Adam Nevins

By , January 3, 2014 12:29 am

Adam Nevins - with a look very similar to his "let me guess - the printer is not plugged in" look

Adam Nevins – with a look very similar to his “let me guess – the printer is not plugged in” look

I’m just going to brain dump here after learning about the death of a friend – Adam Nevins. Adam died June 16, 2013 and I just found out today by a random Google.

Here’s his obituary:

NEVINS, Adam S. Age 49, of S. Easton, unexpectedly on Sunday, June 16, 2013. Beloved son of James & Ann (Shifman) Nevins of S. Easton. Loving brother of Deborah & John Geswell and Todd Nevins, all of Mansfield. Cherished uncle of Gargi & Ketie. Graveside services at the Adath Jeshurun Cemetery, 350 Grove St., West Roxbury on Thursday, June 20 at 11:00am. Memorial observance following the service through 8pm at the home of James & Ann Nevins. In lieu of flowers, remembrances may be made to a charity of your choice . Levine Chapels, Brookline 617-277-8300 – See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/bostonglobe/obituary.aspx?pid=165380073#sthash.DgrRL2Xf.dpuf

Adam was one of the greats - technically and friendshippally

Adam was one of the greats – technically and friendshippally

On the obit pages are remembrances from family and close friends. They all knew about Adam’s death months ago and I did not. In my mind – and I think in his – we were very close. But not in the traditional way. We worked together for a long time. We liked and respected each other. Our relationship persisted long after our work interests were done – but we never really went to the next level of hanging out together beyond work.

I had invited Adam to numerous extra-work activities but he never came. I think he had a very full dance card of ancient friends and didn’t feel the need to go beyond that. But we were friends.

I first met Adam probably in 1994 at my company who shall remain nameless because it is not germane to this discussion. I had been working there for 10 years as an electronic technician. The field was drying up and I took the first tentative steps into software engineering by taking a C programming class. I saw a job posted at work for a “software technician” in software engineering(sweng) and applied for it. I expected that sweng would say “thanks but no thanks” since I had exactly zero skills. Against all odds I got the job but still had that teensy-eensy little problem of having no skills.

My job as software technician was basically to do System Administration (sys-admin) in a more timely fashion than our IT department was doing. The department was deep in the throes of moving from Apollo’s DomainOS to Sun’s Solaris and our under-funded IT department could not respond to the demand-du-hour in a way that was acceptable. So they hired me – a guy with zero sys-admin skills.

When I needed to do something, I would go begging to the door of IT or anyone who could help me — remember now that I knew nothing. My first memory of Adam was when I was asked to get a user account created for some new sweng person. I walked over to IT and got introduced to Adam. I sat over his shoulder and watched him type in a series of totally incomprehensible commands. He explained each one which was of little help since I didn’t speak techno-greek at the time. He printed out the entire command sequence – with output for me to peruse at my leisure.

Let me boil that paragraph down: Even though I was supposed to be doing the stuff that he was already doing – he went above and beyond to actually SHOW me how it was done rather than just doing it. Even though I had no hope of understanding it.

Some time later sweng purchased our first color printer. I asked IS to help me set it up and let things drag on longer than it should have. When I started bugging Adam more insistently – he got the message that I was under pressure from my boss to get this done. He dropped everything and showed me how to do it. Much of what he showed me later made its way into a script to set up new printers.

I spent many an hour sitting over Adam’s shoulder while he showed me the little-known magic commands that would eventually turn me into a pretty decent Sys-Admin. Eventually I got good enough that I could show him a few tricks. The years ticked by and we became peers with a very strong mutual respect.

That said – When I was starting in a brand new field with zero skills – Adam helped me survive and thrive. I would not be where I am today if he hadn’t helped me.

At some point Adam left the company – he could get frustrated pretty easily – and worked for a contract sys-admin company. During that time I advanced within the company and ended up hiring Adam to work for me. We did some great stuff in those years along with my buddy Dave. We brought Linux into the company and worked out the kinks. We developed a number of in-house apps with web/perl front-ends and MySQL backends. Whenever I needed a break, Adam and I would head outside for a smoke, talk bullshit, and often solve the problem that he and/or I was working on.

Adam had an incredibly keen intellect and was a funny bastard. He also had a bullshit threshold. He would make every effort to help you but if you dissed him and/or wouldn’t listen to him he would let you know it. At one point Adam quit on the spot when a former IT directory was not listening and was intent on having a one-way conversation. On the spot.

Adam was Jewish though I don’t think he practiced at the time I knew him well. I told you he was funny — once we were talking about religious education – probably the Jewish equivalent of Sunday school. He told me that he was supposed to go for some length of time but that he bargained with the school to go less. “I Jew’ed them down” he said with that Adam wit.

I just had a memory of sitting in a bar with Adam probably 15+ years ago. We were talking about race relations(black/white) and problems in the black community such as low income levels, incarceration rates, single-parent families and so on. I remember how compassionate Adam was and saying something like “All things being equal the black community wouldn’t have these problems without all the racism bullshit”. I’m paraphrasing there but that was the gist of it – and it affected me and my opinions on the subject.

I remember shortly after Jake was born in 1999. Adam and I had many many long conversations over the Internet using some command line utility – I think it was “Speak Freely”. He was home on his Linux machine and I was home on mine. It was Skype before skype. It was during this same time that he introduced me to VNC – a program for sharing desktops that I still use on a daily basis. We would chat/talk for hours via computer – sharing code snippets, talking geek, and just bullshitting.

Adam was a technical powerhouse. He could learn any skill in almost no time and be proficient at it. He was an absolutely crack Unix sys-admin. He was a great programmer. He picked up and excelled at databases and web programming. There was simply nothing he could not do — if he wanted to.

Another memory. After 911 and the Patriot Act passed I remember discussing it with Adam. He was adamant (and right as it turned out) that it would lead to an unprecendented loss of electronic privacy. He told me the NSA was hooking right into the backbone of major Internet providers and intercepting pretty much everything. That’s why the Snowden thing was no surprise to me.

Adam died on June 16th 2013 and I never knew it. My last email from him was on 10/04/2012.

I hope some of Adam’s family and friends find this someday and get some comfort —- maybe a glimpse into a part of Adam that I knew but maybe didn’t show up too often at the family dinner table or races.

I can’t believe Adam is gone and the “died unexpectently” is maddening in its vagueness. I guess it doesn’t really matter how he died – just that he did. Fuck, I wish that we could have another conversation and another laugh. I wish I could ask him WTF happened … Damn.

4 Responses to “Adam Nevins”

  1. Todd Nevins says:

    Thank you for sharing Mark.

    Your memories of Adam mean a lot to me.

    Thank you again for putting it into writing.

    Todd Nevins

  2. bumpkin says:

    You’re welcome Todd. I’m very sorry for your family’s loss. I had great affection and respect for Adam.

  3. Debbi Nevins-Geswell says:

    Hi I am Adams younger sister, Debbi. I cannot tell you what this means to me and my family. It is so nice to hear all of the things that Adam did to assist you through the years. He helped all of us in so many ways. I would say you knew him pretty well. We all loved him and miss him so very much.

    Thanks again
    Debbi Nevins-Geswell

  4. Ann L Nevins says:

    I too wish I knew WTF happened. Thank you for sharing.
    Adam’s mom

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