This is the only photo I could find on short notice.
I first met Steve 'Victor' Williamson in the fall semester of 2000 when we took Intro to Engineering together. This was beginning my second year at the University of South Alabama and I don't remember how long he had been there. I don't really remember how we met in the class or if it was when we were put together to do a project together was the first time we actually met and became friends.
We had to do some project for the class and of course we had lofty goals. We were going to use light or IR sensors to detect a break in the beam when a matchbox car going down a slope would break it. We could then calculate how long that car took to go from top to bottom. Simple really. But it never did work unfortunately. So we rigged up the matchbox car with a piece of copper wire and put wires on the top and bottom of the slope where the wires would brush each other and complete a circuit. Obviously it worked sporadically at best.
But over the course of doing this project, we became fairly good friends. At the time I was in the dorms and downloading videos and music. We scanned the network and found lots of computers sharing random stuff that we would pilfer through, grabbing copies of stuff that interested us. We figured out the 'net send' command in windows at the time and would have belly laughs thinking about people getting these network popup windows saying random stuff.
About that time I was starting to get interested in Linux and had a box, which I still have today, for Mandrake Linux 7.0. That's when the true friendship began, computer software and hardware. I got out of Electrical Engineering, my major at the time, and shifted more into computer engineering which eventually became Computer Science.
I don't remember the specifics, but he ended up leaving the University. Some of these jobs from this point forward become a little fuzzy. At one point he was working at Books-A-Million at Airport Blvd and McGreggor Ave. in Mobile. I would occasionally go by and see him, he would give me a free drink of some sorts. I remember I really liked some white vanilla slushy like drink. His love of computers continued unabated by his barista jobs.
At some point he began working a cargo shipping company that was based in downtown Mobile. I don't remember what he did exactly, but he was down there late at night sometimes.
He would come over from time to time and we would get his favorite kind of pizza, Godfathers. Lots of sausage. He really liked their pizza.
He was working for a Chevron gas station in Tilman's Corner at one point and living off of Rangeline Road in the apartment behind the house. It was like a loft apartment above the person's boat lift. It was funny to hear about him being woken up or using the computer when his landlord would use the lift. It would shake his entire place. I think I ventured out there to see him once or twice.
Somewhere in this time he started taking some MCSE classes through South Alabama that met at the Brookley Center. He took all of the classes after scrounging up the money and began taking the certification tests. They were fairly expensive and I don't remember how many he completed, but he never completed them all.
I believe he lost his job somehow or something and owed back rent to his landlord when he was kicked out of the place. I also think this was the time he moved to Birmingham to get a job and be near his dad who was offering to help him out some.
I don't remember much about his first jobs up there, I just remember when he got the job at Smith Software and began getting big into Linux with the Birmingham Linux Users Group. I started getting more interested and active with Linux towards my later years in undergrad and grad school. We talked about all kinds of computer related stuff and off the wall stuff. He would take trips down to see his mom and stepfather. He could come by and crash at my house some, bringing computers to hook up and leech stuff off of my hard drives. I would get him stuff like Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Ms. Marple. Agatha Christie based television dramas. I was never really into it as much though.
We did share another fascination though. He was really big into the World War II stuff. So I would get WWII videos and we would talk about WWII tanks, planes, ships... you name it. It was another fun time we had.
His time at Smith Software was a rocky one. He would go out and do installs, upgrades and stuff like that as well as maintaining stuff around their office. It sounded like a place I would never want to work in the software business. I believe their software was inventory control like stuff. Looking at their web page and remembering our conversations, their big thing was it's 'Marine Management Software'. It was a bad place for him, he wasn't satisfied and the work was kind of crappy.
I think it was about this time he befriended some people in the Birmingham area that recycled computer and electronic parts. They would go through stuff and get the useful things and try to reuse them else they would send them for recycling. This was about the time I became president of the student chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery at South Alabama. As we didn't have a website nor a good server to host one on, he found a 1U rackmount server that he gave me for the ACM. It was only recently retired and replaced. I still have it in my closet. He even made sure to give me a custom made build of Ubuntu server with the specific driver we would need for the RAID on the motherboard.
In return I gave him an old case the ACM had that he liked. It was purple, a color he seemed to really like and the hard drive went in from the side. So you had easy access to the power and IDE (PATA at the time) ports. It was an Integraph case that a friend back in Cullman had oh so long ago. The front rose up and slid in on the top. I think he really liked it.
By this time he was getting really good with Linux, far surpassing my level which I had neglected. I still supported all of his efforts. I always hosted an FTP server and he always had access to it. It was a place where he could keep his resume and some files that he may need or want. He also always had access to my video archive. He and I were fans of Doctor Who but I we haven't talked about it in quite some time. I don't know if or when he may have lost interest in the show.
During the last year or two we didn't talk as much online as we used to. I was at work during the day and he sometimes was too. He seemed to always be going around and doing something at night. I should have contacted him more, but that is/was something I wasn't too good at.
After his job with the recycling place went sour somehow, he took over a computer repair shop in Birmingham. We chatted about it a lot, I advised him to do what he wants but it was a very risky venture with someone who didn't have much money put back and the economy going the way it was. Plus the computer market was going away from small places to Best Buy or online stores like HP or Dell. He made it work for quite a while, but he eventually had to fold it due to money and bills.
Over some of our last conversations online we told me about his new quad core machine and how it did this and that. I told him about my new computer, also a quad core and all of the hard drive space I had.
Now here are some more random memories I had of Victor that I don't really remember how they fit in the timeline. He had an old Pentium III computer that he use for what seemed like FOREVER. I kidded him a lot about getting a new computer and getting out of the Jurassic age. He had an old IBM hard drive that he used for a long time. It still worked but I remember it sound so bad I joked, and still tell people to this day, that it had rocks or gravel for bearings. He had a Mazda Miata at one time which he side swiped into a concrete barrier. I don't remember what he finally did to retire it though. Then his grandmother gave him a big brown boat of a car. It was either an Oldsmobile or a Buick. We joked about 'the boat' and 'the shit wagon' too. Used a lot of gas and he kept it crammed full of junk. I told him it would probably get much better mileage if it didn't have a ton of junk in it. He always got a laugh out of it.
He spent the night at places that Kacy and I shared. House 1, House 2 and even House 3 that Kacey bought. I know she didn't like him too much and I think he sensed it too but he still liked her. He would get a little angry that she didn't care for him too much and had problems with him staying at our places. I think that's why he didn't visit too much. He always mentioned how he thought Kacey and I would end up together. He didn't like Jonathan that much and he really didn't like Kenny that much either. He would always ask how she was doing, how they were doing. Each time, when I moved out of her house, when they got engaged and when they got married, he always said he thought she and I would end up together.
He came and stayed at my house in Cullman at least once. We set up computers and copied stuff. Back when he was in Mobile we would get together some and game a little. I still remember the epic eight hour game of Age of Empires between he, Kacey, Jonathan and myself. I still also tell people about that epic game too.
Like I have mentioned, Victor was into Linux and Open Source Software. Blender is an OSS project and with him having interest in modeling and stuff he took to it as well. He set up a system to grab nightly code revisions, build them and have them available to download online. I don't know if this is still going or what, but for a long time he was involved with that by giving back to the community.
Victor was a liquor guy, Jack Daniels I think. Didn't go for beer at all. He was a bit of a connoisseur of pens and pencils. Collecting certain kinds of pens and mechanical pencils. Well, more like a specific kind of mechanical pencil. I never really was into pens like him. He was the one who got me into audiobooks and podcasts actually. He was a fan of Leo Laporte on the Screen Savers on TechTV and Call For Help. He got me into those shows, then when Leo left after it was gobbled up by Comcast and G4 Victor go into the early Leo podcast 'the return of the screen savers' which eventually became TWIT (This Week in Tech). I still listen to it fairly often.
The last time I saw Victor, Vicki and I met him for lunch at Atlanta Bread Company. He always had to stop there when he was in town since they didn't have one in Birmingham. I like Panera and suggested him go there but he just didn't like it. But we met there and we talked. I introduced him to Vicki. It was good to see him, wish we could have spent more time hanging out. I wish he could have came down and seen my new place with all of the geeky stuff.
I don't know what happened over the last few days of his life but I hope he is at peace. I hate it happened the way it did. I didn't even know he was down in the area. I wish he would have contacted me. No one knows if I could have made any difference in what happened, people tell me that I couldn't have but no one really knows. I just hate that such a good friend of mine took felt so desperate or out of touch or hopeless that they felt like the best or easiest way out was to take their own life. And at such a young age too.
I still have a couple things the gave me over time. He lent me a copy of the book 'The Last Starfighter'. It's a bit of a ratty looking book, torn cover, worn but I never got around to reading it. It's now on my list to read soon. He got me a copy of Dune when he worked at Books-A-Million, I enjoyed reading it at house 1 and I still have it somewhere. I remember he always wore leather work boots. I remember his thick glasses, his deep voice, his laughter and how he would glare when I make a joke at his expense. How he would come up with a question to ask, rub his face, motion with his hand and almost always begin with “Okay, how about this...”. He had a peculiar walk and way of talking.
He was a big fan of racing. He would go to races at the race track near Birmingham. He was into the endurance type of racing. The 24 hours of Daytona, LeMon's, stuff like that. I was more of a NASCAR type of race fan back then though, before my cousin passed away. I was slightly into indycar type of racing.
He really liked spicy food, but unfortunately spicy food didn't like him so well. His acid reflux would kick in. He said he had it almost all the time. He was the one that got me started on spicy food, I got that from him. His stepfather grew Habernos at their house on Dauphin Island and would make hot sauce out of it. He once gave me a baby food jar of it and it LIT MY MOUTH ON FIRE! So I started eating more and more spicy things now I really enjoy it and can hold my own against Habaneros now.
Victor, wherever you are, I hope you are at peace. I believe there is some sort of spiritual entity that looks over us and sometimes gives us subtle guidance through signs. I don't know if there is something like heaven or if we pass through and go on to live in another life. I just don't know how it works. If there is a heaven, I hope to see him and many others there when my time comes. If we have multiple lives, then I hope to see him and many others there as well.
His funeral service will be held in McIntosh, AL on Sunday July 24, 2010 at 1:30pm.
If I think of more memories, I will revisit this and add on to it. I will borrow this phrase from Adam Curry. To all my friends, I hope I live a hundred more years and you live a hundred years and a day so I never have to see any my friends pass away.
Another favorite thing of Victor's was the Colossal burger that Ruby Tuesday's had. I don't think they have it anymore though. One time he finally drug me out to get one with him, I don't remember if I met him there or if he rode with me. But we went to the one that was in the Bel Air Mall because he liked it there. Sometimes he was very peculiar about places and this was one of them. Probably primarily because the cook knew exactly how to fix his burger.
If you did not see the Colossal burger, it was two huge 1/2lb hamburger patties. It was a burger you ate with a knife and fork, not with your hands really. A google search just turned up that it clocked in at over 2,000 calories, but somehow he stayed fairly slim. Wish he would have told me that secret before he passed. But the cook wasn't there that day so he tried to explain at first, then just asked if the waitress would bring the cook out. The waitress did so and he explained how he liked it and the cook went back and fixed the burgers for us. I think he mostly finished it while I just couldn't, I only ate half of it and we talked for quite a while. That end of the mall was pretty sparse, but I did get to see some people walking through.
One weekend during the normal Mobile summer, my mom came down to visit and we planned an outing to Dauphin Island to visit Victor and his mom Eva. So we got there and mom was introduced to Eva and we sat down and talked for while. Then we decided to go tour Fort Gaines. All four of us loaded up and drove down to the east end of the island to the fort. We all spent several hours going through fort and seeing all of the sights from the underground areas to up on the fort walls where cannons would have thundered during the civil war. I have several photos from the tour that I will have to find and post here when I find them.
Another good memory that came back to me today was when Victor came up and stayed the night in Cullman. We went over to my friend Wesley's house and Victor was in awe of his setup. He had a room dedicated to Anime and computers. He had either four or five large bookshelves pretty much full with anime, manga and the items that came with anime box sets. Plus his RAID array of space to store all of his goodies. Wes would tell him the specs or something about a computer and Victor would just glare for a second and do that head bob saying the words a little drawn out, “Damn!” and laugh. Of course we hooked up computers and copied stuff back and forth all throughout the night until I got tired and went to sleep. He would stay up a little longer and continue pilfering through stuff to see what he might want.
The next morning, a Sunday I believe, mom got up first which is usual. She wakes up anywhere between 4am and 5am. I wake up later but Victor was still asleep. After a while mom started cooking breakfast and Victor woke up shortly afterwards and we continued to copy stuff and see what was on tv. Mom then called us into the kitchen for breakfast and when my mother cooks, she cooks for an army. Biscuits, gravy, bacon, sausage, even country ham I think, hashbrows and eggs with two big glasses of milk. Well all got big plates of everything and slowly ate while chatting. Mom and I got a little bit more like we normally do, but Victor got an entire plate full yet again with another big glass of milk. Later mom asked me if he was starving, I told her that I didn't know. I don't know how often he got a good home cooked meal, especially breakfast. But mom being a mom, was quite proud to not only have someone over for breakfast but also have someone over for breakfast who loved it and probably could use the fellowship too.
Later that evening, he loaded up his car to head back down to his place in Birmingham. I never got around to seeing any of the places he lived in Birmingham nor did I get by his computer shop he had. That is one of my many regrets. I didn't get by to see him in the 'ham. I'm sorry man.
Labels: Czarmaybach, Panzer Williamson, PanzerMKZ, Steven Williamson, Victor Williamson