Friday, June 23, 2006

Random collisions

It’s strange, but back in the early ‘90s when I was a student at QMW if someone had pointed out to me the people I would consider friends in 2005, I probably would have been quite surprised.

I arrived at QMW in 1990, from small town Scotland, to do an MSc in the computer science department and my first memory of Rabin is of an enigmatic figure bobbing about in the labs in the ITL building wearing a fedora. I got to know that he was one of the notorious "ACE" lab people, a scary bunch interested in the details of computer graphics. As time went on and I became more of a fixture in the department myself, I joined in on some of the "departmental walks". It turned out that Rabin went on these too and I began to get to know him a bit better. He became known as "Teflon man" as no matter what state the rest of us were in, Rabin never had a speck of dirt on him. I also came to know that he drove very, very fast! Walks led to cycles and Rabin took part in these too…thrashing around the backroads of Kent.

Then there were the numerous evenings spent in the luxurious SCR bar, talking total rubbish…well, some of us talked rubbish, I don’t think Rabin ever did. It was there that I began to find out about Rabin’s incredible depth and breadth of knowledge. He could bring a drunken debate to a halt with one incisive statement of fact. I also began to find out that Rabin loved food, another common interest. He became renowned for ordering the weirdest thing on the menu…and actually eating it (and usually insisting that everyone else did too).

Anyway, we all left QMW (eventually) to do our various things. However, we still met up fairly frequently for beer and food and more drunken debate, we still do. For some reason I still hang on to the last email I have from Rabin suggesting a night out...

The last time I saw Rabin was in my own home, he was telling us that our imported Japanese beer wasn’t actually brewed there. Although it said "brewed in the Czech Republic" on the bottle, I’m pretty sure Rabin could really tell just from the taste.

I never heard Rabin say a word in anger, he could be animated, frustrated maybe, but never angry. His dry wit was also legendary as were his kindness and generosity. I wouldn’t claim that I knew him well, there were aspects of him that I really still know nothing about…his opinions on religion or politics for instance. However, I was always finding out more about him, what he was into, discovering common interests along the way. I would've enjoyed finding out more.

Perhaps the most amazing thing I’ve found out about him is that he and I share a birthday.

I miss him but I’m really glad that our worlds collided.