Leon's View of the Controversy

Below is a write-up of what happened during our club's recent controversy. It comes from a source I trust completely, and I believe every word in is based on the most solid evidence and sworn testimony of trusted witnesses. Just like the Salem witch trials I bet, har har.

In a time a long, long, month ago, there was once a Miata Club President called Larry who had a newspaper. And in that newspaper, he read that the State of Florida would be clamping down on inappropriate use of State owned computer resources, which is use not related to the affairs of the state.

This worried President Larry. He thought to himself: "What if our club web pages would be inappropriately hosted? The club's webmaster, (let's call him Leon,) is a Professor at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering! What if this webmaster is secretly ripping off the Forida State University for the physical and logical resources to run our web site? Under this State crack-down, we might lose our site!" And our worried president had great difficulty falling asleep, tossing and turning helplessly.

Happily, however, this unfortunate state of affairs did give President Larry the time to do some solid thinking. Mulling it over in bed, it occurred to him that he had only three options in this dilemma:

  1. He could ask the Webmaster Leon where the web site was being hosted, (at FSU or elsewhere) by calling him or sending him an e-mail. I suspect that Webmaster Leon would then have told him that the site was on hosted on Webmaster Leon's personal web site dommelen.net at Mindspring-Earthlink, at Webmaster Leon's personal expense, and to stop worrying so much. But I might be wrong, of course.
  2. If he did not trust Webmaster Leon, he could ask someone knowledgeable, (maybe someone at work or a friend,) to see where the web site was. Any remotely competent computer expert can do that in seconds. (For example, to see where the page you are now reading is located, right click anywhere in the page. Then in Netscape, select "View frame info", or in Internet Explorer, select "Properties." Note that the computer node it is on is called www.bigbendmiataclub.org, and then check its physical location using something like "nslookup www.bigbendmiataclub.org" or "tracert www.bigbendmiataclub.org" in a MS-DOS window. Or, if you have no clue what a "MS-DOS window" is, just go to samspade.org and find out every dirty little secret by simply typing the name in the boxes.) It could have been done discreetly, with Webmaster Leon none the wiser, if President Larry would have desired so. Which he did not, surely.
  3. President Larry could take up the issue at the next meeting, in order to discuss it publicly with other club members who would have no clue either about the website's location and ownership. Webmaster Leon had told him in an e-mail that he was driving Route 66 and would not be present, so there would be no danger of, say, Webmaster Leon diverting attention from his possibly unsavory practices, if any, or anybody being afraid to speak up about possible unsavory practices, if any, in fear of hurting Webmaster Leon's feelings. Also Webmaster Leon would not be there to confuse the issue with actual facts about the operation of the web site. In order to make absolutely sure of that latter important point, President Larry would refrain from e-mailing Webmaster Leon questions about the actual facts before the meeting.

Tossing and turning in his bed, our president thought and thought. And the more he thought, the more he started to like possibility three. It had several advantages: it was the last of the three, so it stuck better in his memory. It was the only one that would not try to deal with actual facts, so that it could lead to some good discussion over beers at the Buckhead Brewery the club liked to go. And so it was decided.

Our president was confident that the webmaster would not take it as a sign of lack of trust that the president did not simply ask the webmaster about the information. The way the president reasoned: "Hey, if the president of General Motors has concerns about sales, he or she would not consult with the vice president of sales! Come on! He would take it up with other vice presidents, at a meeting at which the vice president of sales was absent. And the vice president of sales will accept this and stay on as a motivated member of the company! Instead of switching to Ford the second he caught wind of it. And our webmaster is even less likely to bolt. After all, we do not pay our webmaster a penny for his work and for the costs of maintaining the site! So, his contributions are of no monetary value to us." You can see that the Miata club president was really a very sophisticated thinker.

And so it happened that the club president took up the issue of Webmaster Leon possibly hosting the club web site improperly at FSU at the one club meeting of the year at which Webmaster Leon was absent. And at this meeting he met the four other heros of this story. Let us call them President-Elect Paul, Brian the Treasurer, Stephen Who Would be Webmaster, and Roger the Founder. Some partners and new members were also present, but they have little to do with our story. We will let them enjoy their good food and brews in peace.

The other four heros entered the discussion with gusto! Since the club had no procedures about what could and could not be discussed at a meeting, there was no problem with club procedures in discussing the web page created, maintained, and personally paid for by Webmaster Leon in his absence. And they had a quorum of officers, even if not of members! No need for Webmaster Leon to be present at this at all! Club procedures were not violated. It may have been quite a relief for club president Larry that the other members present took this enlightened view.

Of course, like President Larry, the other four heros did not believe for a moment that absent Webmaster Leon was ripping off the state for the facilities to host the club site. Absolutely not! However, just in the impossible case that they were wrong, they developed a solution to this dilemma. The web site would be moved to the server owned by Stephen Who Would be Webmaster. How is that for good club management? A solution was developed for a problem that was not even possible. Imagine how secure the club is against problems that are actually possible. It is quite reassuring.

But the other four heros went well beyond president Larry's initial, already commendable efforts. "What", said one, "if the server disk crashes? Are there backups or will we lose all our web pages?!." Our five members were not very familiar with computer operations, you see, and did not know much about backing up files. Why else ask the question, not? Clearly the five did not believe for a moment that their webmaster, as well as the webmaster of the FAMU-FSU College's Mechanical Engineering page, as well as the director of a cutting edge, web-based online interactive Master's Degree program, with 30 years experience in computers, who has personally posted, and backed up, hundreds of videos of various types, each of a size well exceeding the total club web site, would be so infernally stupid as to not keep adequate back-ups. Which makes it even more commendable that they formulated a solution to this non-existing problem: Stephen Who Would be Webmaster would be helping Webmaster Leon with this delicate task.

