The Hillman Papers #1

Fact is, probably the vast majority of my friends and acquaintances probably don’t even know my phone number. Or address. Or where the hell I’ve disappeared to. To my way of thinking, that’s not really so bad. I’ve simply learned how easy it is to disappear of the face of the planet.

Of course, I never really disappeared. I just disappeared from the World Wide Web. Although, that’s not really something entirely possible to do. If you’re on the web, you’re out there. In the funniest and most curious ways. As I sent my students on an exercise this fall, I had them try to find out about me on the web. All in all, it was a rather telling moment. Or collection of moments.

They found pictures of me that I never knew were there. They were stunned to see me without a beard. I’m still stunned to see me with one. So it goes. They discovered that my advocacy of Mac’s in the workplace amount to my fifteen minutes of fame. Jeez. Write around a hundred articles for MacCentral, and discover that you’re most famous for telling people how to get their bosses to use Macs. All when you now work in a place where Macs are simply a dream. I couldn’t get my school to change over to Macs unless I had about a half a million dollars to throw around. Seeing as that’s impossible, Windows it is. Ironic. Yes Sparky.

So let’s get up to date. Since my self-imposed hiatus, chances are that a stack of you who have forgotten I ever existed. That’s not a bad thing. Odds are a lot of you don’t know who I am to begin with.

Chances also are that at least one columnist is ticked that I’ve even sat down at a computer again to write. After all, this guy actually had enough gumption to tell one site publisher not to hire me out of simple…well, I don’t know- I never could figure out what it was that could tick off an individual enough to try and take money out of someone else’s pocket. Oh, and if you happen to be wondering if this is about you (actually Sparky, I don’t think wonder is in your vocabularly,) check out Carly Simon mid 70’s. That’s my answer.

At any rate, I’m back. Why? It’s time. Time to write for writing’s sake. Call it practice, call it rediscovery, call it whatever you like. It’s time to write. Now for the essential question. What is there to write about? Arguably, there is more to write about at this point than has existed for a long, long time. Hell, we are at war (albeit a strange war). That makes more than enough reason. The topics though, are going to be a little more than challenging. In the first place, I am no longer the prototypical Mac user. As a function of my new job (Chairman of the Computer Science Department at The Prout School in Wakefield, RI) I am alive and living on the Wintel platform. That is not to say that the Macs are gone. My son Spencer still sits next to me driving an iMac. Still, there is little chance that we will be throwing much business toward Apple in the immediate future. College is a couple of years away though, and I am sure that there will be a PowerBook in the future.

Let’s finish the “bringing up-to-date” stuff though. Hillman lives in Rhode Island now- it was always my home. Even when we were on the road, RI never lost its quality (although some would say that quality and Rhode Island in the same phrase are oxymoronic.) If you grow up somewhere, no matter how far you go, the place is always there, inviting and ready to welcome you. Now in my case, that welcome included selling one house, buying another, four traffic tickets, a brief love affair with an Ô89 Saab 900 Turbo, a developing affection for a KIA, two dead cats, and an intense encounter with the once abandoned habit of smoking. There’s more, but we’ve only a little time together. Let’s just say that my wife put it best when she described me as the poster child for mid-life crisis.

Now, with Christmas right around the corner, I’m working at Prout, teaching acting for the John Casablancas Modeling Center, and playing guitar on open mike nights at my local pub. Fiddler’s Green. I’m the acoustic guy squeezed in between the death metal bands. Life has become, well, different.

Now though, I’m ready to write again, and Tim was kind enough to give me some space in which to amble about once more. And this time, it is an avocation only. Once upon a time I learned that the best work comes from a sense of avocation. That teacher was right I hope.

There’s one other avocation that I would like to let you in on though. Of all things, this is the one that has dominated my time recently, taught me the most lessons, and become ultimately the most difficult thing I’ve ever done because it’s not defined by its ease of execution. This one has taken time, money, and undying devotion, both from me and the young people that are working with me. What’s more, the project only exists because a few people had the time to see in the midst of a dark, dark cloud.

Here’s the deal. By now, you’ve probably seen sites selling memorial bracelets for victims of the September 11 attacks. I certainly have. I’ve been looking.

I’ve been building too. Together with my sons, and a few dedicated students from Prout, we’ve put together a small non-profit organization that will distribute memorial bracelets to those who donate fifteen dollars or more to our corporation, called RIVOT. It’s a simple acronym- Remember Innocent Victims of Terrorism. Our goal is far less simple. Our intent is to develop an endowment that will supply money that children and teachers around the world can use to develop a greater awareness of the incredible need for tolerance in this world. September 11 was an enormous moment of intolerance- evil perpetrated on innocent people. RIVOT lives with the altogether realistic belief that we can, in some way, save a life or two somewhere along the way, through education and acceptance.

Of course, in a marketplace crowded with individuals selling product after product, RIVOT faces a unique challenge. How do we find the people who will give to our cause when so much has already been asked? Luckily, we’ve already been the recipients of nearly three thousand dollars in gifts from private and corporate donors. That’s allowed us to get started on our first run of bracelets, and to take the time to truly define our mission.

That redefinition has been the most important time for us. The Board of Directors realized early on that terrorism didn’t happen merely on September 11, and that far too many terrorist acts have gone unremembered. Ireland is scattered with bodies. Lebanon too. Jerusalem, Kosovo, Birminham- the list goes on. The defining moment came when one friend asked if we included someone like Matthew Shepherd in our definition of terrorism. Without hesitation, the answer was a resounding yes. As a result, our mission, and our goals, will expand and shift to remember the people that need to be remembered. Those who donate to RIVOT don’t merely receive a bracelet. They become members of an organization with an undefined, but purposeful future. I hope, indeed our entire youthful board hopes, that you will become a part of RIVOT’s mission.

We are still developing (the first bracelets are currently in production) but we’re hopeful that you might check in with us until such a time as we can take online donations, and ship out your token of membership in RIVOT with haste. Check, and check back again until we can provide our full range of services.

Now, after my public service announcement, I’ll get onto what you can expect me to write about in the coming months. At risk of scaring Tim Robertson to death, I’ll put it this way. Expect the unexpected. I’m beyond the age where I consider too much sacred anymore, and the recent developments in the world of technology have my mind abuzz, particularly when I consider that I now actually have the responsibility of disseminating knowledge about computers to others. With that responsibility comes the natural thing that every teacher has- opinions and unshakeable beliefs. It’s time to rock and roll.

To my old friends and readers that lost track of me- thanks for waiting. To those who wished I had gone away? Your worst nightmare is back. Vigorously. Damn. It feels good. Time for a ride y’all. Time for a ride.

Dr. Tim Hillman

Leave a Reply