Unfinished Life of a Sushi Lover

In the last couple days since our beloved friend Dorneles died in a tragic car accident much has been said about him, both on and offline. Many people remember him from his technical prowess, though he never thought of himself as someone with exceptional programming skills. I know a lot of really brilliant people, both in the Python and Plone communities and elsewhere, people that Dorneles himself considered actual heroes, but if there’s one thing that made him stand out from the rest was his willingness to share knowledge and collaboratively solve problems.

The realization of that had a profound impact in my life. As programmers, technically minded people that we are, we tend to focus on ourselves and rarely share our knowledge, except to show it off at conferences here and there. We do it mostly to please our ego. Dorneles was nothing like that. He didn’t present at many conferences, though he was always there as either a participant or an organizer. He didn’t write lengthy blog posts full of technical details. In fact, he didn’t blog at all since 2007. He didn’t create brilliant frameworks. Instead, his contributions were mostly invisible, through IRC, IM or Skype, directly between him and the person seeking his help. It was very common for him to carry about five parallel conversations over IM, helping people all over the world without breaking a sweat. He would happily pull out his laptop or phone at a table in a blink to teach someone a trick. The endless stream of messages on twitter following his death should serve as proof that his way was much more effective in causing an impact in the world than a horde of highly skilled programmers ever could.

As other people well put it, Dorneles could never lose that smile on his face. Nothing could make him curse or complain. He was a mixture of cheerfulness, innocence, tranquility and awkwardness that would immediately conquer people’s hearts with no effort. He was like that young little brother that makes you blush at a family dinner for being excessively goofy, but that you love so much you would never reprehend.

To me and my wife, Dorneles was closer than family. My wife suffered more from his loss than for the loss of her lovely grandma, or from her uncle that died a slow death from brain cancer a couple years ago.

In retrospect, I can now see that he did treat me like an older brother, always eager to take on my advice. When he was alone in a big empty office in Caxias do Sul, following the break with the other partners at X3ng I told him to move to Garibaldi because we could rent a similar office for much cheaper. I suggested that he should reunite with his wife and two kids, which were living with her mom, and that raising them in Garibaldi would be much better for their education and overall quality of life. I said it would be nice if he had a car so that he didn’t need to call a cab at 3am when his kids were sick (he refused to buy a car for years, since he had cars stolen several times). At a time he was having trouble getting regular pay, I suggested he should work for Enfold. I told him to go to more conferences and sprints, so that he could put faces to the names on #plone. He was easily convinced. And all of these things had a great impact in his life.

I regret not spending as much time with him as I could in the last year. But many are the good memories that we’ve shared. Back in November 2009, when my backpack with laptop and cameras containing all the pictures from my vacation in New York got stolen on our first day in Houston he calmly told me: “Don’t worry, you can buy all those things again. They didn’t take from you the most precious thing: your life.”

I regret that he didn’t find the time to visit my 3mo old twins. But I’m glad that after my visit last Saturday, he went to visit his 2 weeks old nephew and his dad on the Sunday. I’m glad that we spent a good 2h last Saturday sitting around, chatting about the most diverse subjects while I was at his place waiting for the rain to stop.

Dorneles was a sushi lover. He once walked for tens of blocks in Houston on a cracking hot summer day just to eat sushi, and lived to tell the tale. That’s perhaps the most un-American thing he could do. The first thing we did when we met in Houston in November 2009 was to go out for sushi. When Nate came to Brazil, he took him out for sushi, and that’s perhaps the most un-Brazilian thing he could do. His love for sushi passed on to his kids. For several weeks I told my wife that we should invite his family out for sushi. We were waiting for the right occasion, and it never happened. In his memory, I think we should do it anyway.


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