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When MCC, the research consortium in Austin, Texas, invited me to
teach a class in Emacs Lisp programming, I sent them the following
message (well, yes, I have tightened it up a little):

I have to warn you that Texans have been known to have an adverse reaction
to my personality.

A few years ago I went to Texas Instruments to teach courses on how
the Lisp machine software works.  At lunch on the second day, the boss
of the group came to me, chatted for a while in a way that seemed
strangely aimless, and then told me that a design review of the entire
project had been scheduled for the following day.  "No one will be
able to come to your classes."

"Well, I had better work out now which topics are the most important
to cover today."

"It's worse than that.  No one will be available to take you to the
airport either, so we have to switch your flight to this afternoon."
My dismay was quieted with a check larger than I had expected for the
time originally planned.

The next week I phoned to arrange my next visit.  Before my trip, they
had already been eager for more lectures later.  Having missed part of
the first series, they would naturally want them sooner than planned.
But the the boss said that he would have to think about it.

"What's the matter?  Did the design review cancel the project?"

"No, the project is still on, but as things stand now I'm not sure
when we would have time for you."

I thought about this, and the unexpected size of the check.  "I think
that you have some other reason, that you aren't telling me, why
you don't want to do business with me.  Were my lectures unsatisfactory?"

"No, your lectures were good.  It was the people who had dinner with
you.  Both evenings they were very uncomfortable with you.  They said
they didn't want to have you around any more."

"Uncomfortable?  But they didn't say so.  Did they say why?"

"One of them said he was upset when you talked about nasal sex with
plants."  I had actually demonstrated this perverse act with the
bouquet on the table, at dinner the night before.  The plants were
actually dead, but well preserved.  Rhinophytonecrophilia!

That was the end of the conversation, but I never forgot that the
worst bunch of cowards I ever met were Texans.  I can just imagine them:
"Chief, you gotta get that guy away from here!  All his crazy
ideas are making my head feel strange.  Is he a hippy?"

I have a suspicion that I didn't put them any more at ease when I
started the first lecture by leading everyone in a Bulgarian folk
dance.  Perhaps this raised questions in their minds about my
affiliation with foreign powers.

I have another suspicion.  It's hard for me to believe even a Texan
would be that worried about preserving the innocence of plants.
Perhaps his pious concern was yet another front.  But for what?
Alas, in the study of alien civilizations, we find many clues but
few answers.

And a response:

I read with great amusement (and regret) the letter provided
by Stallman concerning his experiences with Texans.  I worked on the
Explorer project before comming to MCC, and was honored to be among his
dinner companions on the night of the infamous "plant incident".  We ate
at the Crazy Crab in Dallas and I can say that the only things I found
offensive about the entire evening were the stupid names given to the
dinners on the menu.  Mine was not the opionion of the majority.

There were certain people at TI who were excited about the chance to
talk with a truly legendary Lisp machine expert and were anxious to
learn.  Others had decided that they knew enough already and what do we
need to hire consultants for 'cause I can figure out this machine and
those MIT guys can't walk on water and I don't care who he is, I'm not
gonna be impressed and . . . well, you get the idea. 

The plant incident which I found rather humorous, provided a reason
for people in the later camp to become offended.  This was convenient as
they had been looking for one.  They were subsequently able to blow it
to suitable proportions to gain the attention of management.  

Now as a weak defense of TI management, I will say that by being
involved in a large company that does a lot of government contracting,
they have come to expect a certain level of (and I'm going to use that
word again Marge), professionalism from hired contractors.  Personally, I
wouldn't have cared if Richard showed up in a clown suit, but you have
to admit that introducing your lectures by demonstrating Bulgarian folk
dancing could easily be viewed as unprofessional by the more staid
members of the audience.  Even if you were wearing a tie.  

His well publicized views on the commercialization of software didn't
help much either.

So here we have the Professionals, the Pseudo-Experts, and the normal
people; two against one and when does the next plane to Cambridge
leave.  I and others were very annoyed by this mindless waste of an
excellent resource. 

I regret that I will probably not be able to attend Stallman's course in
February (certainly not the entire week).  If you get a chance, pass
along my apologies on behalf of those at TI who were looking forward to
his visit and enjoyed what little of it there was.  The Explorer would
have benefitted from his help. 

Jeff Larson
MCC VLSI CAD Program
larson@mcc.com

A year later, the same TI group manager approached me about writing
some documentation about the internals of the Lisp machine system; he
invited me to dinner.  I required him to demonstrate nasal sex in
public with a plant as a condition of meeting him.  Fortunately, the
restaurant provided suitable flowers.  He did it, and even liked it!
Which goes to show that no one is incapable of personal growth.
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