remembering John Hunter (1968-2012)

John Hunter, the author of matplotlib, passed away on August 28th, 2012. He will be dearly missed.

Please donate to the John Hunter Memorial Fund. A giant in our community, John lead by example and gave us all so much. This is one small way we can give back to his family.

what follows are excerpts from my paper journal over the past week:

John Hunter passed away this morning,
Oh my god. John Hunter was incredibly
kind and warm -- I can't believe he bought
me this laptop. I can't believe that such
a wonderful man could be dead -- so suddenly.

    What a tremendous loss.

Dear Merlin,
    John Hunter died yesterday --
getting unstuck. It is entirely appropriate
to be stuck -- to feel it, smell it, taste it
feel it drilling though your head

I keep pacing around the house.
I just need to leave.
My thoughts are with John's
family. & with the folks in Louisiana.

    A rat in a maze --
panicked -- & the water
level rises still. escalates.

    Our loss of John makes me
want to code furiously.

I feel the urge to code furiously,
but only have the capacity to tweet about
it, and lack thereof to censor myself.

I don't believe I'm losing
my mind. I believe I never had
one to begin with.
  I'm not losing my mind. I never
  had one to begin with.
  I'm not losing my mind.
  That would imply I had one
  to begin with.
Left the house without shoes --
waiting for my laptop to charge.

  I want to share this with the
  group -- so I can come to
terms with it myself. forgive myself.

  Connection with a stranger -- can be a form of escape.
but it can help you gain perspective on
your own life. I think it has for
  I am a severely broken
person. Ok. Time to get shoes,
shower, & then go to try &
talk w/ Greg Wilson.

I must be mistaken. Maybe I was.
Who's to say that I wasn't.

The scientific python community lost one
of it's giants this week, and
I lost an important mentor.

Remembering John Hunter (JDH)

    People keep dying. I don't know
how to deal with that -- I feel like
I never really processed dedushka's death --
nor Ken Green's, nor Jessi Debaca's,
nor babushka's

... I lost another mentor. Most of
these people (all?) don't know that they
were mentors to me -- but they were.
I looked up to John -- I secretly
wanted to please him -- but did not
even dare to do so directly (I
have Fernando Perez to thank for getting
my first contribution into Matplotlib.

I remember feeling really bad after my first
sprints at SciPy 2009 -- John actually
knew who I was -- and wanted me
to work on some matplotlib stuff --
  I ended up doing some rote work with
David Warde Farley (and felt kind
of like a third wheel - since dwf
(pronounced "dwoof" - did I get
that right, David?) is more than
capable as a command-line
cowboy (David doesn't know this --
but I learned a great deal from
just sitting next to him and watching
him string together standard unix
tools, pipe-after-pipe -- to clean
up some scipy wiki content, to
try and export it to a new site.
David's also a role model in other ways --
he's very calm and collected (unless
he senses you've pushed the bozo button from
some punditry vending machine - instead of
understanding and engaging with the full complexity of some
social or political issue)

    John was extremely kind and understanding -- 
he wanted to invite & welcome me to
code alongside other matplotlib developers,
but there was no expectation.

  I got to hang out with John the 
most at the PyData conference in
Mountain View in late February. He was
giving a matplotlib talk, and was seeking
feedback on what to talk about --
& how to do it. He's warm -- and always
had this kind smile about him.

    After hanging out with John at PyData --
this email arrived in my inbox

Hey Paul, It was great seeing you again at pydata, and thanks for your help during the talk. We’ve decided that you could be a lot more productive in all your efforts to help ipython, mpl and others if you had a shiny new laptop, so I want to buy you one out of the mpl donations fund. If you spec out the machine you want and send me a link and details, and your preferred shipping address, I’ll order it for you and have it shipped to you. Pick a machine good enough that you can rely on it for a few years, because it looks like you get good use from these things! In other words, don’t feel compelled to be frugal on our behalf.  JDH

Fernnado knew about the email -- & I was at
a barbecue at his house -- to sort of
celebrate an awesome week of lots of
Python Giants in from out of town.
  Fernando was giddy -- "Have
you checked your email?" -- with a
twinkle in his eye "Let's go have you
check your email right now" -- & he
walked over to turn on his desktop machine.

    On the mailing lists -- I always tried to
emulate John's approach -- helping everyone
even if in the slightest manner.

I was offered commit rights sort
of out of the blue -- after sending
a couple of pull requests.

    We are a community.
We need to remember John, & keep
remembering John -- for many, many,
many years to come.

I feel the urge to reach
out to everyone I know & don't know.
I'm desperate -- i think I've been that
way since I was a little kid -- I
remember having the same feelings when
we were leaving Moscow -- a ten-year old,
talking to friends and my teachers,
many for the very last time.

I am posting this, but it isn't finished.

This is broken, half-finished, confused,
necessarily so -- because there is no way
to mend what we have lost. This
is an expression of my current state --
and if I don't let this out, it will just
keep ricocheting around in my head for years
to come.

    This is a first pass. This is me
grieving. This will never be enough. This
is just a start.

videos of John Hunter's talks:

matplotlib: Lessons from middle age. (Scipy 2012)

Advanced Matplotlib Tutorial (PyData)

SciPy 2009 - Advanced tutorial 3: Advanced topics in matplotlib

(beginning) SampleDoc

Scipy '09 Panel on Visualization tools

Scipy '02 Core Projects update

NIPS Workshop on Machine Learning Open Source Software (MLOSS)

Fernando Perez and John Hunter

Sept 2009: "some fun stories like 'Jeez, you guys have some crazy examples. I am surprised there isn't dolphins swimming around inside a sphere.' So now there is."