Working with Jos
Impromptu on August 26, 1999
a transcript of the video

Steve K r o l l

My first Jos story has to do with his environmental outlook when it came to really all things, but specifically how it manifested itself with the plastic eating utensils used in the WebTV cafe.

While the rest of the employees would throw away their plastic forks and knives with each meal, Jos would carefully clean his and place them in a Ziploc bag for safe keeping until his next meal. I happened to be eating with him the day the knife finally gave out. While sawing through a particularly tough hunk of something or other, it snapped in half. The look on Jos' face can only be defined as incredulous. He was crestfallen, but true to Jos' nature, not defeated. He grabbed the half knife, (the sharper half naturally) and continued to fight to cut his food.

I do recall he did throw the broken half away after the meal but the point was made. Jos got a few months use out of one plastic knife, keeping the landfills of the earth just that much less abused.

I'm going to start to cry in a minute.

The other story -- this is real simple: Camilo and Jos used to bush their teeth there everyday. We practically lived there all the time, sleeping on the floors. Camilo and Jos carried their toothbrushes all around. Jos came back to the desk with a brand new toothpaste. It was Tom's-of-Maine toothpaste cinammon. He came in with this look on his face and he said,

"Man! this is one ANGRY toothpaste."

Mark A r m s t r o n g

The escalations job in Service Quality Engineering (SQE) is one that is really hard because you get all these problems and everyone that can help you is really, really busy. A lot of those people are here today. They are here because they came to know Jos as he came and knocked on their door to ask for help... or to ask for clarification... or for some technical understanding.

He was just incredible in the way that he could do that. He could go up to anyone and he could get them to help him understand a problem and he could get them enthusiastic about helping him understand the customer issue so that the problem could be solved. I think everyone here had him come to them at some point and say,

"Look at this thing. How do we solve this thing?"
Whatever it took, Jos would do it. He'd lick your bald head... he'd give you a back rub.... That was one of the things that was really special about Jos. He just had a way of making everyone feel really good about what they were doing. When I think of Service Quality Engineering, I think of him as the ideal person. He just got everyone engaged and made them feel good about it.

Kieca M

One thing that I know he was really good at when I worked at SQE. He was learning all this technical stuff, everywhere, all over the place. Because he was doing a little bit of everything whatever came down the road.

He was always really good about turning something into an analogy so that even if you didn't know the technical end of it, even if you didn't know what was going on, it would make sense to you. He would compare it to something you knew. There was one time where our box was going to a site, and there was all this Javascript on it, and DHTML and SSL. Our box just freaked out. We didn't know what was going on; he even admitted it.

"I don't really know what is going on yet, but it's like this: you get home from school; your mom wants you to clean your room; your dad wants you to cut the lawn; your dog wants to go for a walk, and you are still trying to open your bag of Cheetos. That's kind of what's happening to our box right now."
Later I wasn't as close to him. He wrote a lot of stuff for developer that I found on-line. He worked as a web engineer, webmaster, from Sept 98 till February, and since then he just started doing writing, not worrying about the web site. In the beginning he did a little bit of everything. He wanted to focus more on the actual writing. I have a list of articles he wrote. He wrote a ton of them.

Heather K

I worked with Jos on Every day we'd have lots of emails, 30-40 emails back and forth. We'd banter back and forth all day long. I think his business card, even though it's unofficial, is the best description of what he did here. He was a migrant worker. He went everywhere and he could do everything. The wonderful thing about him is that I'd feel,
Oh Jos! Oh my God! Look at this portion of the site! We've got to do something about it!
He'd be able to write something even if he didn't understand it. He would just investigate it, and we would just get it done.

One of Diane's favorite stories -- he was working on a tool, it was called the Color Picker. He was doing a new version of it with some new Javascript that he had just learned and he was so excited about it. It would make it work a little bit better, faster. I believe his father Jon helped him on it. One day he was having a really tough time with it, kind of pulling his hair out. Then he'd just chill out, come back tomorrow, come back the next day.

So he came back the next day. Of course it was early in the morning.

Are we going to have fun today? Ahhha. [belly laughter] You know. I've been thinking, you know I think you're right.

What's that?

I think I am just menstrual.

So I said, "Hey, just great, have some chocolate. What can I get you?"

He was able to wake up that day and know just the perfect solution, and know how to work around it. That was one of the funny stories, just one of them.

The whole team had a great time working with him, just [with me?] on corporate web site

Oh my gosh! What are we going to do! So you and me, we'll work on it together. Enter it into BugFlash.
He was great. He was a jack-of-all-trades. He will be greatly missed.

Archie C a m p b e l l

Speaking with Jos was always an exceptional experience, because he actually shone the full beam of his attention on you. He did three things that are rare.

  1. He listened to what you said.
  2. He cared about it.
  3. He asked questions that reflected his interest.
Good God, this behavior could be unsettling. At a party he met my wife, and her reaction to his attention was an example. For about fifteen minutes, Jos honed in on my wife like Barbara Walters on crack. He wanted to know everything about her that could reasonably, or even unreasonably, be collected. After this short, intense interview, my wife sought me out. Her question of me sums up the problem with Jos's Attention:
"Why does he want to know all this?"
This is the question I'm left with. It's very simple: Jos was interested in other people. Not because he wanted to exploit them, humiliate them, intellectually overpower them, or make himself look good by feigning interest. He was just interested. And since his intellectual faculties were such that his attention was accompanied by a penetrating curiosity, his attention could be difficult to handle.

I miss it. No one makes what I say seem as important as Jos did. He is such a lively presence in my memories that I miss him as I miss my friends back in Arizona. Honest to God, I always expect to see him whenever I'm walking through downtown Palo Alto. A big part of me refuses to believe I won't.

Don L o u v

Jos had just come and joined us in the QA team. As a long-time member of the QA team he came to me for advice. He asked, "Would it be appropriate if I brought a massage table to my cubicle?" because he loved giving back rubs. "Come by my cube. Get a massage. Get a back rub."

"Well no Jos, it's a work environment, you really shouldn't." but he really wanted to. It was that kind of giving that was really amazing about Jos.

Kieca M

After February he stayed in the developer group, but he focused more on the writing than anything else. He was just interested in so much. That's the thing I always remember.

Matt was telling me what his one memory of Jos was. We all went up to the Christmas party in SF. It was at the time of Monica Lewinsky and I remember so many car rides with Jos going on about President Clinton, and the Lewinsky trial. Matt just remembers Jos laying on the bed for hours talking about that, the Drudge Report. He just knew so much about it.

I couldn't believe it. I couldn't remember what was going on at work, let alone remember all the details of the Monica Lewinsky trial. He was just amazing like that. Then he'd turn around and tell you about massage technique in the next breath. I thought like, whooa.... So that's the history.

Emily, I know you sat on the orange couch.

Emily W

I want to read the article for ClubWebTV newsletter that I wrote but first I want to share one more thing.

Webscissors, we claim we don't support it. It is a translator he created which allows users to type in the address of a web site they like, and it let's users rip off all the pictures there. Of dubious legality maybe, but it's great, and it is something they love.

I was writing instructions for it, and I had a couple questions. So I emailed Jos and he emailed back, and he added, "as a bonus, here are the 200 most popular sites that have been webscissored from, to distill these down to wrestling, porn, and right-wing Christian sites" [More about webscissors.] I kind of feel sleazy now for helping them better understand this tool.

This is the article for ClubWebTV newsletter that I wrote. It is shorter than I would have liked to make it, but we are limited in space -- I could go on forever -- so I didn't.

I started writing this on the train the other day and it had a somber tone and then I stopped for a moment; and suddenly I had a vision of Jos towering above me looking down at me and shaking his head and saying,

"Wilska, what are you doing?"

It is a little more light hearted now. [Emily reads her article.] Thanks for everything Jos, you will be missed.

Robert S t o n e s

I used to eat lunch with Jos just about every day. I miss him a lot. One of the things he did for me was help me realize how important it is to give to other people. Early on when I hadn't known him very long he said, "Why don't we go down and give blood?"

I had what I thought was a good enough excuse not to give blood that day. The next time the Stanford people came around he asked me again. I went with him.

I often wondered, besides the good reasons for giving blood, saving lives and such, I thought, "why does he do it, for the cookies, for the juices? No, I think he just likes talking to the nurses."

The last time we gave blood together he was lying on his table and I am lying on mine and I guess I wasn't bleeding fast enough because the nurse comes over and says to me, "Squeeze your hand a little". So Jos says to me,

"Oh come on Stonesy! You can bleed a little faster than that."
and so we laid there together, and we bled there together, and I'm going to keep going back, and it is going to be for Jos.

Heather K

The entire WebTV family will never forget Jos. He is larger than life. As a way for us all to remember, and to have him in our life every single day here at WebTV, we have a tree that we want to present to the family. That tree is actually outside this door. We are calling it the Toessel tree. It will be replanted here on our campus. It will have a plaque.

Hopefully all of us will be out there either reading, or just having lunch, or just visiting.

So that is our way of saying that he will always be here; and he will never be forgotten. So we invite you to look at it outside.

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