SGML: Memory of Yuri Rubinsky (1952-1996)

SGML: Memory of Yuri Rubinsky (1952-1996)

Article: 12437 of comp.text.sgml
From: (Chet Ensign)
Newsgroups: comp.text.sgml
Subject: Why I miss Yuri
Date: Sat, 03 Feb 1996 01:57:54 GMT
Organization: I-2000 Inc. - Internet Services
Message-ID: <4eu4gm$>

I would not be here if it were not for Yuri Rubinsky. 

In the fall of 1990, my company sent me down to a conference in
Philadelphia. Something called SGML was the focus and my manager
thought it might help us with some of our practical problems. Spending
time in the heart of a lovely city like Philadelphia was no terrible
chore and the hotel was within walking distance of the art museum
should things get too dull. 

I went to an event the day before the main conference, a short
introduction to SGML. It was held in a small, rather crowded, room on
the second floor and it was there that a witty, mischevious,
disarmingly charming and exceedingly energetic man explained the
Standard so clearly that it became more than just another computer
language . Yuri made SGML common sense. "Of course," you had to say by
the time he wrapped it up; "this makes perfect sense. Why doesn't the
world work this way already?" I never did go to the art museum. 

Yuri promoted the Standard tirelessly and he ran a company that gave
it form in products. A company that in many ways served as SGML's
commercial launch pad. But Yuri did something more subtle, something
that not just anybody can do and, as I learned so sadly and at yet so
gladly last weekend, did in many other places besides here: Yuri built
a community. 

Think of it. Are people passionate about RTF? Do people feel like PDF
is a home away from home? Do people corner their non-computer friends
at parties and evangelize them about the virtues of PostScript? No.
Doesn't happen. But it does with SGML. I can't speak for anyone else,
but I can tell you that I *do* feel like SGML is my home away from
home. When someone professes an interest in SGML, I immediately feel
closer to them, at home, feel like we share a special bond. Realize
that somebody just understood the word DOCTYPE and suddenly you are
not with a stranger, you are with a fellow countryman. Even those kids
down at the Cyber Cafe, getting wild and unruly on HTML, I feel like
they are part of the family. Too young and crazy to know it, of
course, but that's youth for you and it's part of my job as a grownup
to have some patience and teach them the paths of virtue. 

This community is Yuri's bequest. And it's our inheritance. 

Someone read me a quote from Teilhard de Chardin. "We are not humans
having a spiritual experience. We are spirits, having a human
experience." That is how I want to think of Yuri. As a spirit who had
an exceptional human experience and the whole time never quite forgot
that he was a spirit. 

It makes me sad to think of all the generations coming who will not
have the priviledge, the special priviledge, of being introduced to
this community or that by Yuri -- who will not share plane rides, or
long walks up and down hills, or transforming moments in crowded
meeting rooms on sunny afternoons or any of the other magical moments
I have heard described over the past weeks -- with this incredible
man. But they can have the priviledge of sharing some of his spirit
through this community. Even if his human presence is no longer among
us, his spirit has woven through us a lovely fabric that lives on. We
can wear it proudly and share it with those who are to come. 

With condolences to his family and all of his friends,