The day I met Mike Godwin

The day I met Mike Godwin

By Richard Sexton

I got an invitation to speak at the 2000 CFP (Computers, Freedom and Privacy) conference in Toronto; the reception the night before was held in a seedy pool hall downtown which I thought was appropriate and consistent with the hangout of choice of the Unix geeks and dweebs of Tronno. I knew they had a hand in this choice someplace.

Now, since this was right round the corner of my ne'er do well friend Tom Evans, and pool halls, especially seedy ones were more his element I figured he might want to meet some of the bigger net.heros, like, you know, me - and people almost as interesting.

I knew John Gilmore would be there; I'd met him the summer before in Geneva at an IFWP conference and he'd shown up in a sarong. And it was sarong on so many levels, never mind John does actually have the legs for this.

Tom and I showed up around 9 or so. It didn't even look full and didn't look particularly geeky any more than it usually did. After being in there for about 12 seconds and 7 feet inside the door Tom exclaims rather loudly "Jesus what is that STINK?!?" and I go "what?" which elicits the response: "You know that stressed out hippy programmer stress sweat stink - it's THIS guy" and points to fellow 5 feet from me back facing, holding a pool cue who now turns around says hello and I introduce John Gilmore to Tom and vice versa while dying a little bit inside.

It was odd, as John and I had always been on the opposite side of the DNS debate while agreeing, oddly, on the same endpoint. That's the net for you.

We didn't stay long at the bar. It just wasn't interesting. Maybe if people had begun a DNS flame war in the bar if might have perked up but about two hours was about all Tom or I could take, he walked home and I drove to my hotel, arranged for by CFP. I was the pro from dover and only had to show up. I travel lite and purposely didn't bring a credit card. I've been suckered before, if they claim they're paying all expenses I take them at their word.

I show up, ask to check in and they want a credit card. Why? I'm not paying for the room, CFP is. I'd noticed when I got asked to speak "all expenses paid" sometimes all expenses weren't paid; I was determined not to be out of pocket again. To cut a long story short in the end I say I'm the pro from dover and if they want to explain to CFP their speaker went home because the hotel pissed him off then go ahead and keep doing this otherwise show me my room. I was shown to my room. Fucking kids.

There was a breakfast meeting with all 4 or 5 speakers so at the ungodly hour of 8 am or something equally horrible I met the other speakers in the hotel restaurant. Mike Froomkin was chairing it and I remember Karl Aurbach and I think Milton Mueller was there. Serious old time California net heads and university professors.

Froomkin asked if we all had notes for our morning speeches which we had to present in about an hour and a half from now. Notes? Voss iss mit der notes? When everybody had finished going over their notes with Mike he looked at me and asked me where my notes were. "Notes? I thought I'd just star and end with a joke, cover some dns history and suggest what we do next. Ok?" Professor Froomkin was utterly horrified and dropped his jaw. He looked like somebody had beamed a dead rat into his mouth.

But, he went along. Why not? I was the pro from Dover. "No need to panic. I'll just lash together a few raw facts, a little bit of old Negro wisdom, and this nightmare is over." - Hunter S. Thompson.

I forgot what jokes I told but they were right snappy ones I can assure you and had the whole crowd in stitches. Well at least that's how I remember it, God knows what really happened. I did see John Gilmore at one point. He laughed at my jokes and nodded his head in the right places in my DNS recommendations talk -the bit about we don't want the government owning the root servers, we were afraid they'd get stagnated - frozen in a political quagmire and sure enough they did. Nyah nyah, told ya so, maggots. At the end when all of us had finished talking the crowd applauded and then all came up to the podium to talk to us, but it was more like talk to me. There was a massive throng of people huddling around me. Huh? The other guys just glared at me. I had no friggin clue who all these people were and this thing had suddenly changed from hoping to see John Gilmore again and to meet Godwin, to a "Jesus where are the exits" mob scene and trying to find Godwin was the last thing on my mind. I was kinda embarrassed actually as all I'd done is tell a couple of good jokes and the other guys had like, you know, PhD's and shit and were just kinda sitting there watching all these people mob me. I was polite, then left.

Godwin found me and I started walking away from the crowd with him - I recognized an escape when I saw it and we talked about old times on a mailing list we were still on and I continued to poke fun at his outright theft of my Nazi thing now known as "Godwin's (sic) law".

He explained again I'd just invented it, he'd named and it was his law. And he explained he'd written a book about it to make sure it stayed that way. The words he used were "Actually that's why I wrote the book, so my name was on it". Fucking lawyers.

Richard Sexton, 2013

(Actually Mike's a good friend. Lots of my friends are total dicks.)