July 23, 1952 - April 27, 1999
Mark and Ubiquitous Computing
Mark the jazz drummer
Mark the rock drummer
Mark our friend
Date: Tue, 3 Dec 1996 11:43:57 PST
Here is my memory, easily flawed, corrections welcome.
Subject: Mark and Severe Tire Damage, the early years
OK, so I'm rooting through my mail files from Mark, dating back to November '91. Our web site captures lots of things starting with the Stone's gig, so I'll limit myself to things that predate that, at least in this digest.
Our first real exchange of messages, after the proposal that he audition for Severe Tire Damage, was about his work on automatic Tetris playing (and his derogation of my idea that it ought to be done a larogomatic). Here's the text from his title slide:
Recall that we pressed Mark into service for a New Year's gig at Anita's six weeks later, after a very limited number of rehearsals with us.
The following summer, I sent Mark notice of a party at Anna's, prompting the first of many replies I received from Mark in this vein:
I'll close off this walk through the distant past with the full message Mark forwarded that yielded our favorite comment on Mark.
Date: Sun, 20 Nov 1994 15:22:16 PST
I just spent an hour on the phone with the rock editor of the New York Times. I asked about the mbone, did we resent other bands claiming to be first when we were first, etc. He asked what kind of music we played: I called us "dancable punk rock".
He is only on AOL, not the real internet, but I gave him our home page address anyway and he will try to put it into the article.
I told him we got lots of positive responses from around the net, and no complaints.
He was at the Thinking Pictures facilities in New Jersey watching. ("Thinking Pictures" is the company that organized the Stone on the mbone). So I asked him if the folks there minded our pirating. He said, no, they thought it was great! He said they enjoyed us more than the Stones!
(He saw us on the mbone (both before and after), and set out trying to find us. He finally searched the giant online news database "Nexus" for all articles containting "severe", "tire", "damage", and "computer", and found only one match: the Smithsonian article about me. Then he started calling mark weiser's in the 415 and 408 area codes, and voila. He let out a shriek of happiness when I answered the phone and said yes, I do work at Xerox PARC.).
His article will appear tuesday.
Mark started purposely doing silly things just because they're fun. Russ and Mike, guitar and bass for NTTN, took Mark skydiving. He had so much fun he went back with his daughter Corinne. Mark's sister, who was fighting a long battle with cancer went with skydiving with Mark, Russ, and Mike. Most of her family jumped out of an airplane that day, too.
Subject: RE: skydiving
Well, it was a wonderful day for jumping. Corinne and I got there about 11am, the first plane had just returned. We jumped around 1:30pm. She really loved it! Almost was begging me to do it again that day! It was #3 for me, pretty uneventful except for leaving the plane doing a flip (Josh on my back), which was uneventful as it was more like things whooshing by, no sense of control or what the hell was happening. Pete somebody, with preplanning, flew over and held my hands, that was cool. Shouldn't I have had a helmet for that? Anyway, clear day, high light clouds, warm, light winds.
Didn't see you guys.
Almost exactly one year before he was diagnosed with cancer, Mark got to play with a toy he later decided was worth blowing a lot of money on just because. In his own words, here's Mark.
Last September BMW invited me to participate in a engineering offsite about the car of the future. Germanically, they divided us into competing teams, with the winning team getting BMW cars of their choice ... for a week. The chairman of the board was the judge. Not knowing anything about cars, I was having a lark at the whole offsite, so my team selected me to present for us because of my irreverent style. I had the chairman in stitches with my team's suggestions that they fire half their mechanical engineers and replace them with software engineers ... from France. We also suggested they close their giant R&D facility in Munich, stop all new design for 3 months and send the engineers into the field, give stock options to all their key suppliers, and a few other things I don't remember now. Anyway, my team won, and this week I had my car.
I selected a Z3 with the 2.8 (larger) engine. (Some people know this as the "James Bond car"). The one they gave me is deep wine purple, with a convertible top, a little two-seater toy. And what a toy! I am not a car person—I drive a Mazda van most of the time (good for hauling drums around). I had not a expected that a car could just be plain fun. Now I know it can.
It is just plain fun to turn corners, to pass people, to drive on the expressway. When it is time to lane change, with a press of the accelerator, I can make it appear that everyone else has come to a halt. Everything seems safer, solider, in my control. I have not been able to get enough time in the car this week, in spite of taking a couple of afternoons off to drive in the hills.
So, Thursday night I headed for Nevada. After spending the night at a Days Inn in Reno, at 7am Friday morning I started across the state on Route 50, called (by perverse pride of Nevada PR) "the loneliest road in America". It has been a dream of mind to drive this road. The desert seems to call to me at times. Its apparent simplicity, its starkness, its unhumanness. Its empty spaces suck me in like the Titanic sucked in the ocean. There are only two towns in 350 miles, and otherwise just lots of desert. So why was this nice? Well...
I've been skydiving, once. I had a 100 MPH wind in my face for 1 minute, until the chute opened. It was incredible. But yesterday with the top down I had a 110 MPH wind in my face for an hour. My hair stuck straight out in all directions. And I could play Jimi Hendrix at top volume (although I couldn't hear anything, it was the principle that mattered. I filled in the actual sounds from memory).
Most of the time I had the top up, however. For one thing, it is cold in the desert this time of year. For another, at 120 MPH the wind was too much! At 120 MPH, this car feels like my van at 60. I spent about an hour total, in different stretches, at 120. On this road I can see ten miles ahead, it is only a two lane road but there is relatively little traffic on a weekday (which is why I did not wait until the weekend). It was really fun and exciting. Whenever I stopped (for gas, or the view, or to read a historical marker) I was breathing hard. From the rush.
The last number on the speedometer is 140. (Interpolating it goes to 150). I decided to try to reach 140, if only for a moment. The owner's manual says top speed is electronically limited to 128MPH. That must have been turned off on my car since I easily crossed that number. However, at 135 it began to feel a little unstable. There may have been a slight cross-wind. I decided to not go further, and settled back to 120.
I reached Ely, near Utah, in about 3 hours, had lunch and turned back. Halfway back I stopped at the top of a small mountain to call into a PARC meeting on my cellphone. After an hour I continued on, now into scattered thundershowers. I don't know if you have seen storms in the desert, but they are incredibly beautiful. You can see the rain falling like gray veils from high individual clouds. Many of the veils don't touch the earth because the air is so dry, and when you drive under them you just get a mist. Others do touch, and then the rain is very hard, for a moment, and then it is gone. I decided that 90MPH was my hard rain speed, and 105 my mist speed.
The car told me what speeds to go. I mean it communicated to my body, my hands, my feet, my stomach. We were a unity, the car and I. I knew 105 in the mist was right, because the car felt right. I knew 120MPH was ok, because the car felt ok. But that puts it wrong. WE felt ok. Not the car, but the unity that was it and me.
On the way home in the dark through the Sierra's there was a gradual re-entering of the normal universe. First the long lines of cars going the other way, up to their skiing weekends, kept shining their lights in my eyes. It was hard to see my way back unless I slowed down. Then, just outside Sacramento on a ten-lane expressway surrounded by Jack-in-the-Boxes, I got a speeding ticket for going 75mph in a 65mph zone. I was almost grateful; like an experienced pilot landing an airplane after a long flight, the ticket was the gentle bump of the universe snapping back in place. Within ten minutes (including the cop admiring my car, asking about the engine and so on), I was on my way again. Minutes later a friend in tears called on the cellphone, needing to talk. Someone she loved was dying. I pulled off the road and talked with her for an hour. I felt good. I had entered another universe for awhile, and connected.
When I got off the phone, I looked up. Where was I? Where had I been? I was in front of a Jack-in-the-Box. It was 9pm. The world of person-car communion was gone. Wherever I had been, I was now back. I had a sourdough jack, curly fries, and a large diet coke. Then back on the road. The car was again just a means to an end, I the inattentive master, mind on other things. I cruised at 69MPH, driving with one hand, the hour-and-a-half back to Palo Alto.
14 Mar 1998
Subject: RE: NTTN: yes, er, probaby not an 'ummer
I am sitting in my living room looking at a very juicy picture of something labeled, in a Dr's scrawl (not mine) "ulcerous mass on lower esophagus". The picture was taken earlier today by a camera in my stomach.
My throat hurts and so does my side, and front.
While I could bring the picture to dinner, or even bring the ulcerous mass (I hear they are good with a little butter, on the half shell), actually I am doubtful for dinner and playing. Well, I might make it for a little while, but don't wait.
Mark Weiser passed away on Tuesday, 27 April 1999
Subject: Re: Mark
> Sad, but just as well it's over it seems.
I don't know about that. He didn't die until 8:31pm. He could've made the first half of rehearsal.