This was pretty good progress for one meeting, you will agree. Solid solutions to nonexisting problems had been obtained by careful thought. After mutual praise by each of the five participants of the other four, and of absent Webmaster Leon, it was decided that one member, Stephen Who Would be Webmaster, would be informing Webmaster Leon of the conclusions reached. It was clear that Webmaster Leon, who had created the club web site and had always paid for it out of his own pocket, would be overjoyed to receive orders about web page decisions made in his absence, in a meeting in which the web page had not been announced as an agenda item. Stephen Who Would be Webmaster was allowed to bring webmaster Leon the joyous tidings.

Sadly an unfortunate thing happened at this time. Webmaster Leon did not receive the efforts of the five club members in as positive a spirit as a reasonable person would have expected. In fact he was positively icy in his response, going so far as to complain about the webpage being discussed in his absence, the implications that he might be a thief and an incompetent, and the gall of trying to order him around as a paid employee. This was quite ungratefull of someone our five heros allowed to be a Miata club member, you will agree.

Fortunately, the five stood tall for what was right. Their investigation concluded that the actual word thief had not been used in their meeting and that their discussion did not imply that Webmaster Leon was a thief for absolutely, positively sure. They decided that Webmaster Leon had an hostile attitude in complaining about being called a thief if the theft of resources was only discussed as a possibility and the word thief was not even explicitly used. And they were not going to take any hostile attitude from any members! Stephen Who Would be Webmaster and De Florio bravely led the charge. You will agree that the club is quite lucky to have officers such as these, who stand tall and will take no nonsense from members!

Stephen Who Would be Webmaster hid his justifyable annoyance at the ungrateful behavior of Webmaster Leon and decided to be the wiser party. Instead of addressing the issues of the meeting, which might produce controversy, he would magnanimously help Leon recognize certain shortcomings in his person unrelated to the web page issues. That was a kind thing to do from Stephen Who Would be Webmaster!

It is therefore with considerable pain that I have to tell you that Webmaster Leon did not show gratitude. He did not show any inclination to improve his miserable personality at all. There is a lot of sadness in this world, and webmaster Leon can be blamed for much of it.

Since Stephen Who Would be Webmaster initially did not want to indicate who was present in this open meeting and who was it that had first brought up the possibility of Webmaster Leon ripping of the state for the club web page resources, webmaster Leon took the discussion to the chat forum. This forum was set up to discuss club issues such as this, and involves about 8 to 10 people, mostly officers, who would be likely to have attended. Webmaster Leon possibly assumed that some people present would want to give a better explanation of what happened. He might even, in his depravity, have assumed that one or two might have wanted to apologize.

It is with great pleasure, therefore, that I can tell you that the five heros stood their grounds. They demanded that Leon apologize for his hostility. They did not plan to consider complaints about themselves that they considered hostile. This is the courage that makes a club great.

Webmaster Leon, not recognizing the severity of his hostility problem, announced that he had better things to do and considered the case closed despite the fact of not receiving an acknowledgement of any of the five superheros that mistakes were made. Webmaster Leon even had the gal to only apologize for maybe having been too critical of a relatively minor issue, instead of also for his hostility and the other things that were wrong with him.

Anyway, there the matter rested for a few weeks, until finally President-Elect Paul, looking for a good issue for discussion for his first club meeting as a president, returned to the matter. President-Elect Paul e-mailed Webmaster Leon and the other club officers that he would demand apologies from Webmaster Leon during the next meeting. He did not specify what Webmaster Leon would have to apologize for, which was pretty liberal of him if you think of it. President-Elect Paul added that he would resign if he did not get the apology from Webmaster Leon, which I think is very principled of him. Even though he later changed his mind about resigning because of other considerations he had.

However, the ungrateful webmaster Leon refused to apologize for the things he did! Here the club owes a great debt to Stephen Who Would be Webmaster for really standing up to this person. Stephen Who Would be Webmaster proposed that the club did not need Webmaster Leon nor Member Leon. Stephen Who Would be Webmaster would take over the web site. Thinking big, Stephen Who Would be Webmaster did not worry about the problem that the club has no procedures for getting rid of a member five of other members have a problem with, or of a webmaster elected into office. He stood for what he believed in.

And so it came to happen that I recognized that I and the other five come from different worlds, with very different ethics and logic. The other five are also the most active members now, and have to be given the chance to conduct the club according to their values. So I decided to get out. A club should be for fun, with people you like and respect.

Still, the previous two years, from when it started in June 2000, have been fun. I am proud of setting up the web page single handedly. No, I do not think that it was a special or unusual site, but it was a pleasant, fully operational, not messed-up one. And I have seen enough of them to know that this is rare for Miata club sites. Especially for a region as small as ours. I am letting the web page stay as it is to be able to look at it later as something I did.

And I met some great people in the two years too. You know who you are and thank you. As far as the quite considerable time I would otherwise have spend on updating the club web page, I will spend it instead in preparation of the 100th birthday party of my Miata, Bozo. I understand that the pictures of our 1999 trip to Alaska are eager to be posted. And some of our goodies would like a public hearing too.

Leon 7/22/2002

I and the five had a discussion of this issue at the July club meeting. Since I had already decided to get out, it did not do much more than clarify some facts. A report is here

For the really morbidly curious, the complete e-mail exchanges are here