Archive for August, 2013


Monday, August 5th, 2013

I originally titled this post “Sad Serendipity” but it turns out that serendipity always relates to happy coincidences. “Zemblanity” was coined to represent the opposite.

I was reading through my Facebook wall and saw a post from a friend talking about Facebook’s “Other” folder.  I’d never heard of this folder so I opened the article and learned that Facebook directs messages to the “Other” folder when it determines that the message looks like spam. This folder can be accessed only through the browser interface (not the mobile app) so some users never find it.

The article went on to say that many users, having found “Other”, also found sad notices in the folder that were missed due to Facebook’s misclassification of the message. I immediately fired up my browser and looked in the folder. Sure enough, I had two messages. One was spam and the other – yes, a sad notice.

About a year and a half ago, Jeff Augenstein died at age 64 (see  An ex-colleague mine had sent me the link at the time, but I missed it, having been exiled to Other-ness.

More than anyone else, I credit Jeff (and his colleague, Ron Hosek) for my professional success.  Back in 1975, when I was 15 and attending Miami High School, I participated in the “Lab Research” program. This was a program for kids accelerated in math and science that gave them high-school credit while working for a scientist.  Jeff was my “scientist.”

Actually, Jeff was a surgical resident at Jackson Memorial Hospital. He and Ron were also very interested in “microcomputers” and their use in science and the medical industry.  My work for Jeff consisted of learning programming on a Scelbi 8H (one of the first kit computers) and writing code to automate a research project.

Later, Jeff and Ron became interested in hospital automation and bought two of the earliest Altair computers that had just come to market. I led a team of high-school kids writing code in BASIC to serve as a prototype for what they wanted to build.  This was my first leadership role and it laid the foundation for all the work that would follow in my career.

Although I consider myself a pretty good computer guy, I am a very bad friend. I am one of those Meyers-Briggs INT/J guys who seems like an extrovert but is content to be alone (as I am now, spending the weekend in the mountains while Sally travels). As a result, I’ve let many friends slip away due to negligence.

After I went off to college, I did not keep in touch with Jeff and Ron.  I still exchange Christmas cards with another team member but haven’t seen him in over 20 years. As I said, I am a bad friend.

So, today, I read about Jeff and what a wonderful, admired, man he was. I wasn’t aware of his accomplishments. I remembered his wife, Debbie, mentioned in the obituary.  They had been married 36 years.

I tried to find Ron about a year ago. I sent him a Facebook message (at least, I think it was the right Hosek).  It’s probably sitting in his Other folder.