something that Beth and I didn't.

Whatever, Beth shipped all software, I had to go meet her, had to go 
to the patch meeting where she said "Oh, good, Larry's here, we'll
talk about his thing" and I shot back "we're not talking about my
thing in this meeting".  Silly me, she did want to talk about that
and we ended up getting married and have two great kids.  If Greg
did that then go him.

Happy Greg lifts a log

Greg and I talked after I left SGI, mostly about woodworking because we
were both into that.  But we didn't talk as much as we should have given
how close we were.

About a year ago Greg wanted to come up and chat.  He felt like he might
be beating the cancer that was the result of the treatment of the cancer
he had 22 years earlier, he was thinking about buying a place up in the
mountains like I did.  

He also wanted to geek out.  He and I have very similar views of the 
industry we are in, we are both very old school.  We sat around on my
back deck and talked geek stuff.  His mind was 100%, I wish I was that

We also talked about his new cancer, he told me how he couldn't eat
anything because his throat was toast, he was super happy that the
docs let him eat tiny chunks of ice, but that was it.  Everything
else went into him through a hole, he more or less pumped baby food
into himself.  I watched him do it, he just shrugged and said you
do what ya gotta do.

I have a thing, I do this for anyone who is not 100% or doesn't feel
strong, I put them on my excavator.  I told Greg when he wanted to 
come up and chat, cool, but you have to drive excavator.

He sort of wound down and wanted to leave, 3 hours of geek talk will
do that, and I said you have to drive the excavator.  He was not 
thrilled but I got him on it.  It's like that game where you try and
pick up stuff and if you pick it up you get a prize.  Except the 
excavator wants you to win and the thing you pick up is a 1000 pound 

I got him on it, he got frustrated, but then he got it.  I've got 
pictures and my all time favorite picture of Greg is that grin he
sported when he got the log.  That's Greg.  I love that grin.

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