about Carl

Carl J. Lydick was a computer {operator,manager,programmer?} for the GPS division of CalTech for several years. During that time, he constantly posted to the comp.os.vms newsgroup, answering many many questions. He was knowledgeable and very helpful. He would frequently write and post an entire program to demonstrate his point.

He was also a mean, vicious bastard who insisted upon verbally abusing --- with the stated intent of chasing such people away from the newsgroup --- anyone who posted incorrect material, or even asked questions without providing enough data for the question to be definitively answered. Such insults as "shit-for-brains", "incompetent", and "stupid asshole" were often thrown at any poster who didn't measure up to his standards.

Many comp.os.vms regulars tried, literally for years, to convince Carl that his actions were non-optimal, to no avail; Carl was absolutely convinced that his methods were as morally valid as his goal. As can be expected by those familiar with the nature of the net, other comp.os.vms regulars defended Carl's behavior, possibly because they enjoyed the abuse and resulting flamewars.

In the middle of May 1996, Carl posted an article which made me decide that I needed to do *something*. I thought it over for two weeks, during which time he again insulted new posters, which helped me choose a course of action: I wrote a two page letter and attached the entire thread, editing it only to the extent of removing meaningless headers and duplicated paragraphs. I made thirty-five copies and mailed one to each of his four superiors and thirty-one peers listed in the GPS web page.

No one from CalTech ever contacted me --- at least, not officially. I did receive two emails, one from a coworker and one from a "bystander", which verified that my letters had been received. It wasn't until June 28th that I received this unsolicited email from another "bystander":

. . . they fired him this past Monday . . . they disabled any accounts
he had on the XXXX machine here.  They didn't actually get around to
showing him the door until Monday because he didn't come in.  Apparently
they wanted to fire him in person.  When he came in on Monday, they took
him into a conference room while someone shut down his machine.

That was the last we saw of him.

No one in the vms newsgroup heard from or about him since then, either. And now he is reported to have died in his apartment on august 23.

I don't regret what I did, nor will I feel any guilt, even if someone could prove that my letter led directly to his death. I didn't want him to get fired or lose his net.access, let alone his life; I just wanted him to be more accepting of the limitations of others. But he wouldn't, and now he never will. If I had a wish to spend on him, I would wish that he had been more open about his health and his life, for our sakes if not for his own. It's not a little tragic that he ended this way.

(paragraph added 14 sep 1996)

As I expected, many people despise what I did and many people thanked me. {shrug} I don't take the former personally, and I don't use the latter to vindicate my actions; I merely remember what has been said.

A huge thread developed in the alt.callahans newsgroup, mostly under the subject of "plaque: r.i.p. speaker"; I've archived it here, unedited. Since it is almost 1.2 Mb, I've extracted the post in which I explained my reasons for what I did, and answered several questions asked by the alt.callahans patrons.