the dunk… was? is?
i don’t even remember how i met duncan murphy… was it bmug (the berkeley macintosh users group)? the suse linux office that used to be near the grand lake theater in oakland?
we called duncan ‘the dunk’. he was brilliant, tortured, and lovable. he was first and foremost a geek… a very talented programmer who took me under his wing and let me learn by sitting at his side while he worked on websites for joe weider’s fitness online, the california medical association, and others.
the tortured part revealed itself over time. he was a perfectionist, and would quote a job at 100 hours… only to find himself further from the finish line at 400 hours than when he started; he would work all-nighters trying to catch up and deliver. he was overweight and had sleep apnea and other health issues. he had stacks of unopened bills on his desk and kitchen table, having apparently signed up for the ‘we’ve shut off your services… NOW will you pay your bill?!?’ plans with pg&e and the phone company. he didn’t answer the front door because it might be the irs… who he owed an amazingly large amount of money for not paying taxes for 10 years while living in new york (the irs eventually caught up with him, and cut a deal where he would pay an initial payment, followed by monthly payments until his obligation was paid off. his first check bounced, and dunk went back to not answering the door).
throughout, he was generous to a fault, and engendered tremendous loyalty in those of us lucky enough to know and work with him. he was a unique and brilliant guy who should have been working in a high-end think tank somewhere, with administrative assistants taking care of the mundane day-to-day stuff that caused him so much trouble.
he moved back to kentucky to live with his mom, and be closer to his brother, henry; i think his sister, susan, stayed in oakland.
not long after the move, duncan was in a horrible car accident and suffered major head trauma. his brother put up a blog (how duncan’s doing), which we all monitored from afar.
at some point, though, it seemed like dunk had pulled through… but then henry stopped updating the blog and responding to emails… dunkus interruptus. i recently created a facebook account for the sole purpose of sending duncan’s brother and sister emails inquiring about duncan… but got no response.
i owe the man a lot. he set me on my current course… give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime… he taught me how to think like a programmer, and how to feed myself as a webmaster.
is he alive? mostly alive? dead? don’t know… but i miss him, and wish i could check in with him